Dr. Hakim J. Lucas: Scaling Leadership Metrics with Unique Empowering Models


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The core philosophy of education is to impart knowledge to students and teachers worldwide. Numerous education leaders are adhering to this philosophy to add further value to education and help students leverage education to its fullest potential. “I believe that education consists of teaching people how to learn, and as the student learns, the teacher, also, becomes a learner,” believes Dr. Hakim J. Lucas (President and CEO at Virginia Union University). Dr. Lucas asserts that we are all learning together and learning as an organization, in which students and synergistic leaders begin to aspire and ascend to higher levels. Currently, he spearheads at the helm of the Virginia Union University and pivots it to greater heights.

‘Best-In-Class’ Educational Experience

The Virginia Union University (VUU) was established in 1865. Since its establishment, the university was designed to offer newly emancipated freedmen an opportunity for education and advancement. Its first classes were arranged by the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS).

Eventually, ABHMS founded four institutions that would later merge to form the “Union” that gives Virginia Union University its name. They are: Richmond Theological Seminary, Wayland Seminary, Hartshorn Memorial College, and Storer College. In 1899, the first classes and the Founders’ Day took place with a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the present-day Virginia Union University in front of Kingsley Hall. The Virginia Union University strategically works toward four goals: Student Success, Academic Excellence, Entrepreneurial Enterprise and, Brand Prestige. The university is guided by five fundamental principles in order to deliver on the promise of a Limitless Future. They are Innovation, Spiritual Formation, Integrity, Diversity & Inclusion and, Excellence. Each principle is essential to its ability to provide a Best-In-Class educational experience for students, faculty, and staff.

Accredited Study Programs

The Virginia Union University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges and has specialized accreditation from the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools. In addition to that, dual credit and study abroad programs are available at the university along with advanced placement courses from high school that can be applied as credit.

Currently, the Virginia Union University offers comprehensive undergraduate and graduate-level programs through seven academic schools. These include:

  • The School of Arts & Sciences
  • The Evelyn Reid Syphax School of Education
  • The Sydney Lewis School of Business
  • The School of Latin American & Caribbean Studies / Universidad
  • The University College, The Graduate, Global Campus & Professional Education, 
  • The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology.

The University has distinguished alumni across the country in fields such as education, business, social activism, politics and government, journalism, sports and entertainment, ministry, sciences, and the military.

Growth Professional Maturity in Leadership

Being at the forefront of the Virginia Union University, Dr. Lucas ensures maximizing the quality of the academic programs and the efficiency of the various administrative components of the university. Through these roles, he seeks to establish a transcendent organization. “I believe that at some point in time, within a transcendent organization, one’s self-awareness and leadership, leadership personality, and leadership traits must grow, and that professional maturity should be aligned with the direction of the organization,” he remarks.

Dr. Lucas considers this as the process of growth or professional maturity which is achieved when self-awareness and leadership awareness begin to grow together. In addition to this, he is responsible for creating the value and the meaning of Virginia Union University as an organization through his role as the leader. He also provides the direction that is needed to shape the future of the organization.

Prioritizing Student Engagement in all Spheres

Besides focusing on establishing academic values at the campus, the Virginia Union University prepares its students to be socially responsible and ethically as well as ethnically conscious. The university achieves this by mandating community service projects, community mentorship opportunities with K-12 students, and student leadership positions with the student government association and orientation leaders for new students. Students are also assigned to work on campus in a capacity that suits their future career aspirations followed by an internship. These experiences allow students to serve the community and develop their sense of leadership in the community and on a professional level. 

Along with fostering maximum student engagement in extracurricular activities, the university also offers a plethora of career development opportunities for the students. Students are required to participate in its workforce development program where they gain experience in their career of interest both on campus and then externally with a company in an internship capacity. Moreover, the Virginia Union University has partnered with corporations and executives to provide mentorship, career talks, and even serve as adjunct professors for courses.

Understanding Transcendent Leadership

I believe that the growth in understanding people is not just about the metrics. It’s not just about the goals; but it’s about how people show up, people’s disposition, mental states, mindsets, people’s heart set and their passions,” asserts Dr. Lucas. He believes that the ideal qualities of an education leader are to provide guidance and maximize performance since it is necessary for the context of a team.

Transcendent or synergistic leaders are actively learning as they train team members. Leadership is the act of receiving guidance on how to maximize the use of one’s skills, tools, and competencies to perform at an optimum level within the context of a team. As a leadership coach, Dr. Lucas ensures providing direct guidance to the vice-presidents and those who report directly, to him, on a daily and weekly basis.

‘Servant Leadership Empowering Model’

As a visionary leader at the core of the Virginia Union University, Dr. Lucas ensures empowering his peers as well as the students. Explaining his ‘servant leadership empowering’ model further, Dr. Lucas cites the example of how in churches, the pastor is viewed as a shepherd and the members are considered to be a flock. This servant leadership approach is one of the constructs of his shepherding strategy and Dr. Lucas has always thought of this view as the way through which the shepherd is positioned within the flock. He further enunciates how a good shepherd cannot be in front of the flock but must position him or herself behind the flock and follow it. This is because the primary job of the shepherd is to keep the flock alive and move forward.

The transcendent leaders, as a shepherd, guide their flock from behind, and leading from behind is the leadership style of the future and the notion of empowering team members from behind. The transcendent leaders are ready to assume their role as a shepherd and can assume their centers in the position of another member of the organization. However, they are solid leaders and can deliberately assume this posture in order to empower while allowing the team members to create meaning and carry on the momentum of the organization. Therefore, Dr. Lucas concludes it is a rich and versatile approach to leadership.

Note to the Students:


ALSO READ: The 10 Inspirational Education Leaders, 2023



The Educational landscape is changing dynamically. The new generation of students thus faces the daunting task to choose an institution that would guide them towards a lucrative career.

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