Be. Leadership April 2016 - Society: What's really going on here?

by Etta Bollinger

The April Be. Leadership session saw the group coming back together slightly more sure of ourselves. There was an air of reunion that first morning as we greeted each other and caught up on the time that had elapsed between sessions. Several tattoos had appeared and we wondered if this would become a theme. Alongside aesthetic changes we shared some of our personal leadership challenges and successes of the last month, some of these were one in the same. Big congratulations in particular to Bruce and Te Papa for receiving an 86% rating in the Be. Welcome assessment.

Listening and sharing in the conversation and jokes I felt that this time around, knowing something more about the land of Be., we were anticipating what new ideas we would be being asked to engage with and getting a sense of each participant’s unique point of view. I for one was looking to absorbing ideas as well as debating them and, as promised, I did a lot of both. I was also observing our own language and culture for the space, which we would continue to debate and refine over the coming days.

Our conversation would be held this time under the wide umbrella of Society and the question, what's really going on here? For me, studying sociology I am invested in some particular ways of unpacking that question. On the one hand, I felt like I might have some tools to bring along. On the other hand, society and the way we think about it is deeply personal and strongly held and I knew there'd be a wealth of perspectives and experiences in the room.

During this busy time, I was challenged from an unexpected quarter. I was looking forward to hearing the speakers largely because the areas in which they were practitioners and leaders - mental health, psychology and education - are all areas where I feel important change can and must be made. Particularly in the case of education and health, a change in our approaches to these disciplines could ultimately support profound change in society at large.

I was surprised to learn that while this basic assumption was affirmed, my thinking around leadership was nevertheless pushed, extended and challenged by people whose impulse toward change and leadership I empathised and agreed with.

Some new thoughts that came up for me were:

* Sometimes leadership is about being yourself, even if this makes others uncomfortable.

* Embracing ambiguity could be something to strive for in our lives and identities, where our (or my) habit has been to aim for clarity.

* Sometimes leadership involves supporting someone else’s vision and understanding the complexities involved in coming to their decision.

* One of our expectations of leadership is often to have individuals as spokespeople. This can work but leadership can have more purchase if it is about enabling others to emulate the change and feel ownership of it.

In the previous sessions ideas had challenged me in ways that have highlighted my own bias but also affirmed my position. In this case I was given thoughts I’ll be teasing out over the coming weeks, gently adjusting my view of some of my interactions and the spaces and institutions I move in. Thoughts could shift my definition of authenticity in my work I look forward to it.