Be. Leadership 2018: Session 3, Share the Love

by Kirsten Taylor

'Share the love' was the welcome emblazoned across three large flights of stairs in the entrance way of Te Papa as I made my way to the third instalment of Be. Leadership, and I thought, well isn't that fitting - pause for obligatory photoshoot as [self-appointed] official photographer Be. Leadership 2018.

Civil society was the topic for this month's training session. A series of lengthy and contrasting pre-readings later, I was still utterly perplexed by the concept of civil society, and more than a little intimidated. You see, I'm not an academic, and I don’t need any assistance going down the rabbit hole, so in order to clear my mind for 3 days of intense learning I decided to go with 'you don't know what you don't know, and sometimes, even when I know…I don't know, and that's ok.' Right?

With that we prepare for what has proven to be heartfelt and unique conversations with our speakers, which I sometimes get so lost in I forget to reflect on 'what is the leadership opportunity here'’. Major Campbell Roberts for example. His life’'journey is nothing if not unexpected. He has me collating where I come from, who I have become, and the experiences that have shaped me because apparently, civil society is who you are.

He's cautioned us to be aware of our own poverty and to step out of our boxes in order to connect, because connectedness is everything. Acknowledging my own weaknesses, my favourite topic…connecting [with] people, my favourite activity! Enter the workshop on the need for the balanced ego and the drawbacks of false modesty. Philip always has me coming back down to earth with a (ruthlessly loving) thump!

When our second speaker Laura O'Connell Rapira comes along I'm struck by her immediately – she has an air that is equally kind as it is no-nonsense. I feel like her passage through the creation of RockEnrol and Director of Campaigns at ActionStation can be underlined by one quote, "We need to dream big, because the future is ours to create." Oooooohhhhhh the pressure!

It's as if, at 26 years young, leadership is flowing through her veins, but I'm sure that humility prevents her from seeing it that way. She tells us that it is common to overestimate what can be achieved in one year, but underestimate what can be achieved in 10, and thank goodness for that, because for many we have been left wondering what the hell we’ve done in all of our own years. Nevertheless, we’re inspired to start and/or continue our own journeys because Major Campbell Roberts said so. Actually, what he said was, "You must lead and influence from where you are, because leadership isn't a title you hold, or an office you sit in. Don't wait. Start your journey now!" And we will.

Kim Workman shares unanticipated outcomes from his work in Criminal and Social Justice, and Erin Gough, an alumna of Be. Leadership illustrates where you can land with a Be. Leadership PROGRAMME (did everyone get that? I said PROGRAMME) under your belt - and neither is anything short of inspiring.

As we round out our time together towards the end of our three days we asked ourselves how challenged do we feel? We place ourselves on the spectrum between comfortable and challenged, with the majority sitting in the middle upper or middle lower, and a sprinkling of individuals feeling all too comfortable. But not for long, I can tell you. The thing is that sometimes, it's hard to recognise growth when it’s happening because it’s gradual and messy, and lives somewhere in-between. Even if we are all at different stages of how we understand and feel about civil society, and leadership for that matter, we know we want to be a part of the bigger picture. That leadership comes is many shapes and forms and that's how it should be.