Christine took a 4 year sabbatical from our team during which time she completed her PHD in Leadership. We’re excited to have Christine back on our team and have asked her to highlight some of the insights she gained during the last four years of studying, researching and writing about leadership as part of her PhD.
“It’s a great pleasure to be back working with people who are actively learning, growing and practising a different way of being as leaders. The leadership conversation is never far from my thinking and I gladly share some of my insights with you.
In the beginning of the study, I was curious about how some leaders were able to hold a high degree of social awareness placing human concerns as primary in their decision-making. I looked at the current state of leader development in relationship to the complex challenges that leaders currently face. I questioned the models that portray leadership as hierarchical, formulaic and simplistic. I also believed that there exists a great hunger for leadership and a need to radically dissect our traditional perspectives in light of sweeping changes globally in philosophies, values and narratives.
When I talked with leaders about their exceptional moments in leading, they told me stories of leadership from the standpoint of relationships and interconnections rather than steps or techniques. From this perspective, I began to understand leaders and leadership not as disembodied traits, characteristics and steps, but rather as social practices embedded in webs of significance and interdependency, where story-telling is the primary means of relating with others. It became apparent to me that leaders grow through experience rather than by experience and that they create lives of meaning for themselves and others through the sharing and integration of their stories.
How did this experience change me as a leader? I came to understand leadership not as something that resides within me as an individual leader but rather as the product of people coming together to share their stories, understandings and experiences. My research findings underscored the idea of leadership as a possibility that exists between people rather than a set of traits or behaviours belonging to an individual. It arises from our collective thinking when we ask the hard questions about who we are and how we want to be with others. Leadership, as a property of the group, emerges when we respectfully listen to others, when we speculate with others about the kind of world we want to create and when we see the future as one of infinite possibilities. It is much more about who we are being rather than what we are doing.
Today, messages fly at us fast and furious; underscoring that what is rewarded is the quick completion of tasks from the check-list, not the slow contemplation required for a deep understanding of what we most need.
In complex times, merely handing down the tried and true will not help us to be more ethical and moral leaders; for that, we need others, contemplation, practice and epiphany. Use the comment box below to respond to Christine’s insights.