I can’t remember the first time someone told me I could be a leader or that I needed to show leadership. But the idea has permeated my life for as long as I can remember, at least as far back intermediate school I can re-call the adult world telling me about it. They wanted more of it on the basketball court, in the orchestra, in the classroom and the community. I didn’t even notice the ambiguity of the concept, being developed as a leader seemed a totally natural thing.
After a while it became addictive, it was both empowering and legitimising for me. Leadership was a defining part of my identity and I had an almost uncontrollable urge both when I was in a group or when any type of leadership role was on offer to be the one in front. As an older high school student I would frantically buy and read any luminaries book with leadership in the title, most of which would discredit my work if I was to disclose them now.
Through my undergraduate degree the word began to pop up more and more although the lines between leadership and good management were being blurred as the roles were mixed both on campus and within my workplace. Even so, the leadership development opportunities propagated themselves through my timetable. I was even involved in the Massey University Leadership Programme: a ruse for outsourcing student retention to other students in exchange for development opportunities.
Future Leaders’ programme. I first got told I should do this programme when I finished a management paper on leadership in my honours year, one of my lecturers was a facilitator on the programme and thought I should do it. I guess you can display leadership in the classroom after all.
I always try to place myself inside my research in some way. I’ve embarked on this journey to make sense of the cultural phenomena called leadership which I grew up surrounded by. It has shaped the decisions I’ve made, the expectations I put on myself, and the role I saw myself playing in the world. The more I think about it the less natural it seems.
Brigid Carroll, likened it to a hockey match; you're dribbling, passing, stealing, intercepting, but at some point you just push the ball out into a new empty space. In that moment you create potential, opportunity, tension and energy for something great to happen. I’ve been given a few of those passes this year, and the challenge of doing this thesis was one of them.
So now I’m going ask you to put down your reverence for the word leadership, like I’ve had to, and put something out into space for a while so that you can help me answer the question; why and how has leadership played such a big role in my life?