This week I attended a leadership course at a institution well known for its leadership courses. The course was expertly designed in terms of facilitation, activities, and careful thought to drawing on the expertise and contexts of the participants.
At the same time that the course was happening, Jody Wilson-Raybould, a well respected Indigenous woman occupying a very senior position in Canadian federal politics was being raked over the coals for doing her job and upholding leadership integrity in a contentious political environment. So it was hard not to notice that the content gave most of the space to prominent leadership gurus – Stephen Covey, David Rock, Sam Kaner – all white, all male.
The juxtaposition of our current social and political environment and what we uphold as ‘truths’ and ‘expertise’ is becoming comical. How do I take Stephen Covey seriously when Circles of Influence doesn’t consider gender and race? How do I take leadership frameworks seriously when the emphasis is on the individual to draw from their leadership toolkits of tips and tricks without critically engaging with how people are positioned by others and power dynamics beyond our control? Where were the feminist leadership frameworks, indigenous leadership frameworks and how does this absence happen? And before we jump to a #notallleadershipcourses conclusion, I’d like to ask why Women in Leadership courses often sit as a separate stream to the regular courses, for a female participant audience. Who is doing the work here to participate in and change systems that have actively shut them out?
For fun, view the video above and list everything that is wrong with it.
Lorna Campbell has a great post on the FemEdTech site about the historiography of the open movement and who we choose to amplify and hear, whose voices don’t get heard, and how this ultimately creates a narrative that needs to be challenged. Leadership training provides an interesting case study for these questions, and ultimately we should maybe be asking ourselves if we can take the open movement seriously if we aren’t doing this.