AKOU recently held an energetic debate on disrupting leadership, teaming up with the Cockpit Theatre (a theatre that consistently and constructively disrupts thinking) and the Creative Community Placemakers Network to host it.
We assembled a panel of five disruptors to provoke debate around the future of leadership. Speakers included Melissa Willis (WomenLikeMe), Stephenie Gamauf (Co founder of OurSpace) , Sarah Tulej (Systems Change Designer at Forum for the Future), Sadiki Harris (Director of Three One Six Media) and Cathrine Stagg-Macey (Director of Team Coaching at Lea_p).
Hearing from many, not just a few
It was critical to the AKOU team that this event heard the voices of many, not just a few. The speakers were chosen for their breadth of experience and insight. We heard a range of topics from learning to be comfortable in uncertainty to the importance of diversity in leadership roles.
The format allowed for a truly interactive evening of discussion, as each speaker presented their own thoughts alongside posing questions to the audience. It opened up a variety of encouraging accounts from members of the audience about how they were dealing with, challenged by or living up to leadership roles in their own lives.
Sometimes at events it can seem like the audience is simply present to be passive. Empty vessels willing and waiting to soak up knowledge. AKOU was determined to do things differently and ask the audience to play a leading role in the discussions.
It seemed therapeutic for many in the audience to openly discuss the topic of leadership. We listened to a number of first hand accounts of how they had experienced positive and negative forms of leadership. The topic of self esteem and confidence came up continuously throughout the evening. Do people feel confident to lead others? Often not.
It was suggested that we need to give others time and space to consider leadership in a more participatory way. Those who are being led should be involved with discussions as to how to lead each other.
Learning to listen
A key topic that arose from the evening was the ability (or lack of it) to listen to others. Audience members questioned whether people actually listened with intent to hear others or if listening was often done with the objective of being able to reply with pre-considered points. Learning to listen is a skill perhaps that we all need to work on, no matter where we find ourselves on the ladder of leadership.
Listening and the ability to hold the complexity of others are two skills that are hard to get right but seem crucial for a network, a group, team or community to function at its fullest potential. These are skills we all need to work hard on improving.
The event itself and the level of active discussion and sharing amongst all the attendees was an incredible demonstration of people listening to each other and taking time to consider each other’s complex perspectives and experiences.
Understanding the unknown and unconventional
Humanity always stands at the edge of many unknowns. Discussion throughout the evening made many feel more comfortable with the unknown and unconventional. That in the end no one is truly equipped to fully take the mantle of leadership, and only through learning and development can we all in someway become leaders in our own right. If we can learn to listen better and improve our ability to hold complexity, perhaps it will become easier to share the responsibilities of leadership as a collective.