Collectively designing the leadership we need

What sort of leaders do we need today to help solve the many challenges that face us, locally and globally? How do we support ourselves to be better leaders in our own right? These were just a couple of questions we examined at our recent Disrupting Leadership event held in the round at the Cockpit Theatre.

We assembled a panel of five speakers, each presenting a short overview of ideas related to the topic of disrupting leadership. This was followed by speakers posing questions directly to the audience, provoking a compelling collective discussion about what leadership actually means in practice.

Here is an overview of what each of our panelists presented on the night of the event:

Melissa Willis

Willis spoke about the journey she has been on whilst establishing WomenLikeMe. How her experiences and interactions with other inspirational leaders gave her the energy and motivation to push WomenLikeMe towards success. An effortless networker, Willis has grown the WLM network organically, empowering so many women with her determined belief that so much can be achieved if women come together in solidarity and support of each other.

Willis talked openly about how she is still trying to understand how best to inspire and give ownership to others within the WLM network. She wants the network to be a source of support for new leaders and she hopes that she can foster greater autonomy amongst current members to take the WLM platform forward in ways she can’t do alone.

Melissa’s question to the audience asked ‘how do people get comfortable with being seen as a leader?’.

Stephenie Gamauf

Stephenie Gamauf, Co-Founder and Producer of OurSpace, discussed the journey of growing OurSpace to give better support to community centres to ensure they are inclusive and active in developing strong, locally embedded leadership. Gamauf discussed the importance of local leadership and how critical it is to have space in local areas where people can spend time with and learn from different types of people.

Gamauf’s questions to the audience sparked discussions around what inclusive leadership looks like. Working with people with varying experience and knowledge requires alternative ways of qualifying what a ‘leader’ looks like. Inclusive leadership often presents more of a challenge to us than it should, as it requires us to look at leadership through a non-traditional lens.

Gamauf posed the important question of how can we offer challenging feedback (or criticism) to each other with both integrity and kindness. It was interesting to hear examples from the audience around their firsthand experience of good and bad feedback loops. It seems there is a wide spectrum of feedback being accepted or not by different leaders.

Sarah Tulej

Sarah Tulej works as a passionate, highly driven change designer and sideline community development entrepreneur. Tulej asked the audience to consider the key factors that often obstruct us from thinking of ourselves as leaders. Tulej encouraged the audience to consider how these obstructions often overshadow the issues we really care about.

‘You don’t need to be a voice for the voiceless, just pass the mic’

Su’ad Abdul Khabeer

The audience were taken on a rich tour of the identities currently lacking in public leadership roles and our places of work. A number of powerful facts were presented demonstrating the knock on effects that this lack of representation and diversity (from race, to class, to gender) can have.

Tulej shared Su’ad Abdul Khabeer’s wonderful quote about speaking up for others as leaders. Does this sum up how we should view the role of future leaders? Simply making the space for others to speak?

Tulej asked the audience to consider and share what was holding them back from seeing themselves as leaders.

Sadiki Harris

Sadiki Harris is Director of Three One Six Media and Communication Lead for Black Thrive, an organisation concerned with Black Mental Health in Lambeth. He works with undercover and unconventional leaders through his community work and is dedicated to making change happen in Lambeth and beyond.

Harris gave a deeply felt and authentic speech about his conflicting feelings with leadership and role models. He shared how growing up he felt that he didn’t have enough leaders around him to learn from. This led him to quickly realise that he had to become his own leader. He has remained diligent and dedicated to forging his own path in life and not waiting for someone to lead the way. However despite the distance he has travelled without leadership in his life, and despite his scepticism of leadership as a necessary construct, he is now being asked to accept a leadership role. Being the oldest man in his family and now a father himself, he faces a new challenge in the face of leadership. How to become one to those he loves.

Sadiki’s honest and genuine account of his journey and battles with conflicting ideas addressed the topic of leadership disruption perfectly. He encouraged the audience to consider the varying roles that leaders and influences can have on our lives.

Cathrine Stagg-Macey

Cathrine Stagg-Macey ended the evening’s proceedings with a riveting account of her past antics whilst deep sea diving with sharks. Stagg-Macey is an Executive Director and Team Coach with extensive corporate experience in strategy and consulting. She currently leads corporate communities towards new thinking around what leadership should look like.

Stagg-Macey’s message to the audience was that when it comes to good leadership make sure you have the right data. She presented the idea that often as leaders we can be continually playing Whack-a-Mole, bashing away one problem after another in an endless cycle.

Stagg-Macey urged the audience not to play Whack-a-Mole management, (quick fire problem solving with no long term strategy). Instead she proposed the idea that we should always be thinking how can we gather the right information and make space and time to sit in the deep blue together. Helping each other to be comfortable in uncertainty, allowing the right intelligence to guide us as teams.

Do you have your own thoughts on disrupting leadership? We will be continuing this collective discussion next year. Sign up to find out more!

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