What is the distinction between leadership and representation? If I were to draw a diagram it would be a triangle with leadership at the pointed end and representation at the flat end.
I'm not sure which way up the triangle is – it may change from time to time and from situation to situation, with the point being at the top, bottom or even on the side.
It seems to me leadership has sharp focus and works best with fewer people. The more leadership becomes representative, diversity increases, the softer the focus and the more people, issues and opinions there are to accommodate.
Kathryn Shultz quotes Ira Glass in her excellent TED Talk, On Being Wrong. She does so to add another example of how we go through life in "a bubble of feeling right" when, in fact, we seldom are.
"I thought this one thing was going to happen and something else happened instead. And the thing is, we need this. We need these moments of surprise and reversal and wrongness to make [our] stories work." — Ira Glass, Host, This American Life.
Leadership, diversity, complexity and change, the spaces in which my work most often falls, are bastions of wrongness.
A few weeks ago at the Home and Community Health Association conference I met some of the team behind CleverCare, a new service that connects an Android smart watch to a web interface and a 24-hour call centre.
CleverCare is the brain-child of Maria Johnston. As the website explains, "developing the Clevercare system was driven from a personal need for Maria to make a positive difference in the everyday life or her parents. She then found that her family’s problems were experienced by many and now, through Clevercare making lives better with independence and peace of mind can be achieved for many."
Designed for people with dementia, the Android watch runs a simple app and contains a GPS geolocator. The device is tracked via Google Maps in an online dashboard. Boundaries can be set to alert family, friends or support workers if someone wanders beyond a safe distance. Reminders can be pushed to the watch via the dashboard.
The easiest way to define an entrepreneur is "someone who starts things". I've been given the mantels of both creative and social entrepreneur (it's one of those things you are recognised for – you don't decide for yourself). Entrepreneurship might be explained as "start-up leadership".
So as a creative and social start-up leader, I've started lots of things – organisations, projects, websites – in the realm of creativity and social issues or change. Many have concluded of their own accord (projects, for instance, because they have a beginning, middle and end); and others I've walked intentfully away from (organisations where people have taken them in directions I've disagreed with, or I've realised I with my penchant and skills for starting things, need to be replaced by someone who can maintain and grow the entity).
In 2005 I started Diversityworks Trust Inc., the only start-up I have stayed with (as trustee and Executive Director) since its inception. I originally started the Trust to fundraise for Momentum'09, an international symposium on creative diversity. Due to the financial crash in 2008, we lost critical funding and had to downscale from the planned four-day event at SkyCity to one day in Royal Oak.
I fly a lot. More often than I'd choose. But I fly when the need beckons – though seldom, even never, unless I'm issuing an invoice.
Last Monday saw me fly from Auckland to Wellington and back in a day – relievedly, an almost unprecedented phenomenon. I was with Sam and Kylie again (about whom I wrote a week or so back). It was Kylie's first time flying with me – or anyone using a wheelchair I believe – so Sam and I created a list of common occurrences for Kylie to "check off" as we went from airport to plane and plane to airport. Twice. In one day.
The list went something like this:
Now that ANZAC week – commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings where New Zealand and Australian troops were killed – is over, I feel better about sharing my somewhat unpopular beliefs about continually marking this occasion.
Suggesting ANZAC Day, let alone ANZAC Week, is glorifying war brings protest from almost everyone I speak to. Asking why it isn’t glorifying war brings, well, not a lot of sense from anyone.
But maybe they are just blocking out some of the telltale signs because it’s easier to ignore them than question them.
We all do it. See someone new and, within seconds, our brains start making up stories about them. Or we meet them, exchange a few words and before we know it, we're filling in the gaps with our imaginations. The result? Assumptions.
I did it recently, ironically right after running a workshop on accessibility and confidence for health staff. My colleagues Kylie, Sam and I were about to get into the car when an elderly gentleman approached us.
"As always happens in hospitals," he said, "I'm lost."
Today at a hui of one of my regular clients I was reminded of an important tension and interesting phenomenon in organisational dynamics. It's blogged about ad in finitum.
The tension is the value of meetings over that of individual productivity. The phenomenon is the power of "collective influence" (Alex Smith).
Meetings get a bad rap these days. Particularly online businesses favour virtual teams, online collaboration etc. Alex reckoned 90% of meeting content is irrelevant. People are busy. Time is precious.
Recently I spent an hour at Rosebank Primary School in Avondale, speaking as a Duffy Books in Homes Role Model. It’s something I’ve done a couple of times each year since connecting with Linda Vagana, Duffy’s GM, when we both did the Leadership New Zealand programme in 2012.
It’s a tough but rewarding gig. Primary-aged kids pull no punches as an audience. I’m not the usual and as I begin to speak, the giggles start.
I resist the urge to ask, “What are you laughing at?” To begin with anyway. Instead I ask all 500 to introduce themselves to me – their name, where they come from and a secret about them – all at once. The hall erupts with noise and laughter.
When it comes to leading change and creating social movements, particularly when it involves people on the margins of society, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming success means “widening” the mainstream to accept a new group of previously excluded citizens.
Reverence may be paid to new rituals and customs. Changes may be made to environments to make them more accessible or representative. Language may be scrutinised and modified to create a more welcoming lexicon. Laws may change to increase rights and entitlements.
In themselves these acknowledgements are important and meaningful. They achieve their intent – to decrease exclusion and increase participation.