When worlds collide

I’m sharing a little video, made by my friend Helen, because it’s an interesting illustration of interests colliding.

I worked with Helen over 13 years ago at ANZ, she was a learning specialist and I was working on the graduate and talent programs.  While we both left ANZ,we reconnected through social media and have stayed in touch.  I followed her learning work and she, with an interest in art and craft, followed some of my activities and roles.

Coincidentally we’ve both ended up in the world of social learning, me through my research and PhD, she through shifts in the learning community and her interests in new methods of working.

She’s also an avid (and very good) knitter, crafter and maker (recently opened an Etsy shop here) and she brings her passion to social learning back into this world.  In this recent video she talks about how makers just ‘get it’.  Again reinforcing what I see in my research, that this is how creatives learn most effectively.

And now I work at Craft (or do for a period) there’s the added connection in the world of makers. I’m excited to have Helen come and speak to the maker community later in the year about how social learning can benefit the craft community.

 

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Playing with visual formats

Still working on my reluctant leadership chapter. Almost drafted, but I’m playing around with models for displaying information.  My supervisory rightly advised me not to slip into caricature so I’m thinking of ways to be simple but show complexity.

 

Slide1

Persona
Characteristics
Constructions of leadership
Reluctance
Compares themselves to
Shares attributes with
The Collector
Collects jobs, brands, salary and experiences. Always looking forward. Lack reflection.
Functionalist, hierarchical, great man links?
Medium
Exemplars
The Underdog
The Learner
Compares leadership ability to an ideal – expansion of knowledge expands view of self.
Expands with learning
Low
Prototypes
The Collector
The Outsider
Consciously puts themselves outside the creative leadership paradigm. Just does it.
Charismatic
None
No one
The Community Builder
The Underdog
Concerned with reputation. Influenced by Tall poppy syndrome.
Charismatic, transformational
High
Everyone
The Community Builder
The Community Builder
Develops leadership understanding through legitimate peripheral participation.
Collective, distributed, relational
Low
Prototypes
The Learner

Leadership identity categories

There’s something going on this fortnight  Personally it’s been huge (we bought a house) and usually this would be a one way ticket to PhD avoidance, but for some strange reason I have also been super productive in this space too. While going to yoga, work, dance class AND submitting my first tender for long term facilitation contracts. It’s been nuts.

After yoga yesterday I rushed home to write yesterday’s post so as not to lose the thoughts.  After finally having a shower and breakfast I sat down with Riessman’s Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences and spent the afternoon reading.  This book helped more than any other with my thoughts on methodology.  And I knew then I had to revisit what I’d written last week and look at the broader narratives in my primary interviews from a thematic narrative analysis perspective.

Today I sat down and reread all nine primary interviews and constructed their narratives around leadership, bigger than just the answer to the question “Do you consider yourself a leader?”  I found patterns, categories which I am now shaping for my reluctant leadership chapter. I also fleshed out my case study introductions, adding more than just demographic information. In the end my Chapter 5, which I am supposed to have 5,500 words by now, I cut to 2,900 but I have added to two other chapters.  Win some, lose some.

What I’m left with are five archetypes in terms of my participants relationship to leadership.  They are:

  • The collectors: the collectors are about building a career through targeting experiences, companies or brands they want to work with. Each new item added to their career portfolio is checked off a list.  Public recognition of their work, through awards, job offers, promotion or salary increases are representative of their leadership status.  But they are unwilling to recognise themselves as leaders, regardless of job title or position, as they  are always comparing themselves to the ‘next thing’ (the exemplar). They never see themselves as a leader for what they are doing now. There is always something lacking.
  • The learners: these individuals see learning as crucial to leadership, participating in leadership courses is the way they seek external validation for being a leader.  “I’m in this room therefore I deserve to be here. ”  For some they learn enough to then embrace leadership identity, particularly when their definition of what constitutes leadership is expanded from the more narrow media constructions they had before , for others there is always something more to learn before they can ‘live’ leadership.
  • The community builders: These participants are the ones that surround themselves with a community of practice, unconsciously or consciously, who focus on collaborative practice and achieving goals with others. They can be multi-disciplinary or focussed on a single creative practice, but the learning and psychosocial support they receive from a close network means they are the most likely to embrace leadership identity, particularly relational or distributed leadership.
  • The outsiders: the individuals who see themselves are as working outside the traditional arts/creative paradigm. Whether it be because of gender/class/race/education they do not fear disenfranchisement for from the establishment for being loud, outspoken or opinionated because they are already outside looking in.  The see others are being afraid to speak out and step up and be leaders (unlike themselves.)
  • The Aussies: (I don’t like this term but I’m struggling to find one that fits.) Those who can see their influence and inspirational potential to others, but work alone, are self motivated and are terrified of being seen as egomaniacal or ‘up themselves.’

Clearly these are a work in progress, but I can see where it’s heading.

One thing I have been worried about is the way I was going to link my primary participant interviews (on reluctant leadership) to my secondary case studies.  But I think I am starting to see a path: we start with the narrow focus on reluctant leadership, comparing across cases to explore the how/what/why.  The second chapter positions the emerging leader (primary participant) back within their case to examine how situated learning and communities of practice influence the formation of leadership identity and reluctance, with the third data chapter drawing recommendations and implications from this.

After 36 hours of intense reading/writing (I’ve written more in 24 hours than I had all last week) I am about to crash and go make white chocolate cookies.  I know I need a day away from the PhD – I haven’t had a day off this past fortnight, but I’m a little scared I’ll lose momentum.

 

Storytelling

I’ve spent a week writing the beginnings of my first data chapter. While the theme of it, reluctant leadership, is clear in my mind, the process for explaining it and really analysing it is not.  This has been one of my main challenges in the whole research process.  I don’t feel I have a grasp on the process of documenting my research, my methodology.  Data collection, no worry, lots of fun, loved it and I think I have some really great material.  Crafting that into a thesis….not so much.

So I’ve flailed around a little this week, which I am not really sorry about. I think there is a need for flailing in life (hey, I tap dance which for me is 90% flailing.)  Even though I haven’t written my 4,000 quota (I’m at 3270 ) I decided today to revisit my narrative methodology books to think more about actual process.  Because I keep waiting for a step by step guide that says how to do this.

One: I don’t think that is going to appear.

Two: I’m missing a big piece here.

Just now I went to yoga, I’m still averaging 3 times a week at yoga now, though I have really let up on myself about how ‘good’ I am at it or how far I progress week to week. (I could learn a few lessons from that right?)  I now just go to clear my head, break a sweat and move my body.*

Lying in savasanna my mind wandered back to my PhD, the fact I wasn’t writing today but reading, and the thematic issues I’m grappling with.

And then I thought: what is the story I am trying to tell?

Here I am trying to shoe horn myself into narrative methodologies without thinking about the narrative I want to tell my readers, my examiners.  What story is the data telling me.  Forget (for a minute) how I extract and report that story, but what is the story to begin with.

So I’ve just written four points on post it notes and stuck them on my wall.

  1. What is the story I am trying to tell?
  2. The reluctant creative leader
    • How can we see them?
    • Why do we see them?
  3. How do we remove reluctance?
    • Through social and situated learning in communities of practice
      • Facilitated how? (Through legitimate peripheral participation driven proactively, organisationally or educationally.)
    • Why is gender important? (Because it is – the three groups of non-reluctant leaders are all female driven.)
  4. What can we learn from this?
  5. How can we use it?
  6. Why is this important?
  7. What are the recommendations?

I’m still going to step back and thinking about narrative research for the rest of the day (while I’m slow cooking a lamb roast) but I’m not going to lose sight of the story I want to tell.

  • My supervisor once told me that ‘work’ within your PhD takes many forms, it is not just the time spent at your desk.  I find I get a lot of my big ideas on the yoga mat.

 

What does reluctancy look like

Slide1

I’ve started examining my answers to the question “Do you consider yourself a leader?” I’m trying to create a visual representation of the key themes expressed by my central participants, as shown above.  I have a long way to go clearly.

What is interesting, however, is the logic behind some of these statements, there’s almost a spectrum of reasons behind the reluctancy. I’ve tried to demonstrate the breadth of issues by examining key statements in the table below.

Discipline Key statement Reasoning
Media and Events “Yes, absolutely” Only unequivocal answer
Theatre “I consider myself a collaborative leader” Not a ‘boss’

Non-hierarchical.

Music “I feel kind of sheepish saying I’m a leader, god no man would say that.”

“It’s an outward expression of ambition that makes me uncomfortable.”

Gender

Ambition

Advertising “I’m a reluctant leader”

“Winning stuff means you back yourself”

“I think I’m already doing it, I just don’t recognise it.”

Validation

Confidence

Digital Design “I consider myself a leader…in my formative years”

“Within my discipline I am, not a business leader”

“I still feel like a kid in the room”

Confidence

Impostor syndrome

Disciplinary boundaries

Design/

Galleries

“I’m working on it”

“I have the capacity”

“I’ve done the learning, but I’m not leading.”

Confidence

 

Visual arts “In some ways I do, I advocate, champion, comment”

“But I’m not senior enough”

“I don’t feel paternal”

Seniority

Influence

Hierarchical

 

Film “Yeah I think I do now”

“Not on set as I don’t make films that often”

“I feel I have a voice out of proportion with what I’m actually doing”

Unearned reputation

Humility

Non-organisational

Fashion/

media

“I don’t want to be up myself”

“I’m gaining traction, I see my influence and inspiration and I think maybe I am”

“I want to remain humble and not be a maniac”

Tall poppy syndrome

Humility

There’s no gender correlation to willingness to embrace leadership identity, but one female participant did acknowledge that a man would less likely to demonstrate reluctance.  Those outside Melbourne and Sydney were more willing to be seen as leaders, and I wonder if the sometimes supportive nature of smaller arts communities influences this, but I suspect it actually has to do with the strong communities of practice these subjects work within.

Lots to play with here.