A Conversation Among Chiefs

In a dynamic conversational session the participants of this years Leadership Conference had the rare opportunity to join in a Conversation among two prominent Chiefs. Both Chief Elijah Harper and Chief Guy Lonechild took the stage at TCU to engage in a discussion of their leadership experiences in the context of the local and national stage. Nelson Bird moderated the session. In listening to these two Indigenous leaders it was interesting to see how aboriginal ways of knowing had influenced how they saw leadership. Chief Lonechild spoke of the expectations on a leader to be a role model. Although a leader is often seen as a strong and influential person they are also human and that means that they too are capable of making mistakes. It is in this teaching of humility that helps keep a leader grounded in who they are. Chief Harper backed this sentiment by saying those hard times build character and give you something to stand up on. Chief Elijah Harper says people have respect for those who embrace that humility. When facing challenges as a leader it is important to remain connected with your identity. I think remembering those lessons in humility are very important to developing those honest and real  relationships.

Relationships are extremely important to First Nations culture. Both Chief Harper and Chief Lonechild discussed relationships being a key to understanding and working together. Several times throughout the conversation Chief Harper talked about the need for a better understanding of the treaties that affect us all as treaty people. There is a need for a ubiquitous understanding of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal issues in order for all treaty people to have a healthy relationship, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike. Chief Lonechild continued this theme pointing out the importance of understanding and what makes up a person (father, golfer, what ever) in order to establish a good relationship. Connecting with people means learning about their journey – where they came from, where they want to go and what they value.

These leaders also took the opportunity to discuss some of the myths and stereotypes that damage the understanding and relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. Both Chief Harper and Lonechild spoke optimistically about the future. With the primary education system mandating more aboriginal ways of knowing being introduced into the curriculum, the growing numbers of Aboriginal students succeeding in post secondary education, and treaty issues slowly making their way onto political agendas, both Harper and Lonechild saw a future where we could all be working together inclusion and for the better of us all.

It was a real pleasure to see these two leaders together discussing their culture and leadership styles as interconnected. I think we sometimes separate who we are from our leadership strategies. For me, it was important to see these two influential leaders making their careers and cultures combine to have effective outcomes.

Scott Ginsberg

If you were to come accross someone who wore a name tag 24/7 365days a year you might think them strange. But you might also be encouraged by the “Hello my name is…” badge to approach that individual if only to ask him why. Scott Ginsberg is such an individual. Being approachable is Scotts “Big Idea” in leadership. Being approachable, Scott argues is an important characteristic of a good leader. An open door policy does not necessarily mean anyone is going to walk through. It is less about the open door and more about  the individual behind the desk. Here are a few good paraphrased quotables that I took away from Scott’s talk.

If they can’t come up to you how will they ever get behind you.

People engage when they don’t have to edit themselves.

Make them feel essential “if you were gone people would notice”.

Gratitude is not a chore.

Essential means giving people a front row seat to their own brilliance.

You cannot motivate people you can only inspire people to modivate themselves.

Consistency is far better than rare moments of greatness.

Margret Wheatley’s Keynote at LC2011

When we think about great leaders in history we are likely reminded of strong, fierce, dominant figures perhaps wielding a double edged sword and riding a big black steed. That may have been all well and good a thousand years ago, but Margret Wheatley takes a different and slightly more modern approach to leadership at the Leadership Conference 2011 in Saskatoon.  Shifting the focus and role of leaders from Hero to Host, Dr. Wheatley encouraged leaders to focus on the power of the community to achieve the goals of the organization and not to rely on the lone wolf “leader knows all” strategy that so many follow. There were a few “big ideas” that I took away from the keynote presentation this morning. First, is the idea that it is in the diversity and community of knowledge that the best solutions can be found. Again, this idea that a leader should host these community interactions is one that I really connect with. In education today there is a shift from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side” and it seems that Dr. Wheatley is advocating a similar model for leadership. But what does this “Host” look like and what are their key roles. Margret argues that today’s leader needs to know how to gather people together and rely on community as the greatest resource. They expect leadership to emerge from anyone. Leaders must realize that there is sufficient wisdom and wealth in those around us and that diversity is an asset, not a problem. If we focus on relationships as a core competency then we reduce the anxiety and fear within a workplace. Margret asks, the audience to think about what your behaviour looks like if your job is to reduce anxiety and fear? What affect does this have on a workplace? In short people act responsibly when they care. People support what they create. Dr. Margret Wheatley’s Keynote struck a real note with me and I encourage everyone to explore more of her work in this field.