Collective Leadership: Discovering the Feminine Model

Collective Leadership: Discovering the Feminine Model

Women lead differently. Developed out of need and desperation, women found each other in waves. They reached out across gardens, whispered in teahouses, vented in factory recesses, and discovered each other in classroom corners. Women tentatively joined hands to promote civility, bravely crawled toward personhood, and proudly stood with hands clasped demanding representation in educational literature and structures. Women shouted with one voice over the flames which ate away the straps that bound and defined. Integral sexism and bias fractured opportunities for equality but women moved forward changed. Today, in woven embrace, women celebrate the multiplicity which is woman. Women share views, secrets, identities, differences and relationships. Together Canadian women unite to pursue justice for women around the world. As educational leaders, women listen, hear, and respond. They are active members of a network connected and secure guided by goals built by many hands (Newman & White, 2006).

Canada in the 19th century was male: male ideals, male leadership, and male dominance. Women were overwhelmed with disregard and objectification. The first wave rose up. Women were active members who helped to build and develop the nation of Canada, but an appreciation of their contributions was limited. Additionally, women went unrecognized as persons and voiceless in the political arena. Denied land rights, inheritance rights, and the right to vote, women began reaching out for one another. Keeping public life separate from private life was an important first step for women during this time. They experimented with wavering voices while at home preserving the subservient role expected by society. Representing the guardians of morality, women began to gather with purpose and without redress. Newman and White (2006) indicate the convergence of multiple factors affecting society including the decline of the imperial system, rapid growth in industrialization, and the development of cities in Canada. The conditions resulted in aggravated alcohol consumption, increased prostitution, and abuse. Together women found their voice rising against drug addiction and the associated results affecting the sanctity of the family. Women joined in acts of charity to rally for improved morality. The moral outrage allowed women to gather supporting change, enacting structures for assistance, and facilitating network development (Newman & White, 2006) (Sergiovanni, 1992). Acting as servants under God, women practiced servant leadership with the power to God. Their goals were clear, and women were united in their vision and sanctified purpose (Sergiovanni). The family was the core value and the shared vision. Faith was at the centre of the household. Women grasped moral authority, found it legitimized through institutions, and placed themselves in service to the communities. Thus women assumed stewardship for the betterment of their peers while building democratic networks for support (Senge, 1990) (Grogan & Shakeshaft, 2011) (Sergiovanni).

Women were coming together on a shared vision driven by moral outrage and facilitated by moral authority (Sergiovanni, 1992). They were organizing, building relationships with women they had never met, and developing empathy for women walking different paths. The vision was widening, growing, and changing. They demanded facilities for wayward women, fought for female medical supports, sought fair treatment in industry, and asked for political recognition. The community was developing, and leaders within those communities found their leadership responsibilities growing. Women were committed to educating each other to improve conditions and increase opportunities for success. Community learning through social networks that were by nature egocentric focused on friends and family in the communities (Grogan & Shakeshift, 2011). Industrialization produced opportunities for women to expand the web of relations and contacts. The impact of focused women in positional power roles created societal leaders who provided opportunities to gain acceptance of the goals in the mainstream. The traditional role of charity allowed women to reach out to and through communities building the suffrage movement and finding victory. The relentless pursuit of common ideas and growing networks of communication provided opportunities for target promotion and achievement (Wagner & Kegan, 2006) (Newman & White, 2006).

Wave upon wave rising, in the mid-20th century women found themselves’ minimized and disregarded in literature and education. Educational institutions were open to women, invited women, but did not expect their success. Women were found nowhere in mainstream literature, textbooks, or in leadership. Using socio-centric networks, women worked within the associations to unite and fight for recognition (Newman & White, 2006) (Grogan & Shakeshift, 2011). The educational institutions, like the Churches in the first wave, provided a place and space to gather and demand recognition as unique and solitary citizens (Newman & White, 2006). Women were mobilizing to overcome their muted role in the home, school, and workplace. Women discovered their shift of mind and saw that their personal life was indeed public. With increased independence, active participation in the community, and improving educational opportunities, women were not going to be defined only by their sex (Newman & White) (Senge, 1990) (Kline, 2010).

Slowly wearing the foreshore, the second wave continued to crash upon assumptive norms. The movement to empower women and recognize their fundamental equality slowed in the tide of economic forces and political play during the latter half of the 20th century in Canada. In 1964 the Real Women movement, which grew out of conservative uprising, drew negative backlash in the mainstream media denigrating ‘feminists’ and proclaiming any feminist anti-family (Newman & White, 2006). Women fought back and pressed forward. During the 1984 leadership debate, NAC (National Action Committee on the Status of Women) succeeded in making issues facing women a fundamental part of the debate. Mainstream media destroyed opportunity for progress despite the high levels of national interest and significant viewer population. NAC fought and achieved public presence to advance equality in the modern space, but broadcasting representatives declared it a non-event (Thrift, 2011). Following the debate, feminism became a target and a somewhat dirty word. The Conservative party was in power and referred to the Women’s movement as a special interest group. Rediscovering the vision, maintaining the connections, and moving forward became complicated (Newman & White, 2006) (Thrift, 2011).

Finding one another, building networks, creating contacts, discovering understanding; these were the relentless focus of feminists during the drought created out of economic pressures and the return to patriarchal leadership in a conservative Canada. During this time women found interest groups within their community of women. Women of colour, Aboriginal women, women of poverty, and abused women found each other and began calling for a change to social norms around the subordinate station granted women (Newman & White, 2006). They demanded cultural shift, representation, and structures to support the pursuit of equality. Women were united in their calls, clear of their vision, and focused on changing mental models (Senge, 1990). Women embraced Unheroic leadership (Murphy, 1968) in these new groups. The vision was clear; women were comfortable asking questions and open to responses to change, enrich, or amend their thinking. The diverse groups of women gathered, listened, and depended on each other for promotion and growth (Murphy). The struggle to understand and embrace what it meant to be woman was and is on-going. Women recognized that they are an integral member of our societal system and a leader for families and education. Today, women are continuing to build relationships, create webs of information and lift each other to equitable living. The waves are returning changed and amended. United in differences women gather and inform utilizing open-system networks to connect (Grogan & Shakeshift, 2011). Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, have become powerful tools used to unite and lead women to equality. Increasingly focused on cultural interventions, (Newman & White) women are weaving wider nets, creating links to one another, finding their sameness, and celebrating their diversity as a collective (Bowden, 2009).

Canadian women participate in a global context with benevolent works seeded during the first wave. Throughout the recent history of feminism, women have worked improving the lives of others. Charity in groups and as individuals in the new era remains a feminine enterprise. Ground-breaking charitable works done by women continue nationally and internationally. Match International is a Canadian organization which gives Canadian women an opportunity to support women outside of Canada fighting abuse and inequality. Because I am a Girl Canada and United Nations groups like Global Citizen are struggling to end child marriage and improve education of girls. Canadian women united in interests and goals are coming together philosophically, economically, and actively in a new age of communication (Grogan & Shakeshift, 2011) (Newman & White, 2006). Because women build networks and relationships, the opportunity for collaborative innovation exists. Additionally, because women work outside traditional models of bureaucracy, they have the freedom to introduce, test, and develop ideas without being restricted by a narrowing list of rules and guidelines. Cognitive shifts are resulting from women working within social structures rather than in segregated power organizations. Women work integrally with multiple members in a community allowing multiple viewpoints and providing opportunities for changes in thinking and innovative problem-solving. Ongoing development of the women’s movement includes coming together in unlikely ways, to respect the diversity of women, to hear each other, and to speak freely (Grogan & White, 2011) (Starratt, 2004) (Tschannen-Moran, 2004) (Murphy, 1968). Their voices and influence are evident in the gathering for Pan-Canadian feminists.
” We are the young RebELLEs who have answered a feminist call, and we are proud to call ourselves feminists…We are women of diverse abilities, ethnicities, origins, sexualities, identities, class backgrounds, ages, and races.” (Manifesto of the Pan-Canadian Young Feminist Gathering, 2008)
Feminism is by its very nature inclusive. Reaching out to the deep and varying persons who are woman opens conversations and leads to connections and relationships. Female educational leaders approach the multifaceted educational arena to create communal experiences, develop ties, and generate impactful interactions. In Canada, the new curricula published (BC Ministry of Education, 2015)(Alberta Ministry of Education, 2016) in several provinces provide a focus on diversity, acceptance, and social/emotional learning. Subsequent tides, robust and bracing, will ride on the leadership of women able to build associations and cast their net wide. Women continue to be misunderstood and overlooked. The traditional hero leader is male, and the heroic style of leadership is observable and measurable (Murphy, 1968). The servant and collective leaders are often unseen, unheard. Heroes lead from without; Women lead from within and they are essential active members who relate to the group. By empowering individuals, developing local specialists, and sharing in focused goals, women demonstrate empathy and build trust within the collective (Grogan & Shakeshift, 2011) (O’Brien & Shea, 2010) (Senge, 1990) (Robinson, 2011).
Women traditionally held little power. They were not part of authority structures and had no voice to effect change. Women were forced to connect and communicate differently. They searched and found one another working to create opportunities to improve the lives of women, demand change, and fight for a voice. Collectively women built relationships and worked cooperatively to begin building equity in their world by demanding female leaders, literature with relevant female role models, and acceptance as unique citizens. Feminism faltered under male dominated media, but women found their voice and rallied for a broadened acceptance of what it means to be woman. As a net anchored and connected to its task, collective leadership lifted women with trust, relations, and passionate visions. Their voices rose and they found membership together. Women supported one another creating influence and effecting change while embracing diversity. Today female leaders endorse group learning, develop resident experts, encourage open conversation, and cultivate essential trust. Women present a distinctly feminine leadership model that is present in mind and functions cohesively and decidedly Unheroic (Grogan & Shakeshift, 2011) (Senge, 1990) (Robinson, 2011) (Iannello, 2010) (Starratt, 2004). Women lead differently.
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