Leaders We Need 2b Training
You could say that leadership is in my blood. We can trace Syilx leadership on my father's side back to the 16th century and on my mother's side, the Matriarchs innovated education programs on our reserve, and more recently, my Mom was the CEO of a multi-million dollar Indigenous business.
I've been watching and been trained in multi-pronged leadership, honestly since I can remember. And that's a big part of learning leadership, yes being one is a central part of it, but bearing witness to it, is an incredibly vital aspect to the ongoing learning of a lifelong leader.
I find it’s a viscous trap for untrained leaders because they don’t understand they need training - because they’ve never trained in leadership.
You know one facet of leadership is public speaking, and I’ve been training in public speaking since like grade 3, about 7 years old. And after this week of doing multiple public speaking engagements and getting positive feedback, I want to share and bring attention to the lifelong training, it has taken me to get to this point.
Guest lecturing, sitting on panels, holding circles, takes a lot of conditioning. To know how to deeply listen, respond actively and simultaneously continue to hold space for transformation doesn't come naturally, I don't want to send out that message. I go over and over and over my work, I call it "casing it out". Where I try and imagine all possible scenarios of the event and I'm still never prepared enough.
So often, I see artists do talkbacks or leaders do panels and they ramble or get into irrelevant details, and it's not engaging, it's boring and it's such a missed opportunity to connect with the community. Studying leadership is a lifelong responsibility, professional development is real and needs to happen often.
Too often, particularly in the arts, we think, with little to no preparation, we can and have the entitlement to participate. I think this has detrimentally impacted our collective ability, to build a community with our patrons founded on trust. We need to really reflect on this dogma.
Critical reflection is another aspect of leadership that is vital. To be a self aware and conscientious leader, takes rigorous attention. This is a step often missed or under trained in arts leadership. Because "art" is subjective, they've never had to metricize compelling and effective results. Which is why training outside of the arts and having experience outside of theatre is necessary.
In sports, there is a always a clear objective - to win. Now, I've learned that "winning" always looks different for it's dependent on many variables, the opposition, an athletes present health and winning needs to be defined specifically for each game.
For me in baseball, if I knew the pitcher was faster than my bat, maybe it was the beginning of the season or most likely the pitcher had my number, my goal to "win" my time at the plate, would be to just catch a piece of the ball, chipping it we'd call it.
So, if during my at bat, I got a piece of the ball and still struck out, that was a W for me. Setting achievable outcomes to, "win" is imperative to making oneself and a team gain momentum to keep training and transforming.
When I was coaching Team Canada Men's Roller Derby, I'd work with my coaching staff and stats people, to set achievable outcomes and goals. It was a challenging and fascinating aspect to the job. As Head Coach, I'd give myself timestamps in the game to know what the spread of the score needed to be, and I'd make on the fly adjustments during games to get there.
Recently, in a show's massive tech, I got my TD, the phenomenal Conor Moore, to make me a 2 pronged spreadsheet that had timestamps for what page when needed to be on, at what exact time. He made a doc that had two outcomes, one that reflected a track where we'd get through the whole play and another with the time stamps of where we'd have to make the executive decision to say we got too far behind and humbly have to call it.
Planning, setting achievable outcomes and reflection, casing it out, then reflection and casing it out, over and over is my leadership methodology.
When Team Canada went to World Cup in Barcelona in 2017, that honestly was one of the most stressful trips and leadership events of my life. I was the first femme Head Coach and I had 25 roller derby players, with names like Mr, Testosterone and a coaching and support staff of about 10. All these people under my care and I took it very, very seriously, the stakes and energy and pressure was extraordinarily high.
We did not hit our goal of where we wanted to place, there we're variable's we did not have enough information about, like Team France getting an incredible investment to invest in their training. We had leaders crumble, which I come to expect now when I take on leadership positions, not all personnel can handle the pressure. We we're not hitting our spreads and we had young, incredible skaters in new athletic arena's, struggling.
I was getting so much new information, hour by hour, I had to adjust my reflection and casing leadership approach because normally, I would wait until the end of the day to reflect but we had skaters getting injured, upsets in the brackets and people not performing as expected happening all throughout the day. We had to be nimble and responsive to the situation and we had to do it with confidence and expediency.
It was incredible theatre tech training to be honest, cause those are situations where decisions have to happen quickly and my life long athletic training, has given me the knowledge to know how bodies and spirits can work under intense pressure. If people are prepared, whether in high levels sports or theatre, I can make educated decisions on that preparation and know how to deliver. If people aren't, I've seen them collapse under the environments requirements, which is also a great teaching reminder of just how important intense preparation is for peak performance.
Watching athletes trying to remember plays during the game, was always painful. I’d think, that's a crying shame because they can't get truly get in the game because their brain is still remembering, they haven't make it muscle memory yet. This lack of preparation still frustrates me, but I know I can only provide so much for an athlete and or an actor because they have to the The Work themselves. If they haven't, not much of anything I can do for them, but it’s very frustrating to see the potential and not be able to pull it out of someone.
With regards to reflection, I 'd still spend the end of my, on avg 16 hour days at World Cup, reflecting. Our hotel was about an hour walk from the venue, my partner at the time would ask if we wanted to transit or cab home. Every night, I would take 1.5 hours to slowly walk home and think about the day, rake my decisions, and try and stack the next day to position us well.
I don't remember Barcelona the city, I didn't see any of it, I became so deeply entrenched in my job, I got tunnel vision. Now is this healthy, prolly not. Sustainable, absolutely not. Necessary, I think so. I had 35 people who had spent their hard earned cash and trained for years to be here, they were worth it.
In prep for the head coaching position, I knew I would be able to harness the jr. olympic level of ball I played, and the experience of having Olympic level Coaches for the competitive part of my career, but I thought I still needed more training. So I enrolled in the Coaching Association of Canada's accredited training program. For a few months, every Friday night I went and trained.
I train because I know how crucial it is to successful results, I train because I respected the sport, I train because I respect the art, I train because I respect the people's time they are giving me. I train because it's what my Ancestors did to prepare to represent our peoples with knowledge and power.
Recently, the Banff Cultural Leadership training was monumental to my pedagogical approach, the NTS artistic leader training, my ongoing relationship with my mentors. I spent time last night talking to my Ma and Pa about their startup and we specifically talked about challenges within the first 6 months of a business.
I do personal studies of leaders and teaching styles because it’s my responsibility to know effective modes of knowledge sharing. I go to public forums, panels and sharing circles to hear what and how people are holding space for knowledge channels.
If you are running a publicly funded organization, if you’re running any organization or manage any amount of people and you aren’t taking annual PD and or leadership training, it’s a disservice to the people you are responsible for, and honestly to yourself.
Leaders know this.
But where do I start?
-Look at Banff’s training and apply for a PD Grant.
-Read books of thought leaders that interest you.
-YouTube is an incredible resource to learn about many leadership styles.
-I use event searches on social media to see what is happening around town, lots of free events.
-Universities and colleges hold free forums, allllllll the time. Follow them on twitter and go!
-do an exchange with a leader you admire in your own community. Take them out for lunch, give them your money and ask them some questions.
Leadership is a deep passion and responsibility of mine, I’ve run teams in government, NGO’s and athleticism and they’ve all been challenging and arts leadership is even more incredibly complex. Holding space for vulnerability and artistic courage is fucking difficult. So let’s not undermine ourselves and the sector by not doing our due diligence by training.
We have to remember that just because someone is a compelling artist, that doesn’t make them a competent arts leader.
I know how difficult it is and I honour everyone in the arena getting our asses kicked by it, but what I won't honour is people in the arena, letting the other teams down, the community, and other artists because of their lack of training and preparation. It's unacceptable, there's no leadership in that and those individuals need to be held accountable for their gross disappointments and failures to the community.
Leadership is about harnessing the collective knowledge and stewarding it to a result that moves the community. If you think you can do this without ongoing training, I know you don't have the capacity to lead. To some, that may sound harsh but to me, that is the truth.
We are in a very challenging time, environmentally, humanely and spirituality. Our species is going through a massive transition that is proving to be quite difficult for us. We are truly struggling to bear witness to the truth of our behaviours, our realities, our impact and it's not conducive to our development and evolution.
We have too many people in leadership positions pivoting off of fear, ego and scarcity and the time for this pedagogical style, with the old imperial patriarchal oligarchy is over, it didn't work. We urgently need leaders with galvanizing innovation and the perspective to ignite us into mighty truths.
For there is a profound opportunity here to seize this energetic moment, to make a powerful transformation, but it is going to take leaders. And remember, leaders are people just like you and me, with the training and then the capacity, to steward in plentiful courage.
With deep love,