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Developing leadership practice in voluntary organisations
Developing leadership practice in voluntary organisations

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5 Key practice: constructing

For most of this week you have been considering different accounts of leadership and their problems. Further, you have been considering the role of people in the sector in terms of re-imagining the kinds of leaders you would like. Playing with what is acceptable and desirable in terms of leadership we label as a practice of constructing. Getting these thoughts out in the open is an important first step in changing the kinds of leadership experienced in an organisation.

We could equally have referred to this practice as crafting instead of ‘constructing’. In a face-to-face leadership development programme, at this point we would in all likelihood have brought out reams of paper, colouring pencils and pens, or even modelling clay. We would probably have asked you to draw your symbolic leader in the form of a poster and given you a few minutes each to explain this symbolic leader to your colleagues. If you are studying this course with colleagues or in a group, we suggest you try this activity together. Crafting and constructing are ways of making visible dominant organisational norms and, indeed, challenging such norms.

Asking people to construct things – images, models, short stories – can be a way of freeing the imagination from some of the constraints we routinely experience within organisations, usually caused by a dominance of task-focused activity.

The key point here is that we can be more deliberate about the kinds of leaders and leadership we pursue – we need not be the passive victims of larger cultural and political forces.