Fostering a Dialogue About Leadership at UBC
“The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths, making our weaknesses irrelevant.”
– Peter Drucker
A very clear purpose of the leadership offerings supported by Workplace Learning & Engagement is to further a dialogue around the very meaning of leadership at UBC. What we believe about leadership has a profound influence on what we do as leaders and how we enact leadership.
For some, leadership refers only to individuals in positions of authority and even more specifically to those in charge of the organization as a whole, in this case, our senior leadership team. Some think of leadership as a phenomenon, the act of providing direction and purpose. Yet others acknowledge and focus on the capacity of an individual to act as a leader in a given moment where leadership is an act of personal courage, taking responsibility for the well-being and actions of oneself and engaging others in a process of change for the greater good.
“Leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purpose…”
– Rost, 1991
There are two key underlying assumptions with regard to the learning opportunities we offer in leadership. We differentiate between management and leadership and, therefore, we distinguish between the exercise of authority and the exercise of leadership. Leadership includes, but extends far beyond authority. Secondly, we pay attention to developing the capacity of individuals to lead in order to contribute to developing the overall leadership capacity of UBC as an organization.
A fundamental principle of our leadership programs at UBC, therefore, is that every individual has the capability and numerous opportunities over the span of a lifetime to lead, and when we are able to recognize and act upon the opportunities as they emerge we exercise leadership for those with whom we are interacting.
Successful social change requires “changes in how a broad group of people think and feel, how they act and relate to one another, how they organize themselves, and what kinds of structures and systems they create to identify and meet their needs.”
– Howard & Reinelt, 2006
UBC’s Strategic Plan, Shaping UBC’s Next Century, points to the university’s vision to foster global citizenship and advance a civil and sustainable society. The kind of leadership required to bring about social change is based on a pluralist vision of collective leadership and involves tapping into the capacity and strengths of those with whom we are working. From the perspective of the leader, this may entail a fundamental shift in our consciousness of how we see the world, our understanding of relationship and in the nature of how we have typically made commitments to each other and our community as a whole.