In the lead up to our current theme I did a lot of reading around leadership in the GLAM sector. Most of what I found was about the gender imbalance in directorships in the United States and the UK, which is a rather narrow focus right? I found it difficult to be inspired by a lot of what was being written for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, I found nothing about the domestic scene even though there is a large percentage of women in charge of many of Aotearoa’s major galleries. Secondly, most of the writing focused on gender as the foremost issue of diversity and would only rarely venture into race. Lastly, gender was positioned as this burden to be overcome and never as a unifying force that can empower women to the top. What this meant is that, for me, the articles didn’t address what I consider to be a crucial component of leadership: that it be aspirational.
Aspirational leadership for me is seeing Māori in positions of power across the board, not only in ‘Māori roles’. It is in having the potential of (to paraphrase the ubiquitous and of-this-time catchphrase) a mediocre white male to reach the upper echelons.
As has been covered in the two pieces published to date, Elspeth and Naiomi have considered what it is to be a leader from the inside (as opposed to the top) and the value of diverse leadership. The pieces that we will be putting up today will look at proactive development of future leaders and projects that have led with ideas but rely on collaboration.
What I identify with in Elspeth’s piece is that having a good leader can mean that you are empowered with your own agency. The best managers I’ve had have done that: they’ve trusted and supported me to establish my own projects and they’ve had my back if I’ve needed it. As with Naiomi, I have a pinterest board of sorts in my mind where I am collating all the best aspects of managers I’ve had, and if I’m ever in a management position, it’s the perspective of the ‘managed’ that I want to remember and recreate.
The title of this editorial comes from a book that was released by Huia Publishers in 2003 and one that I decided to re-read in light of this theme. In a similar vein to how the articles left me wanting in terms of intersectional leadership, this book left me wanting in terms of wahine Māori leadership: only one of the six interviewees is a woman. The criteria for how the leaders were chosen is outlined in the introduction with the acknowledgement that this would limit the amount of wahine Māori that could be chosen. I understand this point, but it is frustrating. If the criteria isn’t including enough wahine Māori, change the criteria.
What has heartened me about reading this book 14 years later is that I can think of so many wahine Māori who would fit the criteria today, and many more who wouldn’t but are still rangatira in their own right. We could change the criteria and be able to find a roopu of wahine across all ages, who operate on hapū, iwi, national levels who can be used as inspiration for everyone else.
The key whakaaro I want people to take away from this is that leadership can be more inclusive, it can be more diverse, we just need to change the criteria, and why the hell wouldn’t we? We’ve come a long way, there’s a fire in our pukus and it’s here to stay.