I work as the director of a Skills Division in a non-profit that delivers tech sector knowledge to Indigenous Peoples throughout British Columbia. The First Nations Technology Council exists to help First Nations in the province to build technical knowledge capacity within their own communities, and in that way, contribute to the building of the self determination of these communities. My team consists of the majority of our staff, and represents all aspects of our delivery models, including curriculum development, student supports, student recruitment, Instructor supports, delivery supports, community outreach and supports, partnership development, and advocacy with partners; including governmental and funding body partnership building and communication. Leading such a diverse group of teams, and communicating on such wide ranging levels would seem to be a complicated matter – and in ways, it is – but I lead from a place that is informed by Indigenous Ways-of-Knowing, and it is based all on community.
When I call a gathering of my Instructors (as an example of a gathering we may have), I do not hold a position of authority, nor do I play a role of a Paternalistic leader, or a “Great Man” (O’Toole, 2008), but I attend as a facilitator and one who creates space for all views to be heard. Our elder is the one that I and everyone else in the circle will defer to if there is a voice that might hold more weight in the circle. The elder opens the circle and will close it with a prayer. We invite the ancestors into the circle; we listen to them. We value everyone’s input; those with us, and those who have gone before. The loudest is not the one most heard. Neither is the most eloquent. My place is to ensure that words are not weaponized – either in their tone, nor their detail – and to show respect for all words; spoken or not. That is my place, and to gather all that is said and build those words into doable plans and actions. If anything, that is what I do – I create space for words, and I join the thoughts together to create actions.
First Nations Ways-of-Knowing do not utilize Transactional leadership behaviour, where, as Khan (2017) points out; “Where there is failure to consider the bigger picture, (and) incomplete planning results” (p.181, Khan, 2017), but follows more of an Adaptive leadership approach where it “creates follower motivation by taking into account individual needs and goals” (p.181, Khan, 2017). In this way I can place my leadership approach into the Adaptive camp – as I endeavour to include all voices into the action outcomes – but I disagree with the outcomes stated by Khan; “Transactional leadership provides followers a reward for achieving a set target” (p.181, Khan, 2017). I don’t hear this in my teams. That is, in the way that it is presented by Khan. I don’t offer rewards to my teams. It could be argued that the teams are driven by over-arching rewards – personal commitments to political or socialogical goals – but I read Khan’s interpretation to mean goals such as recognition or monetary goals. These are not goals that sustain First Nations Ways-of-Knowing, these are goals that surround possession and ownership. The community is the goal at large, and it is what drives me, and perhaps, my teams.
Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or transactional leadership in current higher education: A brief comparison. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 18(3), 178–183. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i3.3294
O’Toole, James (2008). Notes Toward a Definition of Values-Based Leadership. The Journal of Values-Based Leadership, 1(1), Retrieved from http://scholar.valpo.edu/jvbl/vol1/iss1/10