Identities are vital for leaders: CSU expert

4 AUGUST 2017

Who we are plays a vital role in developing our leaders, says a leading CSU expert on business leadership, Associate Professor Michelle Evans.

Who we are plays a vital role in developing our leaders, says a leading expert on business leadership at Charles Sturt University (CSU), Associate Professor Michelle Evans.

"Contrary to conventional notions, leadership arises from relationships between people, it is shared experience of who we are and how we get things done together, not a bestowed or imposed role," said Professor Evans, who is with CSU's Faculty of Business, Justice and Behaviourial Sciences in Albury-Wodonga.

"We have been socialised into these ideas of the 'leader' bound by organisational hierarchy that unfortunately get in the way of our very natural experience of leadership which emerges from situations, working with others towards a particular idea, goal or vision for the future."

Professor Evans spoke about her ideas on the role of our identities and why they matter to the work of leadership at the recent TedXFullbright event in Canberra on 6 July.

"Who we are, our many and varied identities, really influence our work as leaders," Professor Evans said. "Indeed, there is great value in being different when it comes to leadership.

"Our experiences of being an outsider can really supercharge our leadership development because we are forced to communicate in ways that make sense to others who are different to us.

"Much of the conventional 'leader' development we see in our organisations and communities focuses on the individual, and their traits and personality features, at the expense of thinking about the significant situations and relationships where leadership both emerges and is recognised.

"Leadership is only seen as leadership if we perceive it that way. We are used to hearing, 'that person is not my leader', especially when it comes to political leadership, so how we each understand and perceive leadership has a strong influence on our own leadership work.

"So the next question for me is, 'how do we develop leadership?'."Professor Evans is currently writing a book on her ideas on 'Leadership and Identity', due to be published by Routledge in 2018, and recently led the redevelopment of CSU's Master of Business Leadership course.

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