Rebuild Social Imagination

This week’s assigned readings are a combined experience of theoretical and application to me.

“Critical leadership studies: The case for critical performativity” (“Critical”) first presents two leadership study approaches — functionalist and interpretive — and three paradigmatic assumptions. Then it introduces “critical performativity” that opens up new ways of interpreting and practicing leadership, but the shortcomings of this type led to another approach that engages in collective processes of deliberation about if, when, by whom, and why. It stimulates ongoing reflection and communication about how to establish, maintain, change and sometimes reduce or even do without forms of leadership. Finally, it recognizes that there are multiple modes of authority and leadership is only one of them.

In chapters 5 and 6 of “Redeeming Leadership” (“Redeeming”), “Anti-Racist Feminisms” educates us a collection of anti-racist feminism wisdom including interlocking oppressions (relationship with intersectionality), solidarity, self-definition, love, language, and reach. “Undoing Leadership” examines three layers of how we may ‘do’ leadership theorizing and practice differently: decolonizing our minds, relating with others, and reimagining leadership as interconnected processes of social transformation. Both chapters try to show that leadership is the problem, and solutions are available via interconnectedness, collectivity, and collaboration. Desires are expressed for a world where everybody is free to fulfill our human potential.

Lastly, in the Introduction and Chapter 1 of “the Purpose of Power” (“Power”) by co-organizer of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Alicia Garza, she shares her personal stories behind this impactful movement, how that taught her the most enduring lesson in politics, and its possibility of hold for our collective future. Alicia views BLM as the story of how we come together when we fall apart and expresses her desire to learn from the historical social conflicts and make new mistakes. The most touching part is to hear her saying that she recommits to the work that broke her heart every day.

“Critical” and “Redeeming” both criticize existing leadership studies but “Critical” tries to present the positive value of leadership and searches for potentialities rather than condemning that “leadership itself is the problem” in “Redeeming”. “Critical” also shares an insight on leadership being one of many authorities and could co-exist with other formats of authorities depending on when, where, what, who, etc. via deliberation and dialectics. This gives me a sense of relief.

“Power” supplements the anti-racist wisdom in “Redeeming” with the author’s experience and insights on changing the stories of leadership to encompass the invisible, underserved, and marginalized people and community. “Power” also reinforces “Redeeming” in anti-racist feminists expressing the desire for a world where everybody is recognized as fully human via the stories of the author’s mom. Furthermore, “Power” shared lessons in intersectional feminism corresponding to the intersectional nature of our social relations yet in different forms of both oppression and privilege in “Redeeming”.

My personal experience as an immigrant to the U.S. and a woman of color has brought me much explicit and implicit discrimination at work and in my personal life. I individualized those experiences mostly but sought solutions and remedies via leadership training, career coaching, and even in spiritual practice. I practiced skills learned and some works and some not. The readings in LDR 6100 have broadened my understanding to structural domination and oppression behind my experiences yet it is continuously questioned and searched for improvements through ongoing deliberation and dialects.

Just as sociologist Collins said, ‘a changed consciousness encourages people to change the conditions of their lives’, I realized that the structural issues in our societies have formed conservative vocabularies, narratives, storytelling that my ancestors, my parents, and I have repeated to ourselves and expanded them to others then all, to come to present political, economic and environmental dilemma. Changing our existing habits, patterns, and social and political membership is extremely hard, but finding new ways of relating with ourselves and others through love and collaboration instead of self and other denial and negation is liberating, uplifting, and hopeful. And most of all, it’s our intention, courage, and willingness to practice our learning and not afraid of making new mistakes.

Meanwhile, it is equally important to keep building a loving and caring relationship with people and community while not “taking leadership too seriously” and be aware that there are alternative ways to exercise influence. Overall, I feel more empowered and humbled at the same time on continuous collectivity and collaboration.

This past Friday, 2/21/2021, was Chinese New Year’s Day, and I made this Natal year’s resolution as Rebuilding Social Imagination.

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