How to start? I don’t want to make this pre-meditated like most of my writing, which is either carefully sculpted or hurriedly assembled (uni vs. work), but rather to serve as a train(wreck) of unmitigated consciousness, unstopped and unhindered by the need to say something or anything in particular. Rather I foresee it contributing to my thesis (yes, I now have a ‘my thesis’ can you believe!) by being a space to process the great amount of information I will be attempting to cram into my brain over the course of the next 12 months. An opportunity to reflect on the poignant nuances, downright absurdities or dazzling revelations found in what I read, without worrying how it all ‘fits’ into the bigger picture. Simple existence amidst the rush, pull, push, and general distractions of everyday life. Will I share this with anyone? Perhaps, perhaps not. This is for me, after all.
But back to the beginning. The start. The inevitable. The task is daunting – how do you research, write, and give of yourself to create/mould/shape an idea which has ‘meaning’ in just one short year? Perhaps the universities have it all wrong – pumping out Masters students and collecting money for the ‘good of mankind’ without really giving us a chance to learn, except how to meet deadlines that is. But it really is what you make it. And SO I have begun.
“But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart” – Antoine De Saint-Exupery (French writer, poet, and pioneering aviator).
So begins the fourth book (The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin) of twenty which I am setting out to read within the next 40 days. To be honest, I don’t think I will continue with this one. I am learning to recognise the very subtle difference between what is merely a simple reflection of daily life/culture (or the way I want daily life to be like) – the socially acceptable and constructed way of being – and the genuinely life-changing, moving, provoking, unexpected. Some stories have this innate quality of engaging ‘the philosopher’ within (or ‘the concerned citizen’) which I suppose (or hope!) resides in all of us, while others merely reflect what is acceptable and palpable. Easy to read, easy to forget. That doesn’t mean popular fiction should be ignored or shunned, but rather that it is simply less than ‘great’ literature; less engaging, less thought-provoking, less life-changing. I think I now understand why Badaracco and McManus & Perruci were so insistent on ‘great works of art’ for their research. The ‘great’ being the ungraspable essence which makes a story exist as an entity seemingly, and perhaps deceptively, separate from its creator and reader, so much so that I almost forget books like The Poisonwood Bible, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Narrow Road to the Deep North (to name a few of my more recent literary endeavours) even had an author, a thinking, breathing human being who stringed words into meaning.
And so while Katniss Eberdeen or the Divergent heroine (who even remembers what her name is?) continue to perpetuate the ‘great man’ myth of leadership by replacing the titular white male hero with an even whiter female leader who is ‘just as good as a man,’ albeit downright moodier, I am preparing to slog my way through 20 odd books/plays/short story collections in order to find the ‘great.’ Oh and to make that harder for myself, they have to be by female authors, with female characters, practicing leadership. Sound like an easy requirement? Let me tell you – it’s not. If it’s one thing women don’t like to write about, its leadership (unless it’s about a badass, brooding heroine…who's white…and needs men to help her out). Heartache, love, family, children, relationships, violence, grief, passion, fear, endurance, etc…that we can do, yes sir. But ‘leadership’ or ‘leading’ beyond the conventional masculinities of the term? Perhaps not so easily.
Here is my list so far, with a few hopeful empty slots:
I like these authors. They’re not afraid of the unconventional. And I feel that their writing is for something better, more important than the money or the Man Booker Prize. In the same way, I feel that ‘authentic’ leadership is for something more than just effectively managing people or making a company more profitable. Because really, it’s not exactly authentic to hijack authenticity to do or encourage something inauthentic. It’s a way of being more than anything else, starting with self, but flowing onto others. An individually collective endeavour, a balancing of the innate propensity for selfishness with the desire to be better, kinder, engaged and loving to others as you lead, and without ignoring injustice, inequality or ethical dilemmas for the ‘good’ of business.
I expect my viewpoints to change over the next 6 weeks as I read and absorb these stories. And so this journal is for the simple purpose of capturing change in motion. My change, and my motion. The who I am now, the who I will be, and the who I could be.