In Search of Leadership
Child & Youth Services
Leadership has always been a loaded concept, one that has embedded political messages related to power, gender, race, wealth, and authority. Images of leadership are almost always white, male, and represented in visual cues of heteronormative value systems. Yet, we now live in an era where leadership is highly prized, sought after as a way of mitigating what appear to be structural injustices affecting an ever-growing number of people. The typical response to failed leadership is not a critical reflection on the concept itself, but instead a rearticulation of what a leader might look like and sound like. In the arena of high-stakes politics, we now face absurd prospects of a different kind of leadership in the United States, and we will likely abandon the nonmale, nonexcluding leadership of the likes of Angela Merkel, who is seen to have breached the boundaries of effective leadership by inviting marginalized people into her country en masse.
In the professional fields that directly and daily affect the well-being of young people facing adversity, a search for leadership is on. Discussions abound about what we might need to advance the cause of this profession or that one. Who will lead social work, youth work, psychology, and mental health into the next phase of child and youth engagement? How might such leadership appear? Will it be an influential researcher, a dynamic public speaker, someone who has successfully procured funding for a charitable or social innovation initiative aimed at young people? Or will it be more of a grassroots approach to leadership, perhaps at micro levels, allowing for a more complex network of leaders changing the every day reality of young people facing adversity? Does leadership reflect superior skills, knowledge, and capacity? Or does it reflect excellent facilitation skills, the capacity to develop or mentor others, and a focus on mission, values, or social justice instead of hard skills and competencies? Does leadership have to be representative of those to be led, be that by demographics, generation, gender, social location, race, or some other criteria? Is leadership assumed or conferred? Is it the result of ambition and aspiration, or accepted with humility? ..........
..... As we move forward with our journal, we invite you, the authors, researchers, thinkers and yes, the leaders in child and youth services from around the world to contemplate with us what leadership might mean in a global context of shifting identities, processes and complex communication structures, and how such leadership might impact, and hopefully improve, child and youth services in a postmodern, or some might argue absurd, world.
Locate the Document
Kiaras Gharabaghi & Ben Anderson-Nathe (2016) In search of leadership, Child & Youth Services, 37:3, 211-213.