Leadership Development and Training – It’s All the Same Isn’t It?

Although nobody will claim the modern world is perfect, it’s probably fair to say that in terms of inter-community awareness, our 21st century nation has come a long way.

Some of the appalling racial stereotyping and attitudes that existed in the past have been significantly eroded through education and awareness – even if there remains much work to be done in that area.

Yet strangely, there has been one undesirable by-product of this increasing transformation of our society and that relates to the siren-like attractions of sentiments such as “we are all the same underneath“.

On the one hand, the self-evident truth of that statement is plain for all to see. All people are capable of emotions such as love, fear, affection, resentment and so on. We all wish to be taken seriously and want to live in a just society where our rights are recognized and protected.

Yet the danger of taking that too far is that when you are considering leadership development and training, you assume that the same developmental approaches will be equally valid for all people, irrespective of their background culture and community values.

In fact, that is a very dangerous assumption.

In the case of the aboriginal peoples and their cultures, there is a double problem here. Firstly, their cultural traditions are substantially different to those imported into the country in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries by successive large-scale European and Asian immigration.

Just presuming that the leadership development and training strategies,which may work well in say a European cultural tradition, will simply be transportable seamlessly into an aboriginal context is probably naïve.

Secondly, it cannot be underestimated how much damage was done to the self-confidence and self-value of the indigenous peoples by over 200 years of cultural marginalisation.

The effects of this are now recognized and they parallel similar problems that have arisen in other such populations around the globe, notably including those of the Native Americans.

The fact of the matter is that leadership development and training within the aboriginal cultures need to be undertaken within a framework that shows an awareness of the values and aspirations of the culture itself. In other words, the motivational and confidence-building techniques that might work well with Australians from a European or perhaps Asian cultural background may be far less effective with aboriginal peoples.

This places a huge degree of responsibility on the trainers and developers charged with increasing leadership and self-governance within aboriginal businesses, organisations and even social associations.

There are many techniques used.

Surprisingly, this isn’t just about trying to make sure that people ‘understand where they came from’, as common parlance would put it. It’s about understanding what is important to people from this background and giving them the confidence to drive forward initiatives using those motivators rather than attempting to persuade them to adopt values and objectives that may be significantly alien to them.

Fortunately, the strategies and techniques for leadership development and training in the aboriginal community continue to develop at some speed. It’s worthwhile and rewarding work and one that may yield benefits for all Australians in future.