Enhancing Leadership through the Solo Experience of a PhD

A few years ago, a workplace personality survey revealed that I’m an extroverted thinker. In other words, I like to talk through ideas with other people; I tend to think out loud.

Yep, no doubt about it. I love working with other people. And, obviously, it works especially well when you’re part of great teams, where we bounce ideas off one another, and devise a collective wisdom. And that was better again once I’d gotten to know and reined in my approach to better enable the introverted thinkers.

So, for extroverted-me, the PhD is an entirely different working method. With an office to myself, rather than an open plan, I’m physically isolated. With the exception of meetings with my academic supervisors, I’m intellectually isolated. Without any real calendar or timelines, I’m temporally adrift.

It’s a bizarre way to work for such an extended period of time, but it’s made me identify and confront weaknesses in my workplace modus operandi.

And that’s been an unexpected benefit from the PhD experience. It has forced me to develop the introverted thinker’s method to go along with my natural inclination for the team work.

While workplace leaders should always make way for and rely heavily on the expertise of their team members, we clearly need to be capable of our own intellectual leadership.

For me, the independent PhD experience is really honing those skills and habits.

Brilliant.

A Scholar in His Study by Thomas Wyck c 1650.jpg

A Scholar in His Study, by Thomas Wyck (c 1650)

Don’t overlook the positives of Disney’s Moana

Below is a piece I wrote – originally published on Stuff.co.nz, 19 September 2016 – about the importance of global representation of Pasifika nations and cultures in the climate change era. I was concerned that that representation would get lost to concerns about cultural appropriation.

Today, my views were vindicated a little more. Opetaia Foa’i and Julie Foa’i of the musical group, Te Vaka, were  interviewed on Radio New Zealand. They contributed to the soundtrack of Moana.

Opetaia and Julie were asked about cultural appropriation, “You think they’ve learnt their lessons with Pocahontas and so on?”

Julie responded, “Oh absolutely. But in saying that, you’re never going to please everybody but they were sincerely moved by their own experiences in the South Pacific and they wanted to reflect the beauty that they discovered for themselves. The producer, and the directors and various other people had toured around the islands for a couple of years before we were on board. They’ve done a lot of development and investigation and all the things that they do to make what you’re going to see shortly.”

The concerns about cultural appropriation are entirely valid. I just hope that those concerns don’t drown out representation of nations that so desperately need to be seen and heard right now.

Here’s my original editorial in full:

Continue reading