The Leadership Essentials Certificate program aims to decolonize traditional leadership approaches.
Kim Mah December 13, 2021 | TheTyee.ca
From the Black Lives Matter movement to growing calls for reconciliation, Canada is facing a racial reckoning like never before. But how equipped are today’s leaders to address systemic inequities in their workplace culture?
A new leadership development program at SFU Continuing Studies aims to fill that gap in skills and knowledge. Launched earlier this year, the Leadership Essentials Certificate program consists of four online courses created for new and aspiring leaders.
“For decades, there has been much research, academic work and activism in anti-racism, anti-oppression and social justice,” says instructor Indy Batth, a leadership coach and consultant who helped design the program. “And then there’s the field of leadership development. But the two areas have long been separate.
“What we’ve done is bring them together in one unique program where we can expose students to the next iteration of leadership for a changing society.”
Rather than focus only on skills taught in other leadership training, like conflict or communication, explains Batth, the SFU program approaches such topics through an unwavering lens of decolonization and social justice.
“What are the dominant ways of working that no longer serve, that actually exclude some and benefit others?” says Batth. “How do we unknowingly (and sometimes knowingly) maintain those systems? This program reveals and helps name those systems.”
As a senior program advisor with the federal government, Vancouver’s Lupe Sibrian initially enrolled in the program to gain leadership skills that would enhance her ability to navigate the various systems within the public service. To her surprise, what she learned was essentially the opposite: how to shift away from colonial systems that lead to inequitable treatment.
“It’s been such an emotional journey of self-discovery,” she says. “As a person of colour, I felt validated in the frustration I had been feeling within these systems. It felt liberating to share and engage in topics that placed my lived experiences at the centre of the very topics we were discussing.”
In the program, says Sibrian, she felt safe, supported — and prepared to speak up: “Through this journey, I’m so proud that I’ve been able to push myself out of my comfort zone. I now feel better equipped to acknowledge the things that need to be acknowledged.”
“I knew Indigenous groups were underrepresented at work,” she explains. “Since taking this program, I can now better identify the systems that hinder the success of individuals and reinforce it with all that I’m learning.”