Day 4: Leadership for Health Equity and Social Change

Activity 11: Exploring styles of leadership 

Day 4: Leadership for Health Equity and Social Change

Activity 11: Exploring styles of leadership 

1 hour 45 minutes

Aims | To help us to:

  • Explore styles of leadership and their effects in social justice activism and our in own individual leadership journeys
  • Deepen our understanding of activism and leadership for social change

Task 1 Group work

Role-play preparation on styles of leadership

30 minutes

While there are many different styles of leadership, we will focus on five (5) common leadership styles.  We introduce these styles to help us reflect on the personal and political choices we need to make as leaders for social change and health equity. 

Look at the handout offering brief descriptions of these five leadership styles: 

  • Autocratic or authoritarian leadership
  • Democratic or participative leadership
  • Feminist leadership
  • Laissez-faire or free-rein leadership
  • Paternalistic leadership

You will be in one of the following groups and will role-play how this person might use different forms of the above leadership styles within the confines of one community meeting: 

Group 1: Faith / religious leaders
Group 2: Parents
Group 3: Teachers
Group 4: Clinic sisters

Your task is to prepare to have different styles of leaders ready to engage the crisis that confronts the community meeting and the leaders are tasked to bring about a transformative socially just conclusion. Your group will be allowed to deploy one leader at a time into the meeting, to act in the style they are assigned and to try to bring a sound resolution. Remember to first read the handout so that you can get into your leadership style convincingly. 

The meeting will be arranged in the centre of the room around one table. Each of the 4 groups will have a corner of the room to deploy their leaders from. Each group will have a flipchart stand. All group members must get at least one turn to role-play the leadership style they choose or are assigned in your group.  

Facilitators will set up the scenario, chair the meeting, assist with time-keeping to pause after each 5 minutes of the meeting, for a quick plenary reflection and recording on different flipcharts of the key traits or features of the different leadership styles that emerged and whether or how they are managing to lead the meeting to a healthy conclusion:  

The situation
You are in your monthly Community Stakeholders Meeting in the Multi-Purpose Centre on a Saturday morning. You have just three things on this month’s agenda. First is the Recycling Awareness Coca Cola Fun Run planning for next weekend, second is visit of the MEC for Social Development in three weeks and third is Any Other Business (AOB) that no one has added any issues under. While you are on item one, you start realising that the noise level of voices and shouting and toyi-toying is growing louder and louder. After a few minutes, a security guard and the centre manager on duty rush in the door to say that there are over 500 people who they thought were marching past, but say that this is the meeting that they want answers from.  The security guard says that the group says that they are EPWP workers of all kinds who say ‘Enough is Enough’ that the Community Health Workers are now going for a 3rd month without receiving their stipends. They are angry as these are workers, mostly women, who are called on day or night and are there to help with what Covid-19 has added to the community’s crisis by way of more illness, stress from more and more jobs being lost, household and gang violence that is even more than before, etcetera. The message is that this Community Stakeholders Meeting promised to intervene two months ago and nothing has been heard since, despite meeting after meeting, petitions and letters. The group outside say that they are not leaving without cash for these 40 unpaid workers and that this building is now occupied until the money is in the hands of the workers, and no one will leave this building until this is so.  

Task 2 Plenary

A Fish bowl meeting

1 hour

The Community Stakeholders Meeting venue will be in the centre of our room, like a fish bowl. Only one rep per group is in the fish bowl at any time and for no longer than 5 minutes. Those not deployed to the meeting table, are the observers who are listening and learning about leadership styles and how they assist with progress or hinder progress in different ways. The observers are watching the fish in the bowl and cannot interfere in the meeting. The meeting will be in session for 5 minutes at a time and then we will stop, reflect in plenary for 5 minutes and move on (55 minutes).

Role-play actors must remember to stay in their character all the time they are in the Fish Bowl, for example as an autocratic parent, or a feminist faith leader, or a paternalistic nursing sister, etc. This is called Method Acting: It is a technique that performers use to  empathise with the characters they are portraying emotionally. In this technique, the actor “becomes” the character and frequently remains in the role for long periods.

Substitutions will be allowed by the referee or rather chair of the meeting and will be one of the facilitators. Each group can choose who to deploy next, but only after there is a discussion on how the previous set of leaders helped or hindered progress. After the Fishbowl conversation has gone through five rounds of acting and reflecting, the meeting will be closed and the Fishbowl ends. Characters return to real life and to their original seats. 

The flipcharts will be used by each group during the plenary discussions, to write up, when agreed by plenary, key attributes of their leaders who led the meeting forward usefully. 

Task 3 Individual Journaling

Reflecting on activist leadership for social change

15 minutes

After all this robust theatre, you will have quiet time alone for 15 minutes to reflect and write in your journal:  

  • What do you see to be the most important features of leadership for social justice activism?
  • What styles of leadership do you feel drawn to and why?   

Task 4 Plenary

Our emerging picture of effective social justice leadership 

15 minutes

We’ll reflect in plenary on what the emerging picture is of our collective view of what makes for effective social justice leadership.