This morning I have been invited to be the guest at a class looking at factors around leadership and gender, or gender and leadership, in the context of Christian leadership. This isn't the 'can women be leaders and if so of what' deabte, this is more along the lines of 'what difference does it make to be a woman or a man'.
I'm happy to go along, to share my story and to engage in a Q&A session, but I'm not so sure I've ever got my head around the extent to which, if at all, leadership styles are gendered. Is my preferred style collaborative because I'm female, or because I have a personality that lends itself to that approach? Does making cupcakes fall prey to gender stereotypes, or is it just something that I actually quite enjoy? Am I 'unfeminine' because I'm not a cuddly, mothering sort? The more questions I ask myself, the more complex it all becomes.
What kind of leader am I? One that worries she is not a good leader, one that really dislikes confrontation, one that can be passive-aggressive and defensive, one that can be bossy, one that wants everyone to be happy and like each other (unrealistic idealist then!), one that has workaholic tendencies, and so on.
What has made me the kind of leader I am?
I owe a huge debt to the Brownies, where I was a Seconder and then Sixer of the Pixies at the age of nine! And an even more huge debt to the Girls' Brigade where I began Young Leader training at the age of 14 and was leading first groups, then whole sections, of girls aged 5-8, 8-11, 11-14 and 14-18 by the time I became an Officer at 18. Organising Camps and outings, managing accounts, planning programmes, serving at Districe, Division and national level... I learned loads and had lots of fun. It was also the place where from the age of 14 I regularly led devotions, developing my love of for what is now referred to as 'multi-sensory worhsip' and 'messy church'.
And another huge debt to the church, where from the age of six when I first stood behind a lectern to read Psalm 100, to being entrusted with Sunday School classes of all ages, to taking on roles such as 'envelope secretary' and very-much-after-a-fashion pianist/organist. Being given a voice in church meetings, and, in my thirties, being elected to the Diaconate.
Industry too, is significant. Opportunities to lead small then large projects, to liasie with sometimes difficult customers and demanding regulatory bodies. Lots of baking of cakes and buying of shortbread to keep my teams content during protracted periods of 70+ hour weeks on crazy projects. Lots of teaching and mentoring others. Lots of training courses in leadership, mentoring, customer relations ... and more to the point the day to day rough and tumble of pastoral and line-management responsibility for people often older and more highy qualifed than myself.
All of this has shaped and formed me. All of this, and more, is a mix of formal training, practical experience and personal preferences. How much is down to being female, or single, or straight, or English, or shy, or an ISTJ/ISFJ borderline, or an Enneagram 'loyal' or 'perfectionist', or liking cats, or any other identifiable trait, I'm really not sure.
Above all, I guess it is life in all its fullness that has shaped me - my parents and siblings, my friends, my successes and failures... the list could be endless.
But it will be fun to meet the students today and participate in their class. And I hope, I really hope, that they find it helpful too.