Research and Evaluation

Between Two Worlds: Indigenous Leaders Exercising Influence and Working across Boundaries

Jenny Stewart and James Warn
University of New South Wales

Although there has been considerable commentary and debate relating to Indigenous political leadership, less attention has been given to the emergence of Indigenous leaders working to improve Indigenous prospects from within the worlds of community development,
management, and administration. Based on in-depth interviews with a cohort of emerging Indigenous leaders in these situations, we found that these leaders are producing their own style of leadership, drawing on their Indigenous identity as a resource, while negotiating the policy and other demands of white Australia. The style of leadership that is emerging has its own distinctive attributes, being more relationally based than is the norm. We suggest that these differences have an important cultural dimension, but also relate to the strategic and tactical challenges of managing ‘two-ways’. We conclude that these characteristics may be difficult to recognise and reward in organisations where leadership is conceptualised in more instrumental terms.

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