The Social Development of Writing – the Unexpected Impact of Rosa Parks

A good friend of mine, Douglas, and I are writing a book called The Social Development of Leadership and Knowledge. In essence we are writing about the importance of reflexivity in developing one’s own leadership practice and in doing so how this has something to say in the field of knowledge.

We are deeply in the process at the moment. For me thinking never stops. I am seeing connections between the different sections and chapters that I had not envisaged. As these new connections emerge I am aware that they are both forming and are being formed by our original ideas in quite a transformative ways.

I am also making connections with other aspects of my working life. For example, I have been asked to give a brief talk on complexity and social movements (eg the Black Power movement in 1960s America). Without this loose connection the life of Rosa Park, the individual who refused to give up her seat for a white person on a bus in Alabama which resulted in enormous social change and challenge to traditional power relations, would not have featured.

Yet I suspect this will be a key strand to our book. A strand that illustrates the venting of pent up tension that had built up over the decades and generations in a predictable (ie the events were likely to happen at some point) and yet unpredictable ways. And, is still playing out today in many different avenues of people’s lives. Was my interest in Rosa Parks in relation to our book coincidental or an act of ‘un-thought’ planning?

As I reflect on this now it seems to me to be an example of the social process of writing and how it ‘never leaves’ when in that deep and active phase. And this is a point that we are making in the book, leadership and knowledge are all activities that we are all engaged in as we ‘rub along’ together in organisational life; these are not subjects to be explored from a distance; but instead as part of an active process that we need to notice. Connections that instantly seem important to us need attention and are worth the effort to be explored. Sometimes their importance to us may dim, or they may come to shine; this is the subject of further work. In that light they might come to be of great importance to us as individuals, within the stories of an organisation say, or, in the case of Rosa Parks, to a generation and beyond.

Whether the brave acts of Rosa Parks will feature in our book when we send it to the publisher I don’t know; but at the moment my instinct is – yes; an instinct that I will continue to pay attention to and notice.


7 thoughts on “The Social Development of Writing – the Unexpected Impact of Rosa Parks

  1. Hey Rob,

    Conversations and workshops sounds really interesting – as does the themes you and Douglas seem to be exploring/approaching in the work. I think in terms of development of leadership in practice then reflexivity – at many levels – is so important, challenging and really worthwhile – well that’s my experience (I think!) – I’d be really interested to be involved – converse at some point and best of luck with it all!

  2. Alison, we have finished over half of it, probably the hardest part and we are quite pleased the way it is shaping up. We aim to have most of it done by the early summer. We will then be having a number of conversations and workshops up until early autumn. This will be a great opportunity to further explore test ideas etc. If you would like to be part of this please let me know. The book will be coming out mid June 2013.

    By the way, keep an eye out at the King’s Fund I’m a co-author on a paper on leadership and complexity that you might be interested in, I think the date is about 23rd May.

  3. Good luck with the book Rob, it sounds really interesting. I know you’re still in the process at the moment, but do you have a publish date?

  4. Thanks for having a look! Being commissioned to write our book came quite by chance, but it had been something we had been thinking about form some time and we feel is important. So you never know when opportunity will pop its head up! Good luck and I’ll check out your blog. Rob

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