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Leadership workshop: expectations vs reality

Inside the Programme

Leadership workshop: expectations vs reality

Savannah Steyn (South Africa & University of Capetown 2021) walks us through the leadership workshop she had so colourfully imagined versus the experience she found herself immersed in.

Published 3 June 2021

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Firstly, I would like to strongly protest the idea that most drama students look like the eccentric brother-sister duo from High School Musical when trying to prepare for speaking in public or introducing themselves to an audience. No, rather I find myself to resemble the wide-eyed, jaw slackened anxious figure of Munch’s The Scream. That is not to say that I was not brimming with as much excitement as I was nervous. For me, the first day of workshops could not come soon enough. Those nervous butterflies that often rose inside me before the curtain is drawn up above the arches to greet me with an audience now lingered inside me as I waited to see what this experience would be like. The stage was the Mandela Rhodes workshops for the cohort of 2021.

I expected lengthy discussions on socio-political matters, critical analysis of current events and evaluating approaches and possible solutions to challenges our nation faced. In my head the stage I would stand on looked very much like a boardroom filled with serious faces, a chorus of valid points, the insightful and thought-provoking question with the spontaneous “Objection” breaking out here and there. A wandering imagination is unfortunately an occupational hazard for me. Thus I also could not help but try to picture myself in this ensemble and wonder what role I may be assigned within this dynamic and talented group. One of the leads? supporters? For a minute I even imagined myself enacting a tree with branches in hand posing in the background. As mentioned before, I have a wandering imagination.

However, the adventure I have experienced thus far has been more than I could have imagined. Never before had I truly thought that virtual meetings could touch a person. Particularly in a way that I have craved since lockdown began; in a manner that was comforting and affirmative. This is a result of the facilitators, scholars and topics alike. Rather than coming into a role of a leader, I feel I have been allowed to step into many roles. That of peer, supporter, leader, listener and at times even friend. Building ourselves block by block the workshops have looked at encouraging us to grow in our strengths, accepting, and working on our weaknesses both as individuals and as a collective.

It has been a space of respectful and reflective learning that was fun and light-hearted amongst the serious matters we considered along the way. No, this was not at all like a rehearsal for a role but rather just a space to be and grow amongst those who had similar burning aspirations that I did. To be of service to others through the further ventures into the unknown that our studies may provide. The one aspect of theatre I always loved so much was the element of teamwork that came with it. We all wished to bask in the light of the spotlight and applause from the audience but also to spend hours working together to create something that was crafted and spoken into existence for others was truly incredible. This is exactly how I felt these past few weeks during our workshops. Equally sharing in the crafting, writing and speaking that produced our mutual respect and admiration for one another as we bravely stride forward to become leaders. To summarise this experience in one word: Bravo!

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