12 February 2015

Learn Leadership Reflectively Using the Art Gallery Concept

Tired of essays and reports? Why not participate in an art gallery? 143 students from BSc (Hons) Accounting and Finance, BSc (Hons) Business Management and BSc (Hons) Business Studies did just that when they were assigned with the creative, reflective and experiential project “The Leadership Identity Journey”.

The project, part of their coursework for the Leadership module, was held during the August 2014 semester. The students worked together in small teams to design and create A1 size ‘poster collage quilts’ to demonstrate their understanding of leadership in a hands-on creative way. Their work was then exhibited through an art gallery approach at the Graduate Centre.

Tong Wei Leng, Tracy Tan Yoong Yoong, Kody Loh Yean Kei and Fioone Wong Siang Ning

Each poster-collage quilt featured photographs and artwork depicting the 6 phases of the human life and leadership which includes human condition, human trials, human crossing, human transformation, human triumph and leadership. This leadership concept is based on Joseph Campbell’s framework, ‘The Hero’s Journey’ as written in his classic work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (2008, New World Library, 3rd Edition). Campbell’s research on myths, legends, fairy tales and folklore concludes that each person can be the hero (i.e. leader) of his or her life, and leadership is essentially a human story, which can be found throughout the world and history, in any culture, ethnicity, community and civilization, regardless of social, economic or political background.

The students created their masterpieces in answer to the key question Who is this person called ‘leader’? Shannon J. Ng, Senior Teaching Fellow of the Department of Management and Economics, Sunway University Business School, designer of the module and project, believes that showcasing his students’ work by setting up an “art gallery” would be an innovative and effective way for students to learn experientially “because art and crafts can express things beyond words,” said Shannon.

Students undertaking the Leadership module with their lecturer Shannon J. Ng (First row, third from right)

One of the teams comprising of Tracy Tan Yoong Yoong, Tong Wei Leng, Kody Loh Yean Kei and Fioone Wong Siang Ning arrived at a conclusion that trust is the key element that binds the six phases as it occurs in every phase for better leadership. For example, the phase of the human condition can be reflected through the trust between parent and child; in the phase of human crossing and the trust amongst teammates in overcoming risks. Just like how they work on discussing, negotiating and selecting the right pictures to depict each phase of life’s journey, they trusted in each other and ultimately brought about the success of their project.

Asides from a better understanding on the topics and theories of leadership, the students learnt invaluable life skills. Kody learnt to enjoy the process which eventually turned to sweet memories; Tracy cultivated patience; Wei Leng picked up negotiation skills; and Fioone honed her creativity. “We have grown in our studies and also personally; Most importantly, our friendship grew through this project,” said Tracy.

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