Student Research Feature: Jolene Head

Photo of MA Leadership student Jolene Head

The School of Leadership Studies would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Jolene Head on the completion of a Master’s Thesis titled, Deconstructing Colonial Practices in the Public Service.

This thesis is available through RRU’s library here

We asked Jolene a few questions about this research and this is what they said: 

What are some key takeaways from your thesis that would be helpful for other leaders?

I would emphasize the influence that leaders have on a team’s culture and the organization. First, leaders set the tone and culture; therefore, self-awareness is critical for leadership development. There are many leadership theories, and leaders need to keep abreast of these theories, including non-Western leadership, such as Indigenous leadership. Finally, leaders must be flexible and adaptable; part of that includes putting into practice leadership concepts appropriate to a particular situation. After all, you wouldn’t take a spoon to shovel a driveway.

How is the organization moving change forward based on your work?

The Federal Public Service is an extensive organization with a well-established bureaucracy. As a result, change does not happen quickly. There are over 206 departments with approximately 300,000 employees. All this to say, it will take time for the organization to become aware of my work and to disseminate it among about 7,400 Executives. I have been promoting my work within existing and new networks and have shared my thesis with the Clerk of the Privy Council. As a result, I have received presentation requests. I believe, at a minimum, it will contribute to a dialogue that has already started and will motivate Executives to action recommendations both individually and collectively.

What surprised you about your experience of the thesis process?

Two things surprised me most about the thesis process. First, I started this process with a very firm belief in Reconciliation. However, as a result of the research, my view has changed. I believe the current framing of Reconciliation is flawed, particularly in the Public Service. I’ve come to think that there will be no Reconciliation without decolonization. Second, I was surprised that I would realize some hard truths about myself and my personal connection to Indian Residential Institutions. The thesis process helped me come to terms with that realization. Everyone will have to read the thesis to find out more!

How are you applying lessons learned from your whole MA-Leadership journey?

I’ve become more open about my vulnerability which has led to becoming a more human-centered leader. I’m also keenly interested in how to normalize Indigenous leadership in the Public Service and create a culture where Indigenous knowledges co-exist with Western knowledges in the organization. The Public Service has a great deal of influence on the landscape of Canadian society. Suppose the co-existence of Indigenous knowledges can be normalized in the Public Service. In that case, it will also begin to have a ripple effect on the rest of Canada. At least, that is my hope and vision.