Indigenous and Japanese warriorship weigh in on leadership development

Teara Fraser | Photo courtesy of Teara Fraser

The concept of warriorship is brought up for the first time in a community feast at Test Kitchen, Theatre Playwrights Centre (June 8). Conversation will be held around the role warriorship plays in leadership development. 

We are at a time that calls on our best selves to lead with courage, compassion and fierce determination rooted in warriorship. How to harness some of that ancient wisdom and use it in modern day leadership? I’ve been hungry for this conversation for a long time,” says Cree woman Teara Fraser, designer of this event.

Warriors from both communities resonate

Fraser’s inner warriorship was discovered when she went through a difficult time. She put it as “a big betrayal that hurt her.” She felt angry before she realized she should face up to this life change.

“At first, I recognized it as anger and then what I realized was that it was warrior spirit. I felt so strongly about caring for myself and those around me,” says Fraser, who believes warriorship is a fight for love and humanity.

Valerie Nishi, co-designer of the event, resonates with Fraser. As a Japanese-Canadian, she struggled for a sense of belonging. Nishi’s grandparents and parents were interned during the Second World War, which ignited her passion for community building.

“They had a challenge with feeling they belong and feeling worthy. I grew up, even though I wasn’t directly impacted, with a great sense of justice through compassion,” says Nishi.

Nishi explains that her warrior emerges when she sees injustice and is expressed through leadership.

Application of warriorship to leadership development

Both Fraser and Nishi see risks in the field of leadership. According to Nishi, with resource and infrastructure challenges facing the whole planet, some industries start cutting budgets and many see leadership training as optional.

“There is risk at certain economic cycles if leadership comes with lower priority,” says Nishi.

She believes adversity in leadership development calls for conversation about warriorship.

“We’ve worked with large organizations that are suffering from extreme global pressures and causing a lot of toxicity. For those who are trying to grow without being conscious of some of the implications sometimes, how we nurture kind of higher order of leadership is important,” says Nishi.

She feels leaders have lost something somewhere between the ancient and modern age: humanistic values and moral purpose. Nishi uses bushido, the Japanese concept of warriorship, as an example.

“For me, the words that come up from bushido are presence, passion and purpose. How those show up for individuals so that they can develop strongest selves and higher moral purposes is what I want to have conversation about,” says Nishi.

Fraser echoes what Nishi says. She believes both warriorship and leadership are about individuals and shouldn’t be restricted only to the board.

“When I talk about leadership or warriorship, I talk about everybody. It isn’t the person that has positional leadership or warriorship that is a leader or warrior. To me, we are our leaders and warriors in our lives and in what we are doing,” says Fraser.

As a Cree woman, Fraser is proud of her Indigenous traditions and notions of warriorship around the whole ecosystem that can be applied to leadership development to address environmental problems facing some industries.

Both Fraser and Nishi have invited leaders from their own communities to the event to further incorporate Indigenous and Japanese warriorship into leadership development.

“The event is part of the community building and coming together. We’ve both gone into our respective communities and talk about who’s curious about this and who would make a good contribution to this,” says Fraser. “It’s really meant to be dialogues. The wisdom is in the room and in each person that comes to join the conversation.”

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