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Mobilising tofā sa’ili for ECE leadership

Maria Cooper, Jacoba Matapo

2021 Pasifika

A talanoa confronting dominant conceptualisations from a Pasifika perspective

Leadership is about all of us, but dominant frames of leadership serve only a few. In this commentary, we challenge the dominance of Western notions of leadership as linear influence relationships in order to shift Pasifika engagement from the margins. For us, ta’ita’i (Pasifika leadership) is centred on serving, not the self, but the collective spirit. It is expansive, holistic, and grounded in reciprocal relationships between people, nature, the cosmos and those of the past, present, and future. Looking back to the teachings of our families and ancestors can guide us in leading communities with strength, unity, and connection. Rather than deny the legitimate place of Western notions of leadership or romanticise ideas of Pasifika leadership, through talanoa (open talk), we mobilise tofā sa’ili (a search for wisdom and meaning) by engaging with traditional Pasifika cultural values and philosophies that hold significance for leadership in early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand. In doing so, we hope to open up pathways of thinking that move us beyond individualistic framings of leadership, while honouring Pasifika ways of knowing and being in serving the collective.

early childhood education; leadership; Pasifika; talanoa; Western