Since Plato’s treatise on the value of wisdom in leaders in Republic 2500 years ago, as many theories and styles of ‘leadership’ have surfaced, from anthropology, business management and behavioural science to (pop-)psychology, self-help and the pumped-up US$366 billion industry. Models mythologising the leader as hero championed by the pro-slavery or pro-eugenics are increasingly countered by those that are non-Western centric, feminist, situational, creative and more. Still, ‘leadership’ remains one of the ‘least understood phenomena on earth’. The failure of leadership has been a key factor that led to Brexit, the economic and environmental crises amongst others; #BlackLivesMatter (anti-racism), #TimesUp (anti-misogyny), and #WeShallNotBeMoved (anti-ableism) are saying ‘no’ to Trump, Putin, Duterte and other Machiavellian actors who deepen social injustices and inequalities, and evidence that bold, anti-racist, anti-ableist templates are overdue. Still, the arts and culture often runs a mile away from dialogues on leadership and other notions conceived as ‘neo-liberalist’, despite acknowledging longstanding issues around governance and DEI, not least amid the continuing financial bloodbath besieging the industry worldwide. Meanwhile, creativity and other ‘soft skills’ in the face of the technological dominance of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are championed, and leadership scholarship grasps that it needs the arts and humanities — including philosophy and design — to paint a better picture, and to better serve society. Nonetheless, we’re still trapped in territorial echo chambers and boxes, and neglecting stories from art and fiction. This is despite how, from the copious sketches and notes that spurred human’s dream of flying by Leonardo da Vinci, to game-changing work like the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter by Perry Chen, who is a practising artist, art and artful approaches have always played a profound role to transform how we see, feel, think, organise, work and play.
My new book Catalysing Change through Artful Agitation (CCAA), scratches beneath the surface, to start from scratch. Across 12 punchy chapters presenting original case studies (including about multi-award-winning business and community leader Chin Hwee Tan as well as contemplations about the dyslexic black space scientist Maggie Aderin Pocock and Olympian ADHD-er Simone Biles and even cameos by comedian-turned-war leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy), and a dozen colour plates featuring new artworks by the author, the monograph collides diverse and divergent bodies of knowledge for the first time, between (critical) leadership and management studies, social justice, socially-engaged art and ‘artivism’, intersectionality, design thinking, speculative design and future studies, inclusive pedagogy, social and medical framings of neuro-differences including from neuroscience and psych-sciences, to introduce anew, heuristic, creative leadership praxis for individuals, collectives and institutions.
I am delighted to have signed a contract in February 2023 with World Scientific (a leading academic publisher of scientific, technical, and medical books and journals with partnerships with Nobel Foundation and Imperial College Press) to publish a full-length monograph of the same title as this website. This book is distinct from, but in (hyper)active conversation with two other books, with Springer Nature and Taylor and Francis, which I am working on, all of which will be out circa 2024 onwards. My proposal received glowing feedback from the reviewers, Professor of Psychology Nick Walker (who came up with the powerful framework of neuroqueer and is an author, educator, and futurist, with whom I will be having a chat on 21st March 17:00 in a session entitled Neuroqueering, Leadership and Neurofuturism(s)) and Global Teachers Award finalist Creative Director Dr Philip Tan, who said:
This book is timely. I particularly look forward to learning about creative arts practices that could offer ideas for leadership practices. The author is clearly an authority in this niche area of neurodiversity and the creative arts. In addition to her accomplishments, I believe the combination of her professional expertise and her personal experience as a neurodivergent creative artist will bring about deep insights.Professor of Psychology and neuroqueer inventor Nick Walker, California, USA
The book will attract those in leadership studies, as well as education, special education and higher education, especially in Singapore and the region where such discourses have been slow. The book presents a much-needed new perspective of leadership. The author is a forward thinker who has provided rigorous scholarly evidence and everyday empirical case studies (ranging from the Network she has founded, as well as interviewing neurodivergent leaders).Dr Philip Tan, creative Director in Singapore and Southeast Asia
WORLD SCIENTIFIC PUBLISHING
- World Scientific Publishing (WSPC) is an academic publisher of scientific, technical, and medical books and journals headquartered in Singapore. WSPC publishes about 600 new books annually, along with 160 journals in various fields. It is one of the leading academic and professional publishers in the world, and the largest international scientific publisher in the Asia-Pacific region.
- 1981: Founded in Singapore with 5 employees. Today, the company employs 200 staff at its headquarters in Singapore and 450 globally. It has offices in New Jersey, London, Munich, Geneva, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chennai. World Scientific has published more than 12,000 titles. Many of its books are recommended texts adopted by renowned institutions such as Harvard University, California Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Princeton University.
- 1991: World Scientific signed a memorandum of agreement with the Nobel Foundation to publish the entire series of Nobel Lectures in all subjects – physics and astronomy, chemistry, physiology or medicine, economic sciences and literature. The company had published and distributed the Nobel Lectures series (1901-2005) worldwide, making accessible the scientific, literary and humanitarian achievements of numerous Nobel laureates to a wide audience. World Scientific will also publish the latest series from 2006 to 2010.
- 1995: World Scientific co-founded the London-based Imperial College Press together with the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine. 2006: the Press became a wholly-owned subsidiary of World Scientific. The Press publishes mainly in the fields in which Imperial College itself is particularly well-known, such as Engineering, Medicine, Information Technology, Environmental Technology, and Management Sciences. Imperial College Press has published about 950 books and 8 journals to date. Apart from the Nobel lectures, WSPC has collaborated with many Nobel laureates to produce best-selling books since the 1980s. Many serve as its editorial advisors and book series editors, while others have contributed articles and research papers to our journals.
- World Scientific is also the exclusive distributor for The National Academies Press (based in Washington, D.C.) in Asia-Pacific (except Japan, New Zealand and Australia).
FEEDBACK BY PROFESSOR NICK WALKER
Professor Nick Walker is a Professor of psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies and senior aikido instructor at the Aiki Arts Center in Berkeley, California. She writes speculative fiction, including the urban fantasy webcomic Weird Luck. Says Nick:
- As an academic trained in the management and leadership sciences, I read this book proposal with great interest.
- The author is correct in suggesting that this topic is currently of considerable interest to researchers in the field of leadership studies. A book that communicated clearly and comprehensively the limitations of traditional views of leadership, and how these limitations can be overcome by considering the “science of neurodiversity,” would be welcomed by the field.
- The major feature of this book that piques my interest is the interdisciplinary cross-fertilization across three areas: a) management, b) creative arts, and c) neurodiversity. There are books that integrate (a) and (b) (e.g., Rama Gheerawo’s book on ‘Creative leadership: Born by design; Jones’ book “Artful leadership: Awaking the commons of the imagination”). There are also books that integrate (a) and (c) (e.g., Kirby and Smith’s book ‘Neurodiversity at work: Drive innovation, performance, and productivity with a neurodiverse workforce’). What I have not seen is one that seeks to integrate all three. Given the increasing interest in leveraging neurodiversity in organizations, I believe this book is timely. I particularly look forward to learning about creative arts practices that could offer ideas for leadership practices.
- I also look forward to learning about the leadership journey of dyslexic CEO Chin Hwee Tan. I expect we can gain important insights from this case study, both from the perspective of a neurodivergent individual and that of the organization.
- I like the catchiness of the 9 Cs. The chapters also seem comprehensive to me, and in my view, cover topics relevant to :
- a. Leading change (e.g., curiosity, can-do, creativity, courage, curating change)
- b. Cultivating relationships (e.g., collaboration, community, collage)
- c. Sustaining the environment (circulation)
- d. Managing diversity (neurodiversity, decolonization, intersectionality)
- The author is clearly an authority in this niche area of neurodiversity and the creative arts. In addition to her accomplishments, I believe the combination of her professional expertise and her personal experience as a neurodivergent creative artist will bring about deep insights.
- There seems to be already a demand for this book from the Masters program in Creative Arts taught by the author. The demand could spread to other similar programs.
Nick offered useful suggestions which I will take into consideration.
FEEDBACK BY PHILIP TAN
Philip is a director, teacher, composer, designer and artist for more than 25 years. His track record encompasses a bewildering scope that includes, and is not limited to, education (including Nanyang Technological University), arts and culture (as a go-to sound artist for theatre and 5-time winner of Singapore’s prestigious Life! Theatre awards), botany (the Opening of Gardens by the Bay in 2013, the World Orchid Conference in 2011), and even sports (as Creative Director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 8th ASEAN Para Games 2015). His dedicated practice has catalysed profound changes for individual, local communities, and globally (including touring South Africa, Italy and Sarajevo as composer and composer with Bosnian theatre-maker Haris Pašović. Says Philip:
- The book makes a highly original, urgent and much-needed new approach to the practice and theory of leadership. Creativity and problem-solving are essential aspects of leadership, and they have been extensively studied in the leadership research field. However, specific research on neurodiverse leadership and how individuals with neurodiverse conditions such as autism, ADHD, or dyslexia may approach these skills is limited.
- My own doctorate research and 28-year creative practice has been about reviewing how creative leadership and creativity has been understood. Scholars and practitioners like myself will be keen to now find out about leadership in relation to creativity (the ‘big C’ of creative invention as well as the creative arts, and everyday ‘small c’ of creativity) as well as neurodiversity.
- The book will attract those in leadership studies, as well as education, special education and higher education, especially in Singapore and the region where such discourses have been slow.
- The book presents a much-needed new perspective of leadership. The author Kai Syng is unquestionably a forward thinker who has provided rigorous scholarly evidence and everyday empirical case studies (ranging from the Network she has founded, as well as interviewing neurodivergent leaders).
- The structure and contents of the book will be appealing to general readers and students from different disciplines too. CCAA has a comprehensive coverage of themes, including those that are hot topics, such as ‘co-creation’ and ‘community’. The book does not shy away from more challenging and bold areas, such as speculating about the future. Anyone who considers themselves global citizens will, through the book, be able to gain new understandings of Neurodiversity and leadership. The book is importantly a great educational tool and will be a great textbook within schools, universities and also as a lifestyle guide.
- CCAA will equip readers with new tools to think for themselves what their own leadership can be.
- The book will also be a great asset for families that are neurodivergent (eg. parents with dyslexic children). They will be able to view neurodivergent individuals from a brand new, positive way.
- Each chapter examines, celebrates, and contributes to a deeper understanding and appreciation of human’s diverse cognitive abilities, laying out a systematic framework to prepare, excite, engage and challenge prevalent neuroscientific approaches.
- The case studies are written in a clear and compelling manner. This opens the door to enthralling observations that inspire and challenge new thought patterns. The detailed accounts of perspectives never heard before comprise of balanced perspective of western and east Asian cultures will encourage future research.
- I will unreservedly recommend WS to publish the book.
Below: Not the cover of this book. Just a design I made in 2021.