Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Great Tug of War

The writer Beverley Naidoo recently visited Yarl’s Wood Child Detention Centre, where children are detained pending possible deportation. She was there to run a story-telling workshop for the children aged five to 16. On entering through security she passed under a sign saying ‘Serco brings service to life’. Inside she found the teachers wearing guards uniforms. They had bundles of keys dangling from their belts.

Does this remind you of another item in the news last week? By a strange coincidence we heard of a different sign over a different entrance: ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (‘Work sets you free’). It hung over the entrance to another detention centre - Auschwitz. Perhaps I’m cynical. Perhaps the sign is. Like 'free', the word 'life' can have more than one meaning for people in detention.

Organisations sometimes tell tales about their brand. There can be tension between rhetoric and reality. Leadership is about being authentic and attending to these gaps.

And what book did Naidoo take with her to read from? The Great Tug of War. Just so!