Leadership Voices

Relationships, Connections and Storytelling

Tammie Clarke, Dean, School of Health & Human Services, Teaching & Learning Centre


"Human conversation is the most ancient and easiest way to cultivate the conditions for change.... If we can sit together and talk about what's important to us, we begin to come alive" (Wheatley, 2008).

One of my favourite authors is Margaret Wheatley. Her work has taught me so much about the positive power of respectful relationships. I’ve never met Ms. Wheatly, but her values are evident in so many brilliant people I have had the privilege of knowing. They have all taught me that despite our individual identities, the careful nurturing of our network of relationships keeps us alive as humans and operating as a caring society. I have witnessed over and again that when we are surrounded by people, enveloped in meaningful interactions, our humanity flourishes (Wheatley, 2006). Never has this been more evident in our communities than over the past couple of weeks.

Finding Common Ground through Sharing Stories

With the recent cold spell that has blanked the West Kootenay, the need to assist those who are unhoused has been elevated. In record time, the people in our communities have come together to support those who can be vulnerable. Recently, I had the good fortune of spending a few days at a local warming shelter. I knew my medical background would be helpful, but really, I was volunteering so I could connect.

Over my time at the shelter, I got to meet many new people and even reconnect with some who I hadn’t seen in a while. Everyone had a story to tell and I was thrilled to hear them. We shared our knowledge of music, astronomy, family, pets, past lives, pain and joy. Each narrative became a pathway to empathy, helping me see beyond the circumstances of the moment and into the lives of individuals with unique and, at times, similar journeys.

During our conversations, people were able to express their truths, define themselves and declare their agency, and yet, what kept emerging was this remarkable feeling of common ground. We’ve all faced challenges that, when shared, can resonate with others. Through storytelling, I believe we all discovered shared struggles, triumphs and dreams, creating a connection that transcended our individuality.

Leadership Voices: Tammie Clarke

What added to this amazing experience was witnessing Selkirk College employees and students, past and present, also volunteering their time. It was so clear that the values of community, respect and inclusion were ever present. It’s heartwarming to think that their time at Selkirk College contributed to shaping their belief that connections, through shared experiences, can have a positive impact on who we are and how we engage with others.

I strongly believe the individuals in our relationships contribute to the richness of our collective story. By embracing the power of storytelling, I continue to forge connections, weaving a narrative of empathy, understanding and shared humanity. Through the exchange of stories, I have had the fortune to build bridges, break down barriers and collectively witness communities where everyone's story is acknowledged, respected and valued. I am grateful for it all!


Wheatley, M.J., (2006). Leadership and the new science: Discovering order in a chaotic world (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler. 

Wheatley, M.J., (2008). Turning to one another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the future (M. Wheatley, Narr) [Audiobook]. Gildan Media, LLC.