top of page

Peace Leadership – an Idea with Canadian Roots


There is an emerging discipline, peace leadership, thus far specifically addressed by few published scholarly books and journal articles. How did it get started and why is it related to Canada?

Within the leadership community, peace leadership was identified as a new leadership field during the Annual Conference of the International Leadership Association in Prague in 2009. The initiative came from and is still strongly supported by Jean Lipman-Blumen (author of Connective Leadership. Managing in a Changing World) and Erich Schellhammer, then an associate professor at Royal Roads University in Victoria, B.C.

Erich lives in Canada and is now a Canadian citizen. He greatly appreciates the country’s multiculturalism and international reputation for peacekeeping. He grew up in Germany and came to Canada as a young student. He brought with him a personal and family history with many connections to the Czech Republic. His mother grew up there and his father served in Prague as a German soldier during World War II. As a child, Erich experienced Czech citizens all excited about new freedoms during a visit with his parents in the summer of 1968, just two days before Russian tanks moved into the country. He visited Prague in 1985, witnessed the despair of a stalemated society, and again in 1989, when the city was transformed by hope displaying streets full of music, joy and life.

In 2009, outside the conference location, an exhibition commemorated the suffering of Czech people during the many conflicts endured in the 20th century. The city displayed deportation trains and camps from World War II. There were also strong reminders of the Prague Spring of 1968 and it being crushed by force.

Vaclav Havel, the successful leader of the Velvet Revolution, a novel and successful peaceful political transformation, gave the key note address of the conference. He alluded to peace leadership skills allowing for a social transformation that stands in stark contrast to previous political conflict resolutions that hampered the richness of the country based on its traditional multiculturalism. His speech was inspiring and compelling.

Like Erich, others felt the need for peace leadership, often also with reference points in personal and family history such as having Czech roots or a Jewish background. There was a space to meet and an opportunity was seized. The memory of human failure towards the other and his or her human rights gave birth to a discipline that can facilitate peaceful transformations towards a culture of peace.

Soon afterwards, a development started within the International Leadership Association towards establishing a separate community specifically addressing peace leadership. This got formalized through a Peace Leadership Affinity Group that allowed members to engage in and network in the field of peace leadership. This forum generated many discussions, collaborations, proposals for journals and books as well as published works. One of these initiatives came from Stan Amaladas and Sean Byrne from the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice in Winnipeg who worked with authors and Routledge to produce “Peace Leadership, The Quest for Connectedness (2017)” which promises to become the first textbook of the new discipline.


By: Erich Schellhammer, Ph.D., Board member of Civilian Peace Service of Canada, Board member of the Canadian Association of Peace and Conflict Studies.

bottom of page