Leadership Legacies

Can we Create Lasting Legacies #12 #cong21


A leader is a dealer in hope Napoleon.
Made me question some of quality a leader needs to stay relevant.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. A leader is a dealer in hope.
  2. Valued customers and will stay loyal.
  3. Someday, whistleblowers will be rewarded for their public service.
  4. Leaders in all parts of society need to be accountable.

About Geraldine O'Brien:

Curious and very chatty in person.

Contacting Geraldine O'Brien

You can follow Geraldine on on Twitter or reach her via email.

Leadership Legacies

By Geraldine O’Brien

“A leader is a dealer in hope”

The most optimistic from all my searches about leadership returns this quote from Napoleon Bonapart.
I was surprised to note it still felt apt in the current world. I am lucky to be optimistic by nature. I try to make the best out of a bad situation.
Having hope helps you deal with life in uncomfortable times.

Valued customers stay loyal
Knowing I am currently at a low ebb in my views about inappropriate leadership around the world and both seeing and reading about others who are equally disheartened I have come full circle on an insight I had a few years ago.

How could I develop trust in a business?

The realisation is that customers put their ”trust” in those with an unquestioned understanding that their needs and expectations will be met.

Some of the ways like the B Corp movement (1) and the Edelman Trust Barometer (1a) since 2013 usually align with what I see happening around.

As a student I worked at John Lewis in London and it was my first experience of being a stakeholder. It made me work harder as it gave me a reason to be part of something bigger. It inspired me that If ever I had my own business it would be truthful and inclusive and yes I would become a B Corp.

To build this trust the company should show transparency in their dealings and in order for customers to trust a company it’s up to leaders in business to find ways of helping them to stay loyal.

Elected politicians have become mired in underhand dealings. They too could adopt transparent measures to help show they are open and trustworthy.

Leaders in all parts of society need to be accountable
Courageous whistleblowers and journalists working together have exposed world stories that might not otherwise reach public awareness. The Facebook Files is a collaboration from Jeff Horwitz of The Wall Street Journal and Frances Haugen in which she highlights inconsistencies she dealt with while working at Facebook and reveals how powerful companies find it difficult to maintain the original ethos of the company vision.

“There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” she said during the interview. “And Facebook over and over again chose to optimise for its own interests like making more money.”(2)
Mark Zuckerberg wants to create something visionary, but perhaps the pressures of having to be The Facebook does not sit well with being a for profit company constantly having to add more countries to its network. It is hard to live up to a big vision. Facebook is not the only company to adapt its original vision faced with scaling a public company and satisfying shareholders.

Other anonymous whistleblowers gave the world the Panama Papers, the Princess Papers and the Pandora Papers all revealing the offshore and other unethical practices of many of the biggest Leaders in Politics and Business around the world.

Leaders in all parts of society need to be accountable and begin to show citizens and customers that trust matters. Perhaps that will go some way to giving citizens hope for a better future. I was excited and pleased to hear the news that journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia had won the Nobel Peace Prize (3)

Someday whistleblowers will be rewarded for their public service.

In this age of disinformation and lack of transparency it is breathtaking how close countries are to losing or have already lost hard fought democratic rights.

Leaders of governments and businesses are being asked to step up to the plate to solve big societal problems, the most urgent is climate change.

Being signatures of the 17 UN sustainable goals (4.) help to give business, politicians and citizens a north star to work towards a fairer society for all.

These are some of my seeds of hope I see on the horizon and some emerging leaders who are happy to show their true selves.

from.bthechange@bcorporation.net newsletter available
2. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-facebook-files-11631713039

If You See the Need, Take the Lead #11 #cong21


I start by using a quote from Arthur Ashe and finish by using one from Ewan McIntosh – in between I shout out to some of the many famous and not so famous people I admire because I have seen each of them took a step to lead from the spot they happened to be in at the time they saw the need to lead.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Start where you are
  2. Use what you have
  3. Do what you can
  4. Lead if there’s need

About Mags Amond:

Retired teacher turned researcher, on the final leg of a PhD exploring TeachMeet and the unconference world of which CongRegation is a part.

Contacting Mag Amond

You can follow Mags on Twitter.

By Mags Amond

When I was young, I heard the elders around me (in person and on tv) grumble with deep disapproval when Tommy Smith and John Carlos used their medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics to protest as part of their Olympic Project for Human Rights campaign. As a teenager, me and my girlfriends heard (but didn’t listen to) the same grumbled disapproval as we cheered Billie Jean King as she went out on the court in 1973 and won the Battle of The Sexes challenge match. I found these events, and others, compelling at the time and resonant still – they woke me up to the fact that leaders could lead from the very spot they occupied, which might not necessarily be an appointed leadership role. My favourite quote has always been the advice attributed to another icon, Arthur Ashe – start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. To that I’d add ‘lead if there’s need’. To appropriate a term Irish grammar, it is a sort of Modh Díreach leadership. It is all around us (although it still meets with grumbling disapproval, and worse, from many). I don’t always acknowledge it, but I appreciate it.

I see it grow from one gesture by one person into global movements from which we all benefit – in 2012 when Malala Yousafzai spoke from her hospital bed having been shot for attending school; in 2018 when Greta Thunberg sat with a sign outside the Swedish Parliament, skipping school each Friday to protest climate change; in 2016, Colin Kaepernik first sitting then kneeling during the Anthem played before his football game, continuing the protest signal begun by Smith and Carlos more than fifty years ago.

I see it online in those who take time to share their expert information and experience with others in a time of crisis – there are many but my shout out of pandemic gratitude is to those who take the time to care and share their expert information (professors Trish Greenhalgh, Orla Hegarty), recount their reality (school principals Simon Lewis, Caitriona Hand, Trina Golden), and advocate for those otherwise without a voice (union official Linda Kelly). With this list, as Beckett said, I could go on …

I see enacted in many I have encountered in education networks and communities (looking at you, people in cesi.ie, and non-hierarchical systems especially TeachMeet). My experience participating in and now researching informal self-organised gatherings has introduced me again and again to the person who takes that first step when they see the need – allowing others to join in and ‘make the road by walking’, to tread a desire line shortcut from where they are now to where they know they need to be. It is servant leadership, voluntary, humble but very powerful – the meeting leadership that facilitates democratic agenda setting and ensures that voices are heard organically in a convivial setting; and the practice leadership that ensures teachers benefit by being both audience and presenter, sharing with peer practitioners. It is leadership that begets leadership.

I have seen it here each November at the Congregation unconference – individuals who takes turns leading from a chair in a huddle in the pub or the shop in a small village in the west of Ireland – simply by telling their story.

To sum up in a practical way, I borrow a quote from (one who is a role model for what I am describing) Ewan McIntosh’s crowdsourced and very useful Middle Leadership Manifesto – “Leadership is what you achieve by trying something out”.

[for a hyperlinked version, visit magsamond.com]

Then the Alien Came Looking for Spartacus #10 #cong21


 I have taken a tongue in cheek satirical approach to my piece this year.  Conceptually I wanted to create something as laughable and ludicrous as some of our world ‘leaders’ have become.  Sometimes the situation is so dire that satire is the only way to go.  I am generally an optimistic person but I do wonder in despondency at the lack of real leadership in the world. We have an abundance of managers and bureaucrats in suits and ties squaring off against media megalomanics and techie attitude punks in jeans, t-shirts and woolly jumpers.   They swing from right to left with no sense of right or wrong.  That’s not leadership.  They crave the attentions and the powers of the very people they profess to despise – yet the truth is that they don’t actually despise their vision, they simply resent and covet their power.  These are the leaders who want power for their own ends and ego. Our following of them quite literally empowers them and so if we want better leaders then maybe we should try to be more discerning followers.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Leaders could be anyone really so the question is ‘would YOU follow them?’  People follow evil cult leaders all the time. They are effective leaders for sure but they are bad ones.  Leadership is not in itself a good thing, there needs to be a ‘right’ goal.   To some extent, followers make leaders so if we want better leaders then maybe we should try to be more discerning followers.
  2. Leadership that I am prepared to follow is a combination of the following  – a moral compass that points to a vision for a better future with the capability to communicate it and the commitment to go there.   That is just me.  What about you?  Do we think enough about who we choose to follow?
  3. When the alien comes looking for the Spartacus leaders we need to make sure they are protected.  Our future good leaders need and deserve our protection because leaders are neither entirely infallible nor supremely strong.  They are human too. Great leaders acknowledge and respect the trust placed in them and will act accordingly and without entitlement.
  4. Just as the concepts of leadership and following are intertwined, so too are leadership and insurrection/anarchy/rebellion.  So with that in mind, taking a satirical approach to my piece has been my nod to that.

About Joan Mulvihill:

 Joan Mulvihill – long time member of the Congregation.  Blow-in member of Mullingar community. Sometime joiner of the artist community.  Recent member of Siemens Ireland having joined as Digitalisation Lead in February 2019.   She is as likely to talk to you about poetry and art as she is to talk about technology and society.  She is annoyingly happy right now so you’ve been warned!  For someone who says she’s not a joiner, she seems to find herself in a lot of things!!!.

Contacting Joan Mulvihill

You can follow Joan on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

By Joan Mulvihill

Dear King of Cong,

I am so sorry this is so late but you will never believe what happened.  I was mowing the lawn at the weekend and the aliens landed in my garden and my plans to write my Congregation piece got scuppered.   To be honest, at first I thought it was the low autumn sun playing tricks on my eyes but it was definitely a little space ship although as luck would have it, the first thing he asked of me was “Take me to your leader”!  Ironic given my plans for writing on the topic but a little problematic as I had no idea who he was referring to.  Sure where was I going to find a decent leader in the garden, or anywhere else for that matter.  Anyway we got chatting and it turns out his space ship wiring got crossed with a time travelling Delorean and he was in the wrong era altogether.  It turns out he was looking for Spartacus.

I tried to explain there was a timing issue but he was quite insistent that Spartacus was the man and  despite much trying on my part to redirect him it seems alien men won’t listen to directions from women either!  So I had to take him into the house and we googled it.  I showed him what we had by way of political and business leaders.  He was none too impressed but sure would you blame him.  Mark Zuckerberg’s a pretty pathetic looking sight when you’ve a roman gladiator in mind and in fairness the politicians weren’t up to much either.  It was all a very embarrassing and sorry state of affairs.

But god love him, he’d come a long way and I didn’t want to send him back on an empty stomach or empty handed so I offered him a cup of tea and a scone before I sent him packing.  (Thank god I’d some scones left over from baking that morning – did I mention the bishop was here last week and he told me my scones were ‘fluffy’!  High praise indeed I reckon.)  He’s a grand lad, the alien, not the bishop (although he’s perfectly nice too, he’s from Cork) and we got chatting.  I said that if he liked we could at least watch the movie Spartacus.  I hadn’t seen it in years and sure you can’t beat a bit of Kirk Douglas.  Camile Thai has just opened in Mullingar too so it was a grand opportunity to go wild and get a takeway.

Now after the movie I found I’d accidentally landed on a football match on the telly.   Football. You know me, I haven’t a sodding clue about football but yer man, my little friend was agog at the whole thing.  But this is a crucial point in the story.  The clincher as it happens.  Man U were playing. Now I may not know much about football but you would need to have lived under a rock (or be an alien) not to have heard of Marcus Rashford.  Now there’s a leader I said to him. He’s a campaigner against racism, homelessness and child hunger.  He has a vision and ideas for how the world can be better for his community and country and he is putting his own voice, actions and energy into making real change. Now there’s a fellow you could follow.  Isn’t that what a leader is I said, someone you would follow!  Never mind Spartacus, Marcus is the real deal.

With that he was out the door but not without taking the last of the Singapore Noodles  (I am not happy about that!).   He’s probably half way to Manchester by now.  What am I saying? The speed of him, he’s probably half way home by now, assuming he didn’t get stuck in the traffic at Felixstowe.  Isn’t it an awful mess since Brexit?

Anyway, it all turned out okay.  He’ll go back to his people and tell them we’ve got 23 year olds with a moral compass pointing to compassion, a bank balance they’d rather use to feed school children than splash on cars and a voice that can speak the truth to the twats whose idea of a moral compass is a rusty cockerel atop a wonky weather vane spinning in a hurricane!

To be honest, when I think of it, its abit of a shame there was no boxing on the telly.  I could have sent him off in search of Kellie Harrington although she’d hate all the fuss but we can’t have the aliens thinking all the leaders are men!  We’ve had enough of that around here.

Anyway, I’ll do my best to get a submission in soon.  The dog didn’t exactly eat my homework but the alien did eat my noodles!

All the best,



On the subject of noodles, my four ‘takeaways’ from this piece are served in side-order portions to the left of this many body article.  For a less salty interpretation of my thoughts on leadership please, if you can, take the time to read them too.

Image supporting Tom Murphys leadership article illustrating a focus on legacy

Leadership – Its Affects and Legacies #9 #cong21


 In the modern world successful leadership, as in the organisation of people and resources to get things done, is regarded by many as a solely laudable achievement. Sometimes it is good people doing good work but just as often there are bad actors at play. These latter types of leaders, despite outward signs of success, can have a wholly detrimental effect on the morale of their workforce. Despite any glory they may bring upon themselves their passing from their positions of power, or this life, will go unlamented.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. The mood as well as mode of leadership matters
  2. Leadership has legacy effects that go beyond the nuts and bolts of business
  3. An organisation or an institution is like memory foam that is imprinted with the style of leadership
  4. The only thing worth commemorating on your gravestone is that you tried to make the world a better place.

About Tom Murphy:

Classics and Philosophy student at NUI Galway.

Contacting Tom Murphy

You can follow Tom on Twitter

Image supporting Tom Murphys leadership article illustrating a focus on legacy

By Tom Murphy

Anybody who has ever spent anytime with the military will know that the chain of command is really nothing more than authority expressed through the badge on one’s collar or sleeve. The same process is played out in the corporate world. Instead of personal regalia, one has a corner office or some other demonstrable display of one’s managerial perks to advertise one’s authority.

Hierarchies of leadership are really communication channels of varying sophistication. The real decisions are made by one person, or maybe just a handful of people – the rest is just a game of telephone.

However, the fact that power is so concentrated requires that those who are affected by it pay especial attention to the wielding and wielder. But it is not a neutral process. Along with the effects of power come the affects too. In a system that has a harsh boss then very shortly there emerges a harsh culture too. If it is OK for the top person to be rude an uncaring in their dealing with their co-workers, why should they not in their turn conduct themselves in a rude and uncaring way. These toxic work cultures are everywhere and are engendered by the conveyance through the system of the negative moods and wishes of the top brass. But people have bills and mortgages to pay, and they put up with the inconveniences and annoyances. After all it is just work, and nobody said work had to be fun.

People speak of leadership teams. Particularly in bureaucracies where individual responsibility is reduced as much as possible – for good reasons and bad. But within these teams there is always a leader and even though their power is in principle diffused amongst the many actors, the more politically able of them always get their way.

However, the cultural and corporate subjection to mishandled power could be alleviated if not eradicated if these words from Carl Buehner (often misattributed to Maya Angelou) were heeded: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If leaders were genuinely mindful of these words, then what a change there would be in our relationships.

In a way, we only exist in other people’s memories. This is certainly true when we are absent from a given social activity or dead. If we, as leaders, (we are always in charge of something even if it is only ourselves) took on board that our only true legacy was the way we made other people feel then surely, we would alter our behaviours accordingly. Knowing that we will forever be remembered for creating a kindly and supportive, workspace or institution that gave people confidence and hope would be a worthwhile thing to strive for.

And maybe, just maybe, the quality of our work would improve too. Maybe challenges could be handled more forthrightly, and difficulties processed with greater ease.

Organisations and institutions are like a kind of memory foam. They are imprinted with the thoughts and emotions of their leaders. One would hope that with enlightened self-interest that leaders would be more mindful of how they are remembered. That they won’t be remembered for shiny gongs, colourful ribbons, and all the other awards that go with what people normally associate with success. They will be remembered for how they made people feel. (Obviously, this sentiment is not shared by the psychopaths amongst us.) And with that lies the distinct choice and responsibility of how they should behave themselves. After all nobody wants, “Good Riddance, Nobody Liked You” written on their tombstone.

Simon Cocking What Leadership Really Needs in 2021

What Leadership Really Needs in 2021 #8 #cong21


What is good leadership, and why we are suffering from a lack of it currently.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Leadership is a trending topic
  2. But we are suffering from lots of poor leadership
  3. We must take more responsibility
  4. Ya esta

About Simon Cocking:

Simon Cocking has been Chief Editor at Irish Tech News, CryptoCommonwealth, CryptoCoinNews and InvestInIT – with over 1.5 million+ unique monthly views and growing. He was top ranked member of the ‘People of Blockchain’ based on total funds raised & also #1 ranked advisor on ICO Holder.

He is a business mentor and advisor working with over 200 successful companies to date. He has been named on many global Twitter influencer lists in the last 12 months, and has over 115,000 followers on Twitter & 30,000+ on Linkedin.
He is an accomplished public speaker at events including TEDx, Web Summit, and overseas in Monte Carlo, Pyeonchang, Amsterdam, Dubai, Delhi, Kiev, Singapore, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Madrid, Tbilisi, Riga, Porto, Dublin and Helsinki. See more on his podcast here and on Youtube.

He was also the first person to be inducted into the Irish Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Fame.

He has been based in Ireland for over 25 years and has cofounded or founded seven successful companies.

Contacting Simon Cocking

You can follow Simon on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn or send him an email.

Simon Cocking What Leadership Really Needs in 2021

By Simon Cocking

It is that time of year, where lots of cool and interesting people share their different takes on whatever the particular theme is for that year. Leadership is both a great topic and also a challenging one. For Irish Tech News I review lots of business books, so you can get sense of, and spot what is trending in the latest publications. Leadership has definitely been one of these trends, and especially with a holistic, almost spiritual side to it. The enlightened leader, the sensitive leader, the intuitive leader, that sort of thing. It would not be inaccurate to opine that the new age trends of twenty years ago have jumped the shark and are now very much part of what is considered to be good management practice in the 2020s. If you are not in touch with your emotional intelligence side, with activated intuition, then you are considered to be a less than effective leader.

And yet, and yet. Yep, while the trends above all seem to be to the good, we have the counter prevailing trend of what seems to be absolutely chaotic, shambolic leaders, and leadership styles in those countries that chose to vote more populist, and / or authoritarian leaders into power. In a crazy coalescence of ‘be careful what you wish for’ and ‘because it might just kill you’. Those same countries have also proved to be among those with the highest covid death rates. Surely demonstrating that this type of leadership is actively, and literally, not merely metaphorically bad for your health.

Where does this leave us then in trying to assess if we have good leadership around the world, and if we even want it? Especially in those countries alluded to above, and certainly including Brazil, the UK, the US, India, and Russia (yes it is a fair point to say that the majority probably did not vote for at least the last of those just named). It would seem that, in many places, tolerance, non-racist behaviour, and generally treating people with respect is the antithesis of what is considered good or desirable, by those leaders who resort to dog-whistle politics and rallying cries. How did this ever become considered to be ‘good leadership’?

It does seem like we are in strange times when opinions are so polarised, and you know that many will dismiss treating others with respect and politeness can be labelled as being woke. In this context it seems like it is up to all of us to articulate what is, and is not acceptable. Rather than leaving this to our non-leaders. Who are clearly unable, or unwilling to make a stand for the really important issues of the day, climate change, racial and sexual tolerance, and the things that really matter. We have to lead, because our leaders are not.

The Best Leader is one we Barely Know Exists #7 #cong21


“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

We need to change the story around strong leadership myth. It asks too much of leaders, and discounts the role others play in their success. The mythical leader doesn’t allow for the duality that is required of a good leader – to be modest and wilful, humble and fearless. We should look at reluctant leaders and accidental leaders. We should look at groups who have collective leadership and strength in different personalities.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. The ‘myth’ of the great lone leader is a damaging one.
  2. Leadership is a collective effort.
  3. A duality of qualities is needed for good leadership
  4. We should all be prepared to be leaders, even if by accident.

About Carlene Lyttle:

Carlene is originally from Derry. After spending six years working in development with a technology company in Switzerland, the pull home grew too strong and in 2017, Carlene decided to move to her mothers’ home – Inishowen, Co Donegal. She loves the accidental encounters of living in a costal village. She has found working with social entrepreneurs, environmental start-ups, and community projects keeps her up late at night, listening to the Atlantic waves, with excited ideas about opportunities to change for the better. CongRegation brings life to the late-night ideas and it is lovely to share them with people as well as the sea.

Contacting Carlene Lyttle

You can follow Carlene on Twitter or connect to her on LinkedIn.

By Carlene Lyttle

The myth of the leader whose exceptional traits drove movements forward – Collins, Ghandi, Jobs,- is dangerous. By romanticising the idea of a leader as the strong, single minded, stand-alone – we are doing a disservice to effective leadership. Leadership needs to be shared to be effective. The myth of the leader is damaging for organisations, movements, and groups.

My initial thoughts of good leadership land on inspiring female leaders. The quiet, considered leadership of Jacinta Arden whose actions and words were continually referred to when discussing Society 3.0 as last year’s Congregation. Her approach to the pandemic and the difficult decisions she made for New Zealand were a shining example of leadership. At the time we were reeling from the shock of the first lockdown of 2020 and, for us in Donegal, facing the extended second lockdown. Her leadership demonstrated a quiet power that came from passion and hard work. She made very difficult decisions but showed empathy and authenticity when doing so. When writing this, Angela Merkle’s 16 years as German Chancellor came to an end. The hard work and a willingness to make difficult decisions were shown with her handling of the refugee crisis and closing nuclear power plants. Are the best leaders, the ones who do not want to lead? I am an introvert. Or a learned ambivert. I don’t want to lead. When I joined my cousins running in a relay team of the Belfast Marathon I chose the third leg of five. Don’t want to start the race, don’t want the triumphant finish. I want to run my race with as little attention to me as possible.

But by running my own race and getting on with things I’ve become an accidental leader. I’ve started a trend for cycling and walking to school in the village. I’m hearing my values increasingly respected and repeated by others at the noisy family dinner table. Taking the path less travelled and seeing people behind me makes me an accidental leader, of sorts.
The MICA crisis in Donegal is a lesson in collective leadership. The mica campaigners have been working tirelessly to get the government to address the problem of defective blocks. People in Inishowen have known about the increased mineral content in building blocks that came out of local quarries for 7 or 8 years. The issue has been causing considerable stress and uncertainty in many families. The families put their faith in the government to resolve the situation for the homeowners, as they had done for homeowners in Dublin who had defective blocks due to pyrite levels and they followed the local leaders who worked tirelessly and consistently for many years. When it was realised that the reduced redress scheme would only be possible if they had tens of thousands of euro of their own money a new leader came to the fore. The campaign needed a face – branded in a Donegal GAA shirt, jeans and white trainers. A social media star – bringing hundreds of local people onto the Twitter platform. He joined the two hard working woman who have worked tirelessly, passionately, consistently. When a face was needed on The Late Late Show, a mother and her children and a lecturer with a PhD became the face of the MICA crisis. There is space for all of them to lead.

We should all be prepared to be leaders, even the introverts. Leadership needs to be a collective. The range of personalities needed for effective leadership cannot be contained on one person. Let us leave the myths behind.

Paul Freeny Forged in Fire

Are Leaders Forged in Fire? #6 #cong21


 If leaders are not born but forged, we must ask ourselves – forged in what?
What are the main attributes of becoming a leader and is facing adversity a needed ingredient in becoming a true leader?

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Key Takeaways:

  1. To lead, you must first learn how to follow.
  2. To become a leader you must overcome an internal challenge.
  3. Irish students should have the option to volunteer for military service.
  4. True leaders work for a higher purpose.

About Paul Freeney:

 Paul Feeney is the founder of Bodhi.ie.

In 2018, after 6 years of travelling and working online, I moved home to Ireland in an effort to bring everything I learned about business, marketing and building a balanced lifestyle to fruition.

Basing myself in Westport, Ireland. 
I want to share all the business knowledge I have accumulated over the past 10 years with fellow ambitious business owners who want to live happy, healthy and financially free lives.


Contacting Paul Freeney

You can follow Paul on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook,and LinkedIn or by email.

By Paul Freeney

If leaders are not born but forged, we must ask ourselves – forged in what? What are the main attributes of becoming a leader and is facing a challenge a needed ingredient in becoming a true leader?

A hugely influential “leader” in the world right now is David Goggins.

David Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL, accomplished endurance athlete, has completed over 60 ultra-marathons, triathlons, and ultra-triathlons, setting new course records and regularly placing in the top five. Goggins also once held the Guinness World Record for pull-ups completing 4,030 in 17 hours.

One of the main reasons why David Goggin’s has become so influential is that he embodies the idea of hardening the mind.

Once asked in an interview how he became the man he is, he replied:

“They see a guy with his shirt off who can do 4030 pull-ups in 17 hours and then go run 205 miles in 39 hours, But they don’t understand the journey that took me to get to this point and what got me to this point was I was just the opposite of who I am today. I was that guy who ran away from absolutely everything. The real me was this very scared, insecure, stuttering, got beat up by his dad, fake person”

As the baddest man, alive Goggins states clearly that it was adversity that made him the man he is today.

At age 24 Goggins was 6 foot tall and weighed 297 pounds (134kg) and worked as a cockroach exterminator.
Every evening he would come home and sit on the couch with 6 doughnuts and a large slushy.

One evening watching the Discovery Channel he stated

”everything changed for me”

A show on TV was depicting hell week – a training event people must go through to become Navy seals.

Goggins could see these were not necessarily the largest or strongest men, but simply those with a burning desire to be SEALs.
To Goggins, these men had what he lacked, discipline and a strong mind.

Goggins said it made him reflect on his insecurities.

Goggins had had his epiphany and was ready to face his internal challenges.

In a moment a new David Goggins was born.

He said he

“had to invent a guy that didn’t exist and he had to build him “through suffering”.

About 75 countries around the world have some form of mandatory military service.

However, Ireland is in a unique situation given our incredible 60-year unbroken tradition of UN Peacekeeping.

Irish participation in United Nations Peacekeeping operations represents the longest unbroken record of any nation in the world.

As a small neutral country, Ireland, since gaining independence, has sought to deploy its capabilities in pursuit of its principles beyond its shores. In the promotion of peace and security, Ireland has been led not by what it has to gain, but by what it has to offer.

Ireland is a champion of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda; capacity and protection building through increased training for peacekeepers; protection of civilians; responsibility to protect; and UN peacekeeping reform.

A New Options for Irish Transition Years
A new option should be introduced into Irish schools that allows students to join the multinational peacekeeping and humanitarian relief efforts of Ireland for 6 months to 12 months.

For Ireland to develop future leaders, we must offer Irish students the ability to face their fears and overcome challenges, whilst also developing self-discipline and a love of one’s country.

“To add value to others, one must first value others.”

Leading from Outside the Comfort Zone #5 #cong21


 I open with a vignette of my son, then aged 10, asking me earnestly ‘how do you get more confidence?’ I was a bit stumped by his question and replied ‘I don’t know, I think you have to do stuff that scares you so you feel better and stronger after it’. As I was saying this, I realised it’s about leaving the comfort zone and could recognise that I was far too comfortable so I set about changing that to set a better example.

From a background in HRTech, I framed most of my essay around uncomfortable questions we must ask ourselves in relation to our hiring practices such as genuine Diversity & Inclusion, mental health, workplace flexibility, and that nasty business of bullying. I concluded with some thoughts on leading by our actions and how one can also lead from behind.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Leaving the comfort zone can make you better and stronger. Leading from outside the comfort zone can make your followers better and stronger.
  2. Most workplace Diversity & Inclusion consists of 4th level educated full-time staff who happen to be a mix of colours and genders but are basically all the same. Let’s think about genuine Diversity & Inclusion, mental health, and workplace flexibility.
  3. How can we expect vulnerable children and teenagers to solve the bullying issue when adults can’t take decisive action to eradicate it in our workplaces?
  4. We can lead through our actions rather than slogans and oftentimes we can lead from behind.

About Joy Redmond:

Joy is a multipotentialite: marketer/mentor, web/ux pro, content purist, qual/quants geek, sporadic spin dr, founder @trustwordie @wtfisart @pendemic_ie, autism advocate, lifelong learner, wannabe playwright, open water swimmer and mother of 2 sons who are smarter, taller and swim faster than her.


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By Joy Redmond

I have a vivid memory of my son, then aged 10, sitting on his bed asking me earnestly ‘how do you get more confidence?’ I’ll admit I was a bit stumped by his question and replied ‘I don’t know, I think you have to do stuff that scares the bejaysus out of you so you feel better and stronger after it’. As I was saying this, I realised it’s about leaving the comfort zone and could recognise that I was far too comfortable so I set about changing that to set a better example. Since then, I’ve rowed to Wales, swam far out of my depth in violent open water races in raging seas, fjords and lakes, enrolled in a drawing/printmaking course that scares the wits out of my quants brain, poured my heart out and shared my soul through playwriting, started a few companies and changed careers more times than some people have hot dinners. That ten-year-old is now his university’s SU President so I think it worked!

While mulling over this year’s leadership topic, the concept of leading from outside the comfort zone returned to me. Here are just a few thoughts relating specifically to hiring practices given my interest and background.

Lead through inclusive hiring
To be honest Diversity & Inclusion is a bit of a bug bear of mine. Most companies I’ve worked in think they are doing pretty well on diversity. I look around and all I can see is a payroll full of 4th level educated people working full time who happen to be a mix of colours and genders. Let’s face it, they’re all the same. It’s about intersectionality baby. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves how many come from social disadvantage or disability?

While companies spend a fortune on wellness programmes for staff, you’d wonder how many have ever considered hiring somebody with a managed mental illness? One of the most beautiful and creative souls I ever knew left us a few years ago and part of me thinks it was because she couldn’t find her place. We all want meaningful work aligned with our skills. Too often highly intelligent, talented people find themselves in unskilled minimum waged work because of the fear / stigma of disclosing their mental health status in a ‘real’ job. Exceptionally high unemployment rates for people with disabilities are well documented. It’s hard to feel useful in an increasingly productive world.

Also, we must ask ourselves how many have real work flexibility? Since the pandemic, remote is on the agenda, which is great and about time but location is not the only form of work flexibility. Some of us with caring responsibilities or neurodivergence (or both in my case) can’t manage a 9-5 life but still have much to offer. There seems to be this assumption that good work can’t be done on a part-time basis, and I don’t mean a 4-day week. Rather than focusing on time spent, it’s way more efficient to focus on the deliverables. My most recent role involved generating one substantial piece of research per month and a few smaller case studies/presentations. The contract was for 8 days, which didn’t always fall into two days every week. My manager was less concerned with the when and I never missed a deadline, not even close. You can have specialists doing great work and the really great news is you pay less. Even better, passion isn’t pro rata.

Do you support a bully culture?
Every so often we hear about bullying in schools and on social media and it’s all this, that and the other. How can we expect improvements for vulnerable children and teenagers when adults can’t take decisive action to eradicate it in our workplaces? Why is the onus on the victim, whose confidence is in the toilet, to prove the wrongdoing? The task is often too daunting that they just slink away and move job so as not to ‘get a name’ and the perpetrator stays in situ, having won. Real leadership doesn’t put the company/party line before its people but creates a safe environment that calls out bad behaviour.

Lead through your actions not your slogans
If there is a value we feel strongly about, whether corporate or personal, then that must instruct ALL our actions even the micro decisions we make. For example, I am always amazed at the amount of start-up / shop local events that serve international food and drink brands – why aren’t you serving local craft beers/drinks and artisan food produce? Do you just think local but buy global? If you feel strongly about the environment, do you really need to photograph/video or share everything because the data centres hosting that not so necessary content burn through a lot of energy. Recently, I had a brief spat on Twitter with Dingle Aquarium wondering why, after we were warned of the evils of plastic and our throwaway culture throughout the tour, did they see find it appropriate to fill the giftshop with plastic tat. Just because something isn’t single use, it still doesn’t make it useful or necessary and will eventually end up in landfill. Sometimes on holidays, I give my sons a budget and say you can buy anything you want in this shop if you think you’ll still be using it in one month’s time. We don’t buy much.

You can lead from behind
We often assume the person at the front is the leader. I’m often the spokesperson for local community groups and campaigns but I simply parrot the work of a sterling committee who have done all the work. I’m merely the person with the media experience to talk on live radio. Other times I’m happy to stay in the shadows and see my work speak for itself.

So that’s my tuppence worth, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a leadership position, then please try to use your power to affect real change. Personally, I rarely look at captains of industry for inspiration. The people that inspire me are those quietly making a difference to other people’s actual lives and who, for the most part, did not come into this world with the privilege I’ve enjoyed. I won’t end on that #BeKind inanity but be better! We all can.

“For me, success is not a public thing. It’s a private thing. It’s when you have fewer and fewer regrets.”,

Toni Morrison

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Leadership: Character + Circumstance #4 #cong21


Leadership is not lacking in the modern world. It just happens to most often be exercised by individuals other than leaders. The pandemic gave us many examples of contempt by leaders and leadership failures. Neither will serve us well in the coming decades.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Not all leaders exercise leadership
  2. Technology will make no appreciable leadership difference
  3.  “Do as I say not what I do” politics and leadership is increasingly not tolerated
  4. All elected positions should have a constitutional right for citizen recall.

About Colum Joyce:

Colum Joyce was born in Connemara and worked for 20 years with DHL where he served as the chair of the DHL Global E-Business group and the Europe / Africa sub-group.

After completing a 5 year rural assistance project in Connemara he moved back to Brussels. There he is an advisor to the EU Commission and engages in research on subjects such as climate change, Carbon taxation, logistics, system resilience, environmental policy, and consumer behaviour. His latest study is called Consumer 2030: The Dark Carbon Challenge.

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By Colum Joyce

Leadership can be broadly defined as the ability of an individual or a group to formulate positions, design actions, and influence followers or other members of society/organizations to carry out required actions and conform to the outcomes.

There are multiple types of leadership as is illustrated in the diagram below. Most leadership involves one or more of these depending on the situation/society within which it is being exercised.

Leadership is distinct from a leader. Not all leaders exercise leadership. This may be due to a lack of personal capacity, political circumstance, or coercion.

As governance structures are more or less societally specific great differences exist and will remain in the future. Pressing existential issues such a climate change are likely to erode the ponderous democratic processes of liberal democracies in favour of policy and process models that more closely resemble the rapid and rigorous policy responses seen in China.

This will inevitably impact the type of leadership style and content necessary to address the emerging issues being faced nationally and globally. How that change is managed is likely to be one of the most pressing and divisive socio-political issues of the next decade. Tailored local restructuring and not global governance convergence will be the hallmark of the future sociopolitical system.

Any idea that technology will make a meaningful contribution to governance and leadership in the coming decade is doubtful. Artificial Intelligence is too immature, data is too sparce, governance too lax, leaders too technically illiterate and platforms / exiting embedded interests too strong. This is best illustrated by the fact that global “leadership” supported by the most advanced technologies cannot even arrive at a simple agreed price for carbon or agree on a carbon tax for aviation or transport.

And of the future? If Covid should have taught existing and aspiring leaders anything is that there is a distinct social intolerance for “Do as I say not what I do” politics and leadership. What is sauce for the goose is socially expected to be sauce for the gander. Example, not exception should be the behavioural norm in politics and organisations. It may be time, based on the evidence of the last 18 months, to introduce a constitutionally embedded recall mechanism that adds a new level of governance rigor to leaders and leadership.

Perhaps then deeds will more consistently match words.

Submission by Alastair Herbert for #cong21 titled Taking the Lead from the Followers

Taking the Lead from the Followers #3 #cong21


 We all have a tendency towards grandiosity, but the truth is we can’t all be leaders. Leaders’ lessons are full of fibs, forgotten mistakes and photo-shopped memories. Sports people who are consulted on leadership can’t even transfer their skills to another sport, let alone to organisations.

The people who really make things happen are followers. But us followers definitely need good leadership to be at our best. How do we discover a lot about good leadership if we can’t learn much from leaders, themselves? By abandoning top-down leadership analysis and asking followers what makes good or bad leaders.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. The cult of leadership by studying leaders doesn’t deliver
  2. There are a lot more followers than leaders
  3. Politics and business succeeds by knowing their end-users
  4. We’ll learn more about leadership by studying followers

About Alastair Herbert:

I’m the founder of Linguabrand, an insights and strategy consultancy. Our deep-listening robot, Bob, measures brand differentiation and consumer psychology. This helps our clients position their brand to difference while connecting their comms to customers’ deeper needs. We’re based in the UK but work around the world.

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You can follow Alastair on Twitter, LiguaBrand or Email.

Submission by Alastair Herbert for #cong21 titled Taking the Lead from the Followers

By Alastair Herbert

We all have a tendency towards grandiosity. The hypnotherapy surfacing an everyday person’s past existence as Cleopatra. That glow of pride when our family history reveals some tenuous connection to nobility. The slightly mysterious, adventurer great-grandfather we’re proud to call our own.

We instinctively seem to want to rise above our own ordinariness. Is that why so many people seem to be striving to be someone at the top? To be the person who leads others to greater things?

Biographies of high-profile business people are scoured for approaches that can be replicated. Sports managers have people flocking to hear the secrets behind their considerable success.

But I believe the cult of leadership by studying leaders doesn’t deliver.

Leaders’ lessons are full of fibs, forgotten mistakes and photo-shopped memories. That’s just human nature. Luck, favourable circumstances and the contribution of others are elbowed away, making more room to show off their remarkable perspicacity and razor-sharp decision-making skills.

As for those leading sports managers… Where’s the football manager who’s now running an F1 team? Or the cricket coach who’s made a name for themselves in rugby? As a sports fan, I can’t think of a single one of them that’s successfully transferred their skills to another sport. Their leadership and man-management abilities just don’t work beyond their narrow discipline. So why does this myth of sports leadership continue? Because there’s a pact between business and sport – business people pretend there are lessons to be learnt simply as a way of meeting their heroes.

The reality is we can’t all be leaders.

And that’s good. Because the people who really make things happen are the ordinary people – the vast majority of us.

But us followers definitely need good leadership to be at our best. A consultant friend for health and local authorities believes leadership is the single biggest difference between effective and poorly-run organisations.

How do we discover a lot about good leadership if we can’t learn much from leaders, themselves? Well, the most successful politicians understand their voters. Growing businesses exert a lot of effort understanding their customers. So perhaps knowing what makes good leaders should be about understanding us – the followers, the ordinary people?

As followers, what do we need from our leaders?’

‘Does every follower need the same sort of leadership?’

Let’s throw away our delusions of grandeur and abandon top-down leadership analysis. We’ll find better answers by asking ourselves some simple leading questions.