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.

Goats on Backs #19 #cong20


 The Covid pandemic showed the essential and important role grassroots organising plays in communities and the lives of individuals. Charities and social enterprises role in Society 3.0 will be critical to an inclusive and fair society.

During the Covid pandemic charities and social enterprises faced huge and rapid change. There was incredible work done in communities in North Donegal. Society 3.0 will need the energy and bravery that they, and kid goats, have shown through lockdown.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Society 3.0 will need the energy of the kid goat jumping on the backs of other goats.
  2. Bravery, willingness to fail, creativity to try new things will be key in Society 3.0.
  3. Rapid change can overwhelm. We could loose experience and passion of individuals if change overwhelms them.
  4. Groups in the community doing important work can help to develop the energy of the kid goat through design thinking and fear setting tools.

About Carlene Lyttle

From Derry originally, Carlene spent six years living in Switzerland where she worked in Business Development with a technology company.

After her son Aidan was born, the pull home grew too strong and in 2017 Carlene decided to move to her mothers’ home – Inishowen, Co Donegal – where she has a large family network.

She continued to work with the tech company remotely from her home office before deciding to the take the leap in February 2019 to set up her own business consultancy firm called Sáilespin.

Working from her home office in Inishowen, Co Donegal, Carlene is involved in a number of interesting projects including Inishowen Algae looking at land based algae as a biomass, Spraoi a social enterprise with digital fabrication lab, and a marine engineering company looking to reduce the carbon emissions of the local fishing fleet.

Carlene is planning to continue building on the projects she started in 2020 and is particularly excited about the Inishowen Algae project that she’s working on.

Contacting Carlene Lyttle:

You can connect with Carlene via email, LinkedIn or see her work in  work with Sáilespin.

By Carlene Lyttle.

With only a 2 kilometre radius to explore, I found a field with goats. I would spend the early days of lockdown cycling there with my son to watch the kid goat jump on the backs of the adults. I was rapt with the unbridled energy of the kid, launching itself at the nanny goat, often missing her back, getting shrugged off, or slipping off the side, all to the disinterest of the other goats. The memory of the goat kid’s energy and bravery, in the face of a community who were weary and indifferent,  made me think that society, amidst the global pandemic, worked best in the groups that channelled the kid goat’s energy, willingness to fail, and ability to keep trying.

For some, the challenges of people cocooning, job losses, isolation, brought out the kid goat, bouncing with enthusiasm. When the physical value of many community groups – like a hall or community centre, became redundant, the brave and creative community groups realised their strength was in the role to connect and communicate with their community. The Clomany Community Centre who organised the local sewing group to make face masks for those working in care homes. Fab Lab Inishowen who used their digital fabrication tools to make face shields for those working in local shops. The Exchange Buncrana who used their centre as a distribution point for a quickly established food bank. The Carndonagh Gaelic Club whose members distributed shopping to more that 400 people cocooning in the first 6 weeks following lockdown. Spraoi agus Spórt who moved the respite for children with disabled families first to Zoom and then, when safe to do so, rushed to relieve the unrelenting pressure lockdown had on some families.

Looking to others for help and interaction. Jumping on the backs of a wider group who were displaying the eye rolling exasperation of the adult goats. Others, without their familiar role in society, were crippled with a fear. For some community groups, designing by committee results in risk-averse reactions, waiting for direction (and money) from government bodies before trying something new. For all of the brave groups jumping about like kids, there were the others in the field who could not join in or support. They still had staff whose roles were continuing to be paid. They still had members and contact lists. But the rapid change had overwhelmed them, and they could not adapt or change to make any impact.

Adaptability and creativity are needed for Society 3.0. At last year’s Cong, technology as a forcer of change, was an overriding theme. Not many people foresaw a global pandemic as a quicker catalyst for change. So we don’t loose the experience, passion, and contribution of community groups who have struggled to adapt we need to provide them with tools to change.

Tools like design thinking approaches or fear setting. Design thinking for community groups where new services are problem based and designed with the user at the centre and prototyped and revised with an acceptance that some will work and some will not. Fear setting where the need to act is framed not in terms of what will be achieved but what will be lost by inaction.

Were it not for the pandemic I may not of discovered the delight of kid goats climbing on the backs of nanny goats. Were it not for the pandemic many community groups may not of had their strengths and weaknesses shown to them so starkly. At the last Congregation there were predictions of change coming to communities because of technology. This is still coming and has been accelerated with this year’s pandemic. Communities and especially the groups that play a key role in them, need to be equipped to be brave and energetic – like the goat kids.

Community – Connection, Communication, Future #33 #cong19


Community is an incredible teacher of social and emotional skills that will become increasingly important in the fast chaining world. A risk to the sustainability of these wonderful facets of the community is losing traditional ways of communicating as a community and reliance on digital platforms that do not champion the local. Technology offers opportunity but needs to be directed in ways best for the community.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. The emotional and social skills fostered through community are valuable now and more so in the future.
  2. Communication is key for strong communities and at risk with the loss of traditional forms of communication and the pervasiveness of social media.
  3. Metrics of social media are not supportive of physical, intimate communities of depth.
  4. Can we envision a community communication platform that preserved the best of traditional communication and harnessed opportunity from technology?

About Carlene Lyttle:

After living in 7 different cities in 6 different countries Carlene was drawn back in the North West of Ireland looking for community, creativity and connection.
Like many, she returned after starting a family with an appreciation of the values of community and the opportunities for a fulfilling and engaging life living within a community. She wants to be part of a positive movement to make the area vibrant and exciting for her and her son.
Having worked in the high technology space sector she has seen the efficiencies that digital technology can bring. She wants to explore the opportunity to improve life in Inishowen with a specifically designed platform that delivers an integrated communication service. This is currently a project she is developing with the support of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

Contacting Carlene Lyttle:

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

By Carlene Lyttle

Machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics – with the speed of technology what does the future hold for communities? 65% of children now entering primary school will grow into jobs not even invented yet. As a mother of a four-year-old how do I prepare my son for a very different future from the world I live in?

Creativity, empathy, storytelling. Emotional and social intelligence will be the sought-after skills of the future. Community fosters these skills. I see them in spades in Inishowen where I’m living. For me a physical and intimate community life will be the best preparation for the uncertain future of work. We need to value creativity, empathy, storytelling. With meaningful value – support, attendance, time, money.

Physical communities have depth. They require time, thought, consideration, real connection. As pointed out by Eoin Kennedy in his submission ‘Have we lost the art of chat?’, communication is key to sustaining communities. Physical communities do not thrive on social platforms. The metrics of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter is to get response in the ten and hundred thousand. In a rural community like Inishowen with a population of 40,000 or a market town like Carndonagh with a population of 2,000, how can a rural communities concerns go viral? These platforms are made to go viral not rural. A post for a beach clean after a storm – 5 likes. The action will result in 3 bin bags of plastic taken from the ocean but will be deemed a failure on the social media scene. I agree with Max Hastings submission and the idea that platforms promoting aggressive approval of others and self-obsession, are the enemy of community.

Physical communities are already dealing with diminishing traditional forms of communication – local newspapers, parish bulletins, notice boards; as well as the decline in word of mouth communication as the traditional centres of congregation decline – pubs and mass. If groups within the community are driven towards social media platforms, communication becomes siloed, disconnected, and lost in social media noise. Our communication in communities’ risks being structured in isolated web sites, Facebook pages or Instagram profiles where information isn’t shared – hampering growth, duplicating effort, and resulting in missed opportunities. When local groups use communication platforms designed for a global response, the depth of community work is lost.

In 2017 Facebook made a manifesto on global communities saying it would “strengthen our social fabric and bring the world closer together”. Then they sold our data to Cambridge Analytica. As Yuval Noah Harai points out, in the excellent 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, a community cannot be built on a business model that captures people attention to sell it to advertisers.

Technology does offer opportunity. Its transformative nature can have huge positive impacts as the James Casey and Peter Kearns’ submission attests. The risk from technology is the thoughtless way we are adopting it without considering what impact it is having. Technology could help, as Pamela O’Brien explores in her submission on how can technology facilitate the idea of community rather than erode it. With Pamela O’Brien and Eoin Kennedy I recognise the need to actively preserve the best parts of traditional community and the communication forms that come with it.

To retain the creative, empathetic, storytelling power of my local community how can we replace the traditional forms of community communication, preserving the best and harness the undoubted power of communication technology to make connections which have depth?