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.

Contacting Colum Joyce

You can contact Colum by Email.

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.

Contacting Alastair Herbert:

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.

In the Silence of the Lambs, Who’s Leading the Sheeple? #2 #cong21


If there ever was a time for powerful leadership – it’s now.
Each us needs to show up as the leader we are. There are serious challenges facing us – and we need to work together – in trusted partnership – to deal with them. The time of the lone wolf is over. The lambs are looking to us for inspiration …. trusting us to save them from slaughter..

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Who would be a leader in today’s hungry world?
  2. Not all leaders lead from the front.
  3. Partnership is the new leadership
  4. Trust the Visionary Leaders to inspire what’s possible.

About Eileen Forrestal:

Eileen Forrestal, MB BCh BAO FFARCSI, a retired Anaesthesiologist living in Ireland, is co- founder of Get Up and Go Publications Ltd producing the ‘world’s best loved inspirational diary’. Author of The Courage To Shine, Eileen is now committed to a bigger vision – that of contributing to healing the suffering in the world through words that make a difference –words written and spoken with love, courage and authenticity that inspire, motivate, encourage and empower.

Having spent many years ‘silenced’ by the embarrassment of a speech impediment, hiding in the background of her life, ironically putting ‘people to sleep’ as an Anaesthesiologist, Eileen is now at work ‘waking people up’ to the power of their own words – their authentic self expression – trusting that healing words have the power to positively impact personal, societal and global health and wellbeing.

Eileen, the author of The Courage To Shine – Find Your Voice and Discover the Healing Power of Your Words, is now an author, speaker, coach and mentor, who uses her experience, insight and words of wisdom to inspire positive contribution in the world.

Contacting Eileen Forrestal:

You can follow Eileen on Twitter,  connect with her on LinkedIn and Facebook or see her work on Eileen Forrestal.com

By Eileen Forrestal

Leadership is the buzz word on everyone’s lips in the world today.
People talking about leadership, asking about leadership, learning about leadership, reading about leadership, complaining about leadership, wondering about leadership, listening to people talking about leadership, admiring the leadership,
We are busy seeking and nominating and electing and interviewing … and quickly proceed to judge, to blame, to criticise interrogate, argue with, hector and bemoan our lot and withdraw our support.
And seek another leader.
Who are these ideal leaders we seek?
And who, their right mind, would be a leader in today’s world??!!

What is required for leadership?
How do we choose or recognise a leader?
Why do we follow them, and do we need them?

Leaders imply followers.
Leaders are people – just like you and me.
On the ship, the leaders are steering.
Followers are people – just like you and me.
The followers on the ship are depending on the leaders to take them to where they want to go, safely.
The ship’s captain is trusting the people not to mutiny so they can safely get to their destination.

A leader must be able to ‘see’ the destination, and articulate it clearly and confidently – such that others (blindly) follow, trusting what they hear/see is the truth.
That requires truth and trust.
And therin lies the core leadership issue of the 21st Century.
What is the truth and who do you trust?

Some leaders are willing to say ‘I know where we’re going. Follow me. I will get you there. Trust me’.
It’s a big statement. It makes a bold promise, and you don’t know for sure if they believe you.
It’s a big ask. You speak with confidence.
And they say ‘ok’.
What you don’t say is “I know where I want to go but I’m not sure how to get there by myself. I will need your help”.
That uncertainty would leave room for doubt … and fear … and remains unsaid.

You may have leadership thrust upon you. You might accept an invitation or a nomination or a request.
“You go”.
You bravely say “ok”.
And they say “I will follow you, I promise”…
What they don’t say is “unless or until ……….”
That would leave you with doubt .. and fear … and that remains unsaid.

Most people are reluctant to declare themselves as leaders. They know the dangers.
They have seen lambs thrown to the slaughter!
They sit in silence, observing … spectators … wondering how the games will go.

So there you are.
A leader. Leading from the front.
With people who promise to follow you …

While doubt and fear lurk in the background ….

The person who is willing to say “I can and I will”, and is willing to honour that, to play full out and be held to account for saying it, is a courageous person.
For all of us doubt and fear are our constant companions.
What if you fail to deliver?

Perhaps it seems easier to say ‘we’. We can win this election; we can win this war; we can win this contract. With your support we can win.
The leader is the person who inspires the fellows on the ship … to trust and collaborate.
The supporter is critical to the win.
All games worth winning are team games with lots of supporters.
We rely on our supporters for our leadership to win … or it will be short lived.
Yes, others are waiting for us to ‘succeed’ or to ‘fail’.
Either way, it’s the players who get to play the game.

What we need now are people who play the bigger games, who speak for bigger visions that we can all share. We must be willing to walk beside them, not as followers but in fellowship, falling into step on the path we are creating, towards the destination we share.

All leaders are eventually toppled.
Leaders set themselves up (or are set up by others) for a fall.
They messed up, the army lost, their followers deserted you, the crew mutinied.
It was their followers who sold out on them.
Or maybe they sold out on themselves?
Maybe they lost sight of their vision?
Maybe they got scared.
Doubt and fear crept in ..

Leadership takes trust and courage. Big ships need strong leaders.
But you cannot steer a big ship by yourself. You need partners. You need encouragers. You need cheerleaders. You need people who see what you see. You need people who trust you.
You need to trust your team, your fellow players. You need to trust yourself.

People want leaders who will say ‘It’s fine, come on, drink the water. Trust me.’
The magic words: Trust me.
Followers are fickle. Frightened by vulnerability and uncertainty, Followers seek safety in numbers and trust the crowd. On our own, we doubt ourselves. When things go wrong, there’s must be someone at the front to blame. We run with pack. We don’t confess we weren’t looking.

In this age of unfettered communication, what do we believe and who do we trust?
We could start by trusting ourselves, and trust there is power and strength in numbers.
“Ní neart go cur le chéile”.
Trust your vision. Align with your community.
It takes courage to trust yourself to say “I can and I will”.
It takes courage to share your vision and to trust others will support you in realising it. Having a big vision, allowing yourself to mess up, bravely getting up and going again, without losing sight of the vision, is part of the process of becoming a great leader, who will be known by the longevity of their followership.

In the words of Lau Tzu: Without a vision, the people will perish.

We are at a critical time in history. There are existential challenges and the future is more uncertain than ever.
Children are the future.
Children need adults to lead them. The adult-child relationship grants it leadership and stewardship. We must take the reins. We must make bold promises that will be a guiding light to their future. We cannot stay cowering in the shadows or sitting on the fence. The time has come. We must lead each other out of the prison of doubt and fear. When we take the brave steps the lambs will follow. That is when we will recognise ourselves as leaders – trusting partners in an adult world – as we spare our lambs from the slaughter and lead them to the promised land.

Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.

#cong21 Leadership is not a destination submission

Leadership is Not a Destination #1 #cong21


Leadership does not have to be the ultimate end point.  Leaders should be able to move forward and step back and use their experience to grow within themselves and foster new leaders.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Leadership needs to be fluid
  2. Leadership has good, bad and ugly faces
  3. Leadership experience needs to be harnessed
  4. Enter Proxy Leadership

About Eoin Kennedy:

Ex teacher, marketing lecturer, startup founder, PR professional, events organiser, digital marketing head and currently working as a content strategist.  The slave behind CongRegation.

Contacting Eoin Kennedy:

You can follow Eoin on Twitter,  connect with him on LinkedIn. or, email him

#cong21 Leadership is not a destination submission

By Eoin Kennedy

You have probably hear the words before ‘I am now on the leadership team’.  Although I am truly happy for my friends and colleagues who achieve this lofty title –  through hard work, skill, determination, courage and skill, I am often uncomfortable with the sense of permanency.  The concept that leadership is a destination, an ultimate place to be, can also bring a set of problems.   It can demeanour the contributions of leading from behind and proposes a sense of rigidity that removes the flexibility to retire from leadership, whilst still potentially delivering more to the organisation.

The rise to Leadership, if it has only one directional flow, can sometimes be the wrong thing.

In order to explain what I mean I need to bring you through the good, bad and ugly of leadership.

The Good.

Becoming part of a leadership team from middle management to board level is an incredible experience.  It opens the opportunity to bring real change, to channel fresh ideas and experience towards crafting a new vision and building the structures for executing them through strategy and tactics for growth.

It is also a new learning experience.  Leaders are exposed to the raw mechanics of an organisation from financial, personnel through to technology.  They are offered control of the levers that can have profound impact on markets, customers,  the future of the company, the staff and stakeholders.  This power is very attractive and with it comes prestige.  Seeing ones ideas put into action is extremely gratifying, having it acknowledged within your organisation and by peers is additive and it being matched by financial rewards is intoxicating.

A sense of enduring camaraderie also exists within leadership teams, strengthened by the weight of responsibility it entails.

The Bad

The ascension to leadership, although a daunting experience, can sometimes be very underwhelming.  The necessary exposure to raw data from the tedium of financial spreadsheet, personnel issues to operational matters can differ from the high octane expectations.

Moving from the ranks of colleagues to becoming someone boss can sour relationships very fast.  The ‘them’ and ‘us’ perspective rarely gets beyond a short honeymoon period.  Leadership can involve difficult decisions and this can further compound the friction.  Former colleagues claim you have changed and bundle you with any negative connotations of management.  Knowing you are the source of chatter, something you probably participated in, can be very difficult.  This sense of isolation increases the closer you get to the top.

The role also comes with the burden of responsibility.  As a leader you need to make the best decisions for the organisation,  in fact you are normally legally responsible to do so, regardless of how unpopular it may make you.

Leaders rarely have the access to crystal balls and many decisions, although well informed, are made without knowing the true consequences and impact but they are still held accountable by them.

The Ugly

Sometimes organisation promote people to leadership positions purely out of fear of losing them, which in extreme situations can make a toxic person even more dangerous.

The struggle to attain leadership can involve many hard personal sacrifices so the notion of losing it can elicit bad behaviour.  A leader holding on to power beyond their best by date can sometimes focus their energy on maintaining that status  rather than channelling them into the good of the organisation.  Recent presidential elections have shown how this can be disastrous for an entire nation and beyond.  Battles for power at board tables tend to pander to ego rather than company benefit.

Camaraderie within leadership can also create a bubble that fosters group think which can ignore reality. Powerful individuals can quell divergent thinking and a lack of courage to confront wrong doing makes team leaders complicit in poor decision making.  Money, power and status are powerful drugs that can dull minds and be hard to ween oneself off.  Sometimes those in power starve all others of knowledge merely to stay in leadership, to the determent of the organisation.

New Mindsets and Models Are Needed

There are many different flavours of leadership and libraries overflow with’ how to’ text books on the topic but I am always struck by the notion that once a leader, always a leader.  The title is everything.  Why does the definition of success have to be leadership?  Does it have to be a one way street?  Let me explain with examples.

My wife is a healthcare professional and took a leadership position which was recognised as a manager.  She experienced much of what I described above and made the decision to return to her previous position as a regular staff member.  In her current role she undoubtedly acts a leader, something acknowledged daily by her colleagues who turn to her continually.  This is mainly based upon her vast years of experience but also her willingness to challenge seniority due to her commitment to deliver the best care to the patients she serves.  She undoubtedly makes her managers job easier but without formal acknowledgement.  To me the shackles of formal leadership mean the service has missed out.  Her story is not unique.

I also worked with one multinational who operated a ‘reduction in force’ whereby someone could rise to leadership position, which in this case brought with it the glass fronted office, but could at a later time return back to the regular pool of the windowless desks.  Although to some this was viewed as a fall from grace or not being able to ‘hack it’ but to me it was eye opening.  You could gain leadership experience and contribute but also bring that unique experience back to doing your job even better.  Why does a leader have to paid more and pampered better than those who prop them up.  Surely having someone to guide you on a leadership journey who has been there before can only make better leaders.  The wisest person does not necessarily need the title but neither should they suffer lower status or financial reward.

I have had many different experiences of leadership.  As a board member I have had to digest and trawl the data, make decisions, contribute to overall company objectives and lead a team.  As a founder of some start ups I co-lead lead a teams of two.  This served me well as an independent consultant, acting as guiding ear to other leaders, aside from the core service I was contracted to deliver.  My experience meant I understood the difficulties of their role and my independence meant I could seamlessly drift, almost like proxy leadership.  As a father I have floating leadership with my wife. In my current role I am a team member with no formal leadership role.  However I believe my previous experiences mean I can take the dual role of being lead and actively support those in the leadership positions.  This is made easier by the ‘service leadership’ perspective taken by the person I report into.  I understand what I have been insulated from by some else taking the leadership mantle – frequently hours of meetings and translating company policy into meaningful instructions.  Future leadership might be in my future or I might lead from behind but either way, having previous leadership roles means I am better at my job.

My story is not unique.  I have many friends who have gone from leadership roles to team members.  What I witness is leaders who struggle with how to manage them, knowing they could do their job, rather than how to harness them to make themselves better leaders.

My main point is this.  Leadership is something to strive for but it should not be viewed as the end point.  It should not be that static, with the only next desirable position being the next step up the ladder.  Nor should it viewed as a game of snake and ladders where the only route down is punishment.  It should pulse and surge according to ones life stage, energy levels and desire to leader.  Rather than a bell curve it should follow the innovation s curve.  True ‘service leadership’ is potentially hampered by rigidity of tenure.

I would like to propose that formal leadership can be fluid with ex leaders becoming ‘Proxy leaders’ who can lead from behind or ‘transient leaders’ who merely stepping back and return later to the role.  We just need to make it attractive.