leading beyond authority

Leadership Beyond Authority. #14 #cong21


Coming soon

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Irish people don’t buy into orthodoxy are sceptical of authority.
  2. The country runs on informal authority often unseen and mostly benign.
  3. We lost our 17th century leadership caste – the equivalent social group that reimagined Europe and North America in the 18th Century.
  4. The strength of our people is that others took up the mantle of leadership for 300 years.

About Frank Hannigan:

Dubliner in Cork, Business Advisor, Interested in Irish History

Contacting Frank Hannigan:

You can reach Frank via email.

leading beyond authority

By Frank Hannigan

One of the interesting things about Ireland is the number of people who have consistently had informal power in politics, business and society.

I put this down to our intrinsic dislike of orthodoxy and scepticism about authority.

History suggest that the Irish never took formal power structures that seriously.

Foreigners arriving in waves from the 12th century onwards to rule the Irish probably reinforced the view that those in authority were not all that competent.

For many Irish, ways to undermine oppression were legion.

In the end the most powerful way to disrupt oppression was to lead beyond authority.

Many Norman towns disappeared in the centuries after Strongbow.

Those that remained, did so because informal Gaelic power allowed them to do so.

The Normans recognised that winning a war in Ireland was easy.

Winning the peace was impossible without the informal power of Gaelic Ireland.

The Normans became more Irish than the Irish themselves for the reason that the Irish had more power over their destiny than Dublin Castle or a remote English Court.

Cromwell destroyed Gaelic Ireland.

His carefully measured genocide wiped out leaders in politics, culture, law and medicine.

The writers of history ceased writing on the island.

The Irish language was critically injured.

And yet.

The few Gaelic voices recorded at that time show that significant power remained in Irish hands.

Even in heavily planted Ulster, the expected inflows of protestants to underpin a new British Society did not arrive to supplant Gaelic society.

The Irish middle classes and traditional leaders left for Europe in huge numbers in the 17th Century.

They became leaders in French, Spanish and Germanic Political Economies.

They reimagined South America.

They helped build the manifest destiny of the United States.

We can only wonder what impact these generations might have had on Ireland.

What we do know is that leadership beyond authority remained significant in the 300 years after the disasters of the 17th Century.

The United Irishmen emerged from Catholic and Presbyterian communities across the Island with an ideology that tapped into a new way of thinking about how leadership might work.

The use of peaceful mass political protest by Daniel O’Connell was imagined, executed and replicated by others across the planet.

When other places had Belle Epochs we had movements of rebirth.

All that potential at the turn of the 20th century did not turn into growth.

The decades after independence have been categorised as static and inward-looking.

The radicalism of the 18th and 19th century seemed to disappear from the Irish narrative.

We were not able to feed our people and all that talent disappeared on boats to build societies and economies beyond our shores.

We live in an age where formal power and the establishment once again do not have the trust of the Irish people – 10% having no trust at all in politicians according to research.

We have been here before.

To grow in the 21st Century, we Irish must tap into our commitment to informal power, leadership beyond authority.

We face challenges like Climate Change, Housing, Education and Urban Design.

While the law and the political chamber have roles in building these solutions, challenges like these are rarely solved by those with formal power.

The dynamism of small numbers of well organised and researched people inevitably is what makes change and growth happen.

Time for another reboot of what it is to be an Irish Citizen.

“It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do.”

Walking 1500km with Bill Burr #6 #cong20


 Global Business Traveller who’s plans were badly impacted by Pandemic.
Walked a lot.
Wandered towards purpose.
Remembered a story from Serbia.
Lived happily ever after.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Purpose is waiting for you to find it.
  2. Community is easy to connect to.
  3. There is always something to do.

About Frank Hannigan

I work with SMEs planning to Scale.
I am a business coach and advisor.
I live in Carrigtwohill, Cork.
Husband and Dad.

Contacting Frank Hannigan:

 You can contact Frank by email 

By Frank Hannigan.

“I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.”

Brendan Behan

My 2020 was planned a long time ago. I was committed to projects at home and abroad that would keep me flat out for the full year.

The deceleration in March was enough to give you whiplash.

What happened next?

Just before the lock down I had started walking 8kms a day, listening to podcasts, music and Bill Burr.

Bill is incorrigible; a great antidote to the doom and gloom in media.

His philosophy is, “Life sucks, get on with it and stop whining”

Like all of us he finds it hard to keep momentum with the world falling asunder.

I remembered a story about President Zoran Đinđić of Serbia.

He visited a factory shortly after the Yugoslav wars.

The factory CEO told him how everything was screwed – no committed workers; no cash to invest in better machines; no routes to market.

Đinđić said

“I get it, but I noticed the Factory Clock at your entrance is broken, you could fix that. When you fix that, find the next thing you can fix.”

Each day I walked past this magnificent 19th Century stone wall that had been completely hidden by briars and hedge and ivy for at least a generation. It felt like a Đinđić moment.

I talked to neighbours and long story short, we uncovered that wall.

It didn’t make the beer cheaper, but it brought a lot of smiles and joy.

Society has one thing in common with Business – Leadership is a team sport.

Not everyone puts in the effort – but who cares.

The fascinating things is how many will put in the effort if you show example; if you ask them to; if you give them the encouragement to try and the permission to fail.

Every great society came about from small groups of organised, informed and motivated people (Society comes from the Latin word that means friends or allies).

There was a sense of us all being in it together back in March.

By September that sense of solidarity seems to have corroded badly.

30 years ago Balkan society was ripped apart.

Covid-19 is now testing society globally.

The ingredient to survive this punctuation mark is the same as any other disaster.

You need the will to remain.

Society is a man-made construct.

If you imagine a society built on fear and hatred, you will get that.

If you imagine a society that makes each life better you need to:

  • Keep fixing things big and small
  • Keep talking and building consensus
  • Keep dreaming about a better state

You need the will to remain.

Irish society was destroyed by the end of the 1600’s, its leaders were gone, its laws and even its land was ripped away from its people. A real possibility was that the Irish and their society would be extinguished like the Native Americans.

Astonishingly, individuals across Ireland kept fixing things, after Kinsale, after Cromwell, after Perfidious Albion broke promises made in the Treaty of Limerick.

They had the will to remain.

All those fixes; all that consensus building; all those dreams created a continuity of sorts and sublimated into a definite vision of a future society.

Irish society was not invented in 1921.

It builds on a solid foundation of those generations of Irishmen and women.

Let’s keep fixing things.

Dúchas #34 #cong19


Who are your people, where are you from?

A journey to find my birth mother.

A journey to find my genealogy
– Gaelic, Norman, Cromwellian.

Irish Ways and Irish laws.
– How power worked in Gaelic Ireland.
– How Community worked in Gaelic Ireland.

Ideas from Gaelic Ireland that we can steal for our 21st Century Communities

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. We don’t conform, we are better off when we refuse orthodoxy and embrace diversity
  2. To be powerful we don’t need to be unitary. We should embrace Subsidiarity a system where decisions are made at the appropriate level and not at the centre.
  3. Blood is thicker than water. If you are lucky enough to have parents, learn from them who your people are, where you come from.
  4. If you are lucky enough to have kids – make sure they know who their people are, make sure they know the stories and myths that anchor them to where they come from.

About Frank Hannigan:

Frank Hannigan is a Dublin born economic migrant in Cork.
A Business Graduate of Trinity College, University of Dublin.
A Founder of StrategyCrowd Business Advisors
Father of two Cork teenage sons and married to one Tipperary wife, Betty.
I am fascinated by how individuals, businesses and countries compete.

Contacting Frank Hannigan:

You can follow Frank on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or check out Strategy Crowd

By Frank Hannigan

In June 2018 I decided it was time to find my birth mother.

I wanted to say
Everything worked out, I had a great childhood and I am well on my way to being a mature adult.
I wanted to say
You did the right thing

I was a bit scared but what could possibly go wrong?

It did not take too long for me to find her – calling Bishops House in Wrexham every day helped, a DNA test with Ancestry.com sealed the deal.

On the glorious 12th of July I met Claire for the first time.

I worried that she might be a victim, damaged and hurt. Not a chance.

Claire is a 77-year-old Spitfire, self aware, curious and full of energy.

The year before she had sailed down the Mekong from Vientiane to Ho Chi Minh City, She had travelled the Garden Route and visited Kruger National Park.

Knowing her, knowing how she thinks about and how she deals with life is magic.

It is a perspective that makes sense of me, how I think and feel, what I think and feel.

So, that’s the first part of my journey.

That journey included a manic learning curve about Genealogy.

Genealogy is addictive.

I researched my adopted and blood lines.

My blood is Gaelic with a healthy dash of Norman Irish.
My adopted family is Gaelic with a healthy dash of Cromwellian Irish.

Of the three strands that make up our people, Gaelic Ireland is a bit of a shocker!

First of all we are not Celts
Our DNA soup settled down 4k years ago – most of us came in waves since 12,500 years ago from Galicia and the Basque Territory.

Second, Gaels were pretty wild and anything but the Victorian constructs of Yeats and Pearse.

Third, Gaelic culture was globally connected and was a advanced culture when it came to Medical Research, Law, Social Rights, Property and Power.

They had and we retain their healthy disrespect for orthodoxy.

Let me introduce you to two characters from the period:

Let me introduce:

Turlough of the Wine O’Donnell

  • He earned his nick name
  • Was a devout Christian
  • Had dozens of children with at least 10 wives.

Grace O’Malley

  • Became the Chieftain of her tribe despite having a brother
  • She had two husbands and a shipwrecked lover
  • 1,000 head of cattle and a clatter of Castles and lands.
  • She parlayed with Elizabeth 1st in Latin and as an equal

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of this society:

Immediate familes were a Clan.

Each clan belonged to a kin-group known as a fine.
This was a large group of related people supposedly descended from one ancestor.

Tuath was a kingdom – like Donegal

There was a High King – but typically Irish – He never even dreamed about having 100% support and he was a first among equals.

Power and property in Feudal Europe was simple:
God anointed Kings, Kings anointed Land owners, both pass their property and power to their first born male child.

Gaelic Power and property was not centralized:

  • A Taoiseach was elected by a broad gathering of family members:
  • The ability to make war and manage diplomacy mostly decided who won.
  • There were other pillars of power:
  • Bards and Clerics, Lawyers, Physicians, Scholars, Skilled Craftsmen and Musicians. All were political actors
  • Freemen who owned farms and Cattle and freemen worked on the land of others – all had a say on legislation and policy
  • Until 1200AD at the bottom of the heap were slaves – criminals paying back a debt or prisoners of war.

Side bar

  • Slaves were a small part of Gaelic Ireland – but a big part of Viking Ireland
  • Dublin became wealthy as the biggest slave market in Western Europe.
    • 40% of the founding population of Iceland were Gaelic Slaves
    • In 950 15% of Western Europeans were slaves, many travelling through Dublin and Limerick to their captivity

Back to the Gaels

Gaelic ranks were not set in stone.
It was possible to rise or fall depending on individual effort.

Brehon law had no prisons and almost no capital offences

Most convictions required a payment even murder

  • If the person could not pay for the crime
  • His family becomes responsible for the payment
  • If his family could not pay for the crime
  • The broader Kin Group becomes responsible for the payment

By the 8th Century women’s position in society far outreached their sisters in Europe – “in most respects, quite on a level with men” according to Patrick Weston Joyce.
The Irish were Christian but they kept their own law while to a great extent ignoring Christian mysogeny.
Women and men for example had easy access to Divorce and multiple partners.
Women owned property directly and indirectly.

Monks and Priests up to the 11th Century were also a la carte Christians commonly having wives and extensive families.

This was not an insular society – The Irish traded with most parts of Europe and Northern Africa – The O’Donnells for example, were known as the Fisher Kings, one of the largest exporters of fish to Europe.
New ideas and culture were weaved and warped into Irish life for thousands of years.

So as we skitter without a rudder towards a united Ireland, what can we takeaway from all this to inform community on the island?