The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic - Peter Drucker

The TurningTides Blog

Ideas and inspiration from Turning Tides

Being trusted across the divide: The real leadership challenge?

invictus wallpaper by nitroniuminc-d54snao

To be trusted across barriers. Certainly a goal worth striving for in times of social, political and organisational change. Leadership of the highest order must surely be one that builds unity on difference. 

Trust in a divided context

Nelson Mandela died a year ago today. He devoted his life, and forfeited his freedom, to bringing unity to South Africa. His legacy was a blueprint for leading in a way that inspired trust across divisions.

Reflecting on what Nelson Mandela represented gives us a glimpse of what is needed in a leadership that transcends difference. First there was the courage to stand firm for equality, even though it often meant standing alone. Then there was the compassion and understanding which enabled him to forgive those who had acted against his efforts. 

Both political and systemic, the divisions can be traced back to 1948 when the Afrikaner National Party won the general election under the slogan “apartheid”.

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Leading Improvement: Words that Transform


Carpe Diem

Feeling particularly energised during a conversation with a client yesterday, the words Carpe Diem (seize the day) popped into my mind. Simple words. But put them together and they create something bold and confident. They inspire and uplift. Amazing how words can do that.  

Written almost 2000 years ago by the Latin poet, Horace, the Carpe Diem line in its full expression, includes quam minimum credula postero – ‘put little trust in tomorrow'. It's about taking action for the future today because 'the present' is all we can be sure of. Adding my own interpretation, it represents having the presence of mind to act, to 'catch the wave' because the opportunity - these set of circumstances - may never come again. Just thinking about the words evokes feelings of optimism. I literally straighten my back!

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Guest — Neil Pettinger
Your interpretation (in your second paragraph) of Horace's meaning brings to mind Brutus in Julius Caesar (Act 4 Scene 3): There ... Read More
Sunday, 20 July 2014 11:58
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The Nature of Impact


impact 2


What do the late Margot MacDonald and my late mum have in common? They were very different in character and in the bailiwick of their lives. Margot was a larger-than-life Scottish politician. My mother, by contrast was reserved, gentle and family-focused. Born on a tiny island in Shetland called Trondra, just over 1 sq. mile in diameter, she preferred the written word to oration. The limelight was not a place of comfort for her and definitely not one she sought out.

The cord that connects Margot and my mother, and most recently Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, is Parkinson’s disease. Margot campaigned for the right to end her life through euthanasia should the disease become too difficult to bear. A much debated campaign but I respect her view. My mother similarly struggled with the disease in the last 10-15 years of her life. She passed away seven years ago this month (17th April, 2007), age 80.  

The many hues of impact

The phenomenon I want to focus on here is impact. It comes in many hues and guises.  Margot McDonald made a huge impact in life. Billy Connolly still does, and with flamboyance.  My mother did too. Admittedly the reach of her impact was very different; less obvious, but none-the-less hugely significant for those who came under her radar. She had that old fashioned island wisdom that is rare these days. She found it hard to express her emotions in the traditional sense but she would observe and notice. Her gestures (guided by profoundly humanist principles) shouted louder than any words. 

 A discovery of lasting impact

A few days after she died my brother and I made an astonishing discovery. We found poems that my mother had evidently left in a place where she knew we would find them. One was in her hand writing, although not her own words. The other was a tiny verse cut from a newspaper taped to a sheet of writing paper. The end-stage effects of Parkinson's meant that even cutting the poem out of the newspaper would have been difficult for her. The poems told us that she knew she would be leaving us soon. The image of her preparing such things made the poems seem all the more poignant.   

The poems are not original and not of great literary quality, but the impact of her gesture has been far-reaching. She had chosen the words for her family with true intention. She was preparing us all for the transition that was ahead in a simple yet most profound way. I took enormous comfort from her words and have returned to them often. Such clear-headed wisdom in the face of adversity!

Impact is not always about 'big'

So, when it comes to making an impact whether as a leader, a good citizen or as a parent, it's not always about big personalities. Sometimes it's just about holding steady in the eye of the storm. Admittedly, impact is often only known in hindsight and like beauty and quality, personal impact is in the eyes of the beholder. But how can we understand it better?

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Recent Comments
Guest — Dorothy Armstrong
What a beautiful tribute to your Mum - written with such pride and passion. Thank you Eileen.
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 18:00
Guest — kathlyn
A very moving and powerful piece of writing Eileen. Best wishes Kathlyn
Thursday, 17 April 2014 21:39
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