Leadership Reflections 2021
The following is a blog post that I wrote during the first summer of the Laidlaw leadership programme. I hope you enjoy!
To me and many others the Laidlaw Leadership Programme has been a distinctive turning point in our lives. I mean just who in the world gets the chance to spend a whole summer learning about the idea that intrigues them the most?
My granny is my educational inspiration. She was the typical housewife of the 1970’s and 80’s, forced to give up her fulfilling position in Aer Lingus when she married because of social convention – and not because she wanted to. She attempted to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree by means of a night-course in UCD. Unfortunately, waiting for her husband to come home from work on time every night with the car so that she could travel out to Belfield was an obstacle too great to conquer.
Instead, she focused her attention on her children’s – and eventually her grandchildren’s – education. It paid off; our entire family is well educated because of her influence. She marvels at the opportunities I have received from this programme, the wealth of luck that seems to flow in my direction. She regrets not succeeding in her own education.
It astonishes me that her experience of education in Ireland is in such direct opposition to mine when relatively little time has passed. The world seems to give me a helping hand at every turn where doors were shut for her. But her life has given me the perspective that all I can feel is gratitude for the people of her generation who turned things around, who made the effort to change the system for the sake of their children.
I think this example highlights the potential of good leadership. We know the world is not perfect, and it often feels like with every fire extinguished, another one is discovered. Yet if we can remember and appreciate the history of how we got to today, we might have a greater idea of what is possible tomorrow.
My grandmother’s influence in combination with the Laidlaw leadership programme activities has provided me with the opportunity to see leadership in this light, to reflect upon the world around us and to motivate my actions in the present and future. Leadership has many forms in this modern world, and those who strive to make a positive difference in their communities are just as valuable and integral to our society as the leaders of our Nation States. Learning how to be a good leader in my case has always been about how to make things happen, and how to do so well and efficiently. I have learned that leaders are frequently called on to make choices at the highest level when executing their mission, and consideration of many different perspectives on the world and having a deep understanding of the consequences of the decision are two points integral to the rightness of that choice.
Indeed, personal experiences such as my grandmother’s influence have broadened my perspective on the world, and the Laidlaw programme has taught me to reflect and consider consequences in a way I had not done before. I have no doubt that this combination of life lessons, which is learned by all Laidlaw scholars in some form, has and will continue to create really well-rounded and thoughtful leaders who will inspire great change in our future.