Leadership and integrity

By Dominic O’Reilly, Fellow Class of 2021

I was reminded of the etymology of the word integrity when I discussed flooding in Downpatrick, County Down, with my dad in November of last year. It comes from the Latin integrum, which means to stay intact, or remain whole.

Questions were swirling over how small, family run businesses who were affected by the flooding would survive. Even if the flood water had been drained, the structural integrity of the building and roads surrounding may have been affected. They wouldn’t be able to hold together, or hold their own weight, without breaking.

I thought about applying the same criteria to people, and to leaders. Our integrity is tested in times of difficulty and challenge, in times of flooding. Our ability to withstand the internal and external pressures without buckling is an accurate measurement of our mettle.

But how often do we think about integrity, about how we would remain intact? It would be foolish for those in leadership positions to take a wait and see approach. To only realise just how resilient their integrity is when tested. We often see that leaders (whether in business, politics, or civic society) who do take this approach buckle, unable to withstand pressure when tested; so-called great leaders no longer.

This cycle of leadership is often taken as an inevitable part of life. But I believe that those who assume a leadership role should be continuously assessing their integrity: their ability to withstand. This requires a considerable level of introspection and self-awareness, and is often measured through our interactions with others. Integrity is found in how we respond to challenging conversations, in our desire to grow, and in the criticism which we may face.

Leaders should not call all the shots or make all the decisions themselves, however. The weight of the world does not rest solely on their shoulders. Leaders should not be isolated or lonely, but rather help others develop and foster leadership in others. Of course, there will be moments when a leader must make a decision for themselves, but in those challenging times we find that our leadership skills are strengthened as we go through a period of soul-searching.

Just as the pilgrim Dante was helped by Virgil in his quest through hell, a structurally sound leader needs the help of others. Virgil acted not only as a guide, but also as a teacher, a voice of reason, and at times, a critic.

In connecting with our community, in depending on them for help and guidance, we become better leaders. We should find inspiration in previous leadership, learning from their mistakes, and continue to teach the next generation. Perhaps this is the greatest test of any leader’s integrity: knowing when to pass the mantle on.

In passing on their own knowledge, a leader leaves the stage with their integrity intact. And they will be held in high regard by future generations. Just as Dante viewed Virgil. Just as I view my dad.

If we can learn from those who guide us, and the difficulties we face – whether they be floods, a political party in decline, or a school struggling to budget – we too can pass through hell like Dante, and emerge with our integrity intact: “pure and disposed to mount unto the stars.”

By Dominic O’Reilly, Fellow Class of 2021

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Cultural Diplomacy and the Art of Soft Power seminar proudly hosted by CDPB

As part of Imagine! Belfast, CDPB proudly hosted the seminar Cultural Diplomacy and the Art of Soft Power on March 21st at Black Box theatre in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.

We were thrilled to be joined by keynote speaker Evgeniya Ravtsova, International Programmes Manager at Victoria and Albert Museum, whose speech on the museum’s unique history and role in cultural diplomacy and exchange, as well as the art of soft power, was riveting.
Our panel discussion was equally insightful, covering topics such as: future opportunities for cultural diplomacy; the influence of narratives of identity in cultural diplomacy; and, Ireland and Northern Ireland’s cultural diplomacy initiatives.

Thanks are owed to our brilliant panellists: Sheena Barrett, Head of Research and Learning at the Irish Museum of Modern Art; Dr. Kim-Marie Spence, Lecturer in Arts Management and Cultural Policy at Queen’s University Belfast; and Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen.

We would also like to thank Black Box and Imagine! Belfast for their help in hosting and facilitating such a successful event.

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John Smith Trust Belarusian Fellows visit London

In March, the CDPB team were honoured to work with the John Smith Trust’s Belarusian Fellows, facilitating a residential trip to London.

The John Smith Trust offers individuals from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia working in sustainability, governance, and diversity, a fellowship programme which includes giving Fellows valuable insight into the workings of UK institutions, leadership development, and a residential trip to London.

The Belarusian Fellows travelled to London in March for a jam-packed schedule of events, which CDPB helped to facilitate.
The week included a meeting with the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs, Lord Cameron; a meeting with CDPB Fellowship alumnus Conleth Burns who gave an overview of his work at More in Common and research into UK policy concerns; a visit to the Guildhall, meeting with Alderman Professor Emma Edhem; a trip to Oxford to meet for a session on Systems Thinking with Professor Harvey Maylor from Säid Business School; and a day in Parliament featuring a trip to PMQs and a open conversation hosted by CDPB Emeritus Chairman, Lord Alderdice.

Thank you to all involved in the fabulous and constructive week, as well as the wider fellowship programme, and good luck to the Fellows in their future endeavours.

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CDPB announces its blog series Leadership And

In this first blog we introduce the series Leadership And, answering why robust guidance for leadership in 2024 is more important than ever.

Leaders push forward in times of complexity

We find ourselves in a cultural moment of complexity and uncertainty as domestic and global challenges continue to mount with no end in sight, four of which stand out. First, it is a critical year for climate change as TIME has named 2024 the year for exponential climate action.

Second, the increase of conflict worldwide is unavoidable, with conflict prevention expert Paul Stares stating, “the trend toward less armed conflict around the world is now moving in the opposite direction.” Whether it is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or the war and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, leadership is required more than ever.

Another precarious challenge is the economy. Economists anticipate the global economy to weaken in 2024, and accompanied with a cost of living crisis at home threatening the most vulnerable in society, the decisions made by our leaders from across society – not just in parliamentary chambers and executive tables – will echo for generations to come.

Finally, democracy itself appears to be in crisis. This year has been dubbed the year of voting, with more than two billion people around the world heading to the polls in 2024. Quite simply it is the biggest election year in history. And yet, democracy has never felt so fragile; it seems to be on the ballot itself. Research from Our World in Data recently published statistics that suggest democracy is backsliding at a substantial rate. Moreover, published data shows that the number of democratic states worldwide has fallen, fewer people are living in democracies, and people have fewer democratic rights.

In light of these challenges, leaders are being scrutinised more than ever as their character and competency are consistently called into question from various corners of society. According to research from Jon Stokes and Sue Dopson at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, trust in leadership is at an all-time low and leaders must prove themselves in order to gain respect.

This is the moment for leaders to step up and not bend the knee to the challenges facing all of us. In these uncertain times, healthy and constructive leadership must be parsed out to steer us to calmer waters and push forward. We need pioneering leaders that actively take steps towards a better future through addressing the issues of the present through innovation and cooperation.

The aim of Leadership And

At the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building (CDPB), we believe in eco-leadership: leadership that focuses on the collective, that does not withhold knowledge, and instead chooses to empower communities by encouraging information sharing. Research by Dopson and Stokes sums it up perfectly: “Leadership is a conversation, a way of talking about things with people, at all levels, within and beyond.” We do not hope with this series to prescribe answers. Rather we aim to facilitate creative thinking within a broader audience. Leadership is about equipping a collective to seek innovative solutions to complex problems. By providing in-depth leadership guidance from experts, CDPB hopes to develop leaders’ capacity and foster a positive culture of connectedness in which we all can work together to solve issues and lead better.

Over the next few months, the Leadership And series will curate adept opinions on various facets of leadership, creating an accessible, intertwined database of lived experience and science from leaders from across the globe. We will look at topics such as leadership and integrity, leadership and dignity, and leadership and complexity. In our commitment to diversity of opinion, we will invite friends and associates of CDPB who possess an extensive track record of leadership to join the series as a guest writer and share their insights.

Leadership is not prescriptive and by examining many opinions we open ourselves up to new creative forms of thinking.

We look forward to having you on this journey with us.

The CDPB team

Bibliography

“Chief Economists Outlook: January 2024.” World Economic Forum, 15 Jan. 2024.

“Countries That Are Democracies and Autocracies.” Our World in Data.

“Electoral Democracy Index.” Our World in Data.

Herre, Bastian. “The World Has Recently Become Less Democratic.” Our World in Data, 6 Sept. 2022.

“People Living in Democracies and Autocracies.” Our World in Data.

Ray, Siladitya. “2024 Is the Biggest Election Year in History—Here Are the Countries Going to the Polls This Year.” Forbes, 3 Jan. 2024.

Stares, Paul. “Conflicts to Watch in 2024.” Council on Foreign Relations, 4 Jan. 2024.

Stokes, J., and S. Dopson. “From Ego to Eco, Leadership for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” (2020).

Tubiana, Laurence, and Catherine McKenna. “2024 Must Be the Year for Exponential Climate Action.” TIME, 16 Jan. 2024.

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Fellowship Programme session at FinTrU

Our latest Fellowship Programme session was hosted by FinTrU on February 22.

We are grateful to deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Hilary Benn MP, and the US Consul General James Applegate for contributing to the morning’s events. We were all thrilled to have them join us and hear their inspiring words.

Fellows were also treated to an insightful seminar and discussion from Fellowship Programme partner Ulster Carpets on adapting and leading in an evolving global market.

Many thanks must also go to FinTrU CEO and advisory board member Darragh McCarthy for leading an engaging and entertaining session on entrepreneurship as well as hosting the session.

The day was rounded off by presentations by our Fellows on their Design Thinking projects that have been carried out throughout the duration of the 2023/24 programme. Our Fellows presented on education, engaging young people in democracy, and climate action in the local community.

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Fellows travel to Dublin for residential

Following on from our Fellowship Programme session in December with Bauer Media NI, Newtownards, our Fellows travelled down to Dublin for the next instalment of the 2023/24 programme.

The Fellows were treated to a fascinating series of discussions focusing on leadership in reconciliation and the arts, including members from the Houses of the Oireachtas, The Irish Times, Royal Irish Academy, Irish Museum of Modern Arts, Citi Bank, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ciarán Ó Cuinn, and Tim O’Connor.

We would like to offer our thanks to our Fellows for a fantastic and constructive residential and to our colleagues and hosts for their support and hospitality.

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TEDxStormont returns for its 11th year to a packed audience

TEDxStormont returned for another successful year in January with many inspiring and insightful talks on this year’s theme of ‘Restore’.

Over 175 people joined us in the Great Hall, Stormont, on January 20 to discover innovative ideas, hear inspiring stories, and have thought-provoking discussions on how to rejuvenate our world, revive our communities, and rekindle hope for a sustainable future.

We were honoured to be joined by experts from a wide variety of fields who empowered us to restore the balance in our lives and the wider world. A huge thank you to our MC, Sarah Travers, and all our speakers: Alex Kane, Celtic Psalms, Ed Lindsay, Heidi McIlvenny, Jamie Duffy, Jane Shaw, John Martin, Justin Lowry, Kiran Young Wimberly, Matthew Taylor, Michael Boyd, Michael O’Sullivan, Paula Kennedy Garcia, Romav Ali, Sinead Sharkey-Steenson, and Susan Lagdon.

We would also like to extend our thanks to Camlin Group, BiOPAX Ltd, Coca-Cola HBC Ireland and Northern Ireland, and our production partners Ulster Screen Academy, for their vital support of TEDxStormont 2024. Thank you also to Brown O’Connor Communications, Bespoke Communications, Focus Audio Visual, Northern Ireland Assembly staff and Kelvin Boyes for their support and help on the day for bringing together a broad range of ideas and perspectives.

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CDPB hosts first alumni event

CDPB was delighted to launch the first event for our alumni network on January 19 with conflict management consultant and mediator Dorcas Crawford.

Dorcas offered valuable and practical insight on mastering difficult conversations drawing from her vast experience. It is certainly a skill all leaders from across Northern Ireland can continually improve on.

We would like to extend our thanks to chief financial office of Allstate NI Christina Bates and Allstate Northern Ireland for helping to host the event.

We look forward to sharing further updates on how we intend to grow and develop our alumni network as we seek to equip and facilitate leadership development to bring about benefit for all in Northern Ireland.

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Cultural Diplomacy and the Art of Soft Power

Cultural Diplomacy and the Art of Soft Power – The role of art and artists in shaping Ireland’s international image – North and South

What is the role of cultural diplomacy in our ever-increasing polarised and divided world? How can we foster a better understanding between cultures and nations? How can cultural diplomacy pave the way to the wider cooperation and dialogue?

During this seminar we will examine the role of cultural diplomacy, learn how we can foster an effective cultural dialogue, and examine the role of art and artists in shaping the island of Ireland’s image (North and South) in the international context.

The seminar will feature a keynote address from Evgeniya Ravtsova, International Programmes Manager at the Victoria and Albert Museum, on the Art of Soft Power, followed by a panel discussion with Sheena Barrett, Head of Research and Learning, Irish Museum of Modern Art; Dr. Kim-Marie Spence, Lecturer, Arts Management and Cultural Policy Queen’s University Belfast; and Richard Williams, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Screen.

This event is part of Imagine! Belfast.

Event Details
Thursday, 21 March | 3pm – 5pm
The Black Box, 18–22 Hill Street, Belfast
Free Admission

Book your tickets at: https://imaginebelfast.com/event/cultural-diplomacy-and-the-art-of-soft-power/

TEDxStormont set for return to Parliament Buildings with stellar line up of speakers

TEDxStormont is gearing up for its return to Parliament Buildings on Saturday 20 January with an exceptional lineup of speakers featuring one of Northern Ireland’s best-known columnists and commentators Alex Kane, TikTok piano sensation and songwriter Jamie Duffy, and accomplished A-Level student and Syrian refugee Romav Ali.

The daylong event, supported by Biopax, Camlin Group and Coca-Cola and compered by presenter and broadcaster Sarah Travers, is expected to see 200 guests fill the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings. This year’s speakers will deliver their talks on the theme of ‘Restore’.
As the driving force behind Northern Ireland’s screen industry and which produces award-winning graduates for one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, the Ulster Screen Academy from Ulster University is also on board as TEDxStormont’s production partner.
Standing on the iconic red dot, speakers will share their innovative ideas, inspiring stories, and thought-provoking discussions on how to rejuvenate communities and rekindle hope for a more sustainable and harmonious future.

Beginning as a four-day conference in California, TED and the TEDx programme has grown to support world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives like TEDxStormont, which since 2013 has organised over 20 events and meet-ups, including TEDxStormont, TEDxStormont Women, Salons, City 2.0, TED Global viewing parties, TED Circles, Countdown, and a week-long virtual Summer Camp.

Across the span of a decade, TEDxStormont has hosted some of the most acclaimed speakers including Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, Lyra McKee, Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters, and astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

The event will bring individuals from an array of backgrounds such as academia, journalism, music, business, and sport.

TEDxStormont speakers being announced today include:

Alex Kane – Political Columnist and Commentator
Celtic Psalms – Music Group
Ed Lindsay – Custodian and Owner of Finnebrogue Woods
Jamie Duffy – Musician and Songwriter
Jane Shaw – Therapist, Writer and Educator
John Martin – Head of Policy and Advocacy at RSPB NI
Justin Lowry – Antique Dealer and Reuse Revolution Enthusiast
Kiran Young Wimberly – Presbyterian Minister and Co-founder of Celtic Pilgrims
Matthew Taylor – Mental Health Campaigner
Michael Boyd – Sport, Business and Human Rights Specialist
Michael O’Sullivan – Economist and Author
Paula Kennedy Garcia – Customer Experience Thought Leader, Innovator and Strategist
Romav Ali – A-Level Student
Sinead Sharkey-Steenson – Leadership Career Coach
Susan Lagdon – Lecturer in Psychology (Mental Health)
Declan Keeney – Professor of Screen Technologies & Innovation
Heidi McIlvenny – Marine Specialist

Dr Terry Cross OBE, Chair, Biopax, said:
“At the heart of progress lies original ideas and inspiring people which together, shape our future. It is so important to provide a platform for those who pave the way for positive change. This is why we are proud at Biopax to be supporting an endeavour like TEDxStormont which works towards turning visionary ideas into a sustainable reality”

Peter Cunningham, Chief Executive, Camlin Group, added:
“We are so pleased at Camlin to be supporting TEDxStormont this year. As we embark on a new year which always brings with it fresh opportunities and new challenges, there is no better time to come together and hear innovative ideas for change and progress from inspirational people. At Camlin, we believe in the power of working together, alongside our company purpose to ‘engineer better futures’, a value which TEDxStormont embodies”.

Eva Grosman, Curator of TEDxStormont 2024 said:
“We are excited to be welcoming some of the most inspiring and esteemed individuals from various backgrounds at this year’s TEDxStormont. This year’s event will allow us to engage with speakers who are leading the change in restoring ecosystems, relationships, and societal well-being. Taking place in the historic backdrop of the Great Hall at Stormont, together we will have the opportunity to learn, adapt and empower ourselves to restore balance in our lives and the world around us”.

Tickets and more information are available at www.tedxstormont.com.