Lead or Follow?

Lead or Follow?

That was the question posed to us at the TEDxGlasgow event that Kristen Wood and Ailsa Sweeney attended in June 2017.

Can we lead better by knowing when to follow? Or even, can we challenge our thinking, appoint a new type of leader and trust a robot over a human?!

We were promised a day of inspiration, full of positivity and ideas to challenge our existing ideologies and to change the way we work. Bright eyed and ready, we sat with fully charged phones (check out our live tweeting here!), pens poised and ready to hear what the 20 speakers of the day would have to share with us. Read on to discover the top five things we took from them!

  1. Think about our similarities, not our differences

Quentin Sommerville kicked the day off with a powerful recount of his time as a war correspondent in Iraq, Libya and Syria. He drew us in with his first-hand accounts of how intimate and personal war can be for people and raised the point that we all share one fundamental belief – the power of witnessing. Rather than looking away when we see something that’s hard to comprehend or accept, keep looking. Engage, feel and understand what others are going through and how it’s closer to home than sometimes seems at first glance.

Jonah Jones took this idea full circle with his talk later in the day, highlighting that we all have one major thing in common with each other, no matter where we are in the world – Facebook! No matter where you are in the world, everyone always thinks “we’re not like the rest of you, we’re different here”. The key is to stop thinking about how people are different, and start thinking about how people are the same. In marketing, it’s so important to ask ourselves “what brings us together?” when we’re thinking about campaigns. Unite your audience, create a common connection and create engaging conversation that is relatable and accessible to everyone, no matter what their gender, religious belief or nationality may be.

  1. When it comes to leadership, it’s about sharing the burden

So often in our working lives we feel obliged to take control and show that we are capable and responsible of managing our workloads and projects. So many of the TEDx speakers discussed the subject of leadership and how this is developing in the dynamic digital landscape. What might be an obvious point – but one that can often be forgotten – is to share the burden of work. Helen Minnis explored the idea that we should lead by admitting that we don’t know. Good leadership is when we open up the conversation to our juniors and our peers, gather feedback, talk things through and delegate. There’s no shame in sharing!


Not only that, but great leaders aren’t scared of a challenge. Terry A’Hearn says a great leader asks “how can we turn this from a threat into an opportunity?”. Call on the help of your team, come up with disruptive business ideas that challenge the norm and find unique collaborators and partners. Essentially, make the best of a bad situation. What could it do for you and your business?


  1. Find inspiration in the unremarkable

What would a TEDx talk be without a healthy dose of inspiration? Of course, we found it in all the talks of the day, but Jessie Pavenka’s talk really stood out. Do we try too hard in the modern world to become inspired? Do we spend too long scrolling through social media that we end up feeling inadequate and let down rather than fired up and raring to go? Perhaps it was his dulcet American tones, or the cute photos of his son that he shared, but there was something about him and his talk that left us feeling re-energised and with a fresh outlook on life. One of the best ways that we learn is through experiences and he says inspiration is all around us all the time – it’s when we’re not trying to be inspired that we often find it. He left us with a gem of advice – find inspiration in the unremarkable. It’s all around us; we just need to open our eyes and see it.


  1. Why core values are a necessity in every business model

Got disengaged employees? A struggling business? The wrong kind of client? Perhaps you don’t have a strong core value within your business. Core values are more than just an internal process designed for employees and headed up by HR. They’re about your market, your customers and the work that you do. Sure, make sure your employees know them, work with them and promote them in their work – but make sure that you’re also changing the way you do things to uphold them. Get offered a huge piece of business that doesn’t quite match your core values? Perhaps you should walk away. Have an employee that just isn’t quite right for your core values? Show the rest that you’re serious about upholding them and do something about it. If a leader believes in your core values, employees will trust and believe in them too – and what’s a business without trust? Bob Kellier spoke honestly and frankly about the matter – core values: you can talk about them, or you can do them.


  1. Take a human approach. Know it’s OK to mess up.

Mess up? Stop beating yourself up. We’re human, we make mistakes, and we should learn by failing as Richard Browning says. So many of our ideas are held back because of the worry that it won’t work, someone will judge us or it’s a stupid idea. So, care less about whether it’s possible, get out there and try. Care less about the outcome being positive and take learnings from the human moments you encounter; it’s those that really count. Learn by doing, and learn by failing.

All in all, it was a thought-provoking, inspiring and eye opening day. The advice shared from the speakers was invaluable, with some absolute gems (like this one from Liberty Vittert: “drink the wine, but don’t expect to win the lottery any time soon”). If you missed out, all the talks are available here for your viewing pleasure.


4 Comments. Leave new

  • Mike Wood
    6:57 pm

    “how can we turn this from a threat into an opportunity?”….HE is overrun, YOU are surrounded, I am in a target-rich environment.
    It’s all just attitude – positive or negative are both “true” but one is preferable to the other most of the time.

    • Whitewall
      12:25 pm

      We’re all about the positive attitude, Mike. Things only get negative around here when we run out of coffee…

  • Pauline
    10:32 am

    Great write up, thanks .

    • Whitewall
      12:19 pm

      Thanks for stopping by to read it, Pauline, we’re glad you enjoyed it! Looking forward to the next TedxGlasgow event already.