This week’s original post was a work in progress early this am. It started with the absolute and never-ending influence of U2 and pivoted to the connection and confusion between the concept of love and service. We interrupt that post, waking up to news of yet another national female leading stepping back from her role.
While I don’t follow European politics closely, Nicola Sturgeon has been a name and presence even casual observers like myself will know. The longest-serving Scottish First Minister (she was elected to the role in 2014) she has been a Member of the Sottish Parliament since 1999. She leads the Scottish National Party (SNP) which has the grounding principle and focus on Scottish independence.
Full disclosure: my knowledge of Scottish politics is lite at best and I cannot claim any insight into the why behind her resignation except what I choose to read and watch online. Like any politician, she has faced challenges including gender reforms, the legality of making the next election a de facto referendum and a loan from her husband to the party. What I do know, is I was sad to hear of another strong and compassionate female leader stepping back from her role.
This is the quote from her presser that really caught my attention this morning:
“Since the very first moment in the job, I have believed that part of serving well would be to know, almost instinctively, when the time is right to make way for someone else,” she said.
And when that time came, to have the courage to do so, even if many across the country, and in my party, might feel it too soon.
In my head and in my heart I know that the time is now. That it is right for me, for my party and for the country.”
Wanting to learn more, I linked over to raw footage of her announcement. Watching it was a very powerful experience and would encourage you to do so here. I was struck when we said she has been grappling with two questions:
- “Is carrying on the right thing for me?
- And, more importantly, is me carrying on the right thing for the country, my party and the independence cause I have devoted my life to.”
She speaks to a deepening and longer-term assessment around both these questions. All things being equal, and taking her words at face value, this language and mindset mirrors the comments from Jacinda Arden from New Zealand last month. (Click here to read my reflections on that announcement.) She was clearly asking how can she best be in service to her own wellness and the movement that has driven her for so very long. My takeaway on a big decision-making process thanks to the wisdom of both Ms Sturgeon and Ms Arden is that when you know, you know. And when you do, take action.
Another observation that we MUST pay attention to are her comments that leading the county through the pandemic was “by far the toughest thing I’ve done.” According to this BBC article, she has only recently started to comprehend its physical and mental impact. I assume that is in reference to her own well-being AND I think it is a truth all leaders need to embrace. While the perception is that the pandemic may be winding down, the long-term impact it is having on mental health, our economy and our social fabric will be felt for a very long, long time.
Three takeaways from Ms Sturgeon’s leadership for our ongoing Service Leadership development:
- The lasting impact of the pandemic is JUST starting to show up in our parliaments, classrooms, board rooms and living rooms. Service leaders have to step into courageous conversations about how we are building cultures that acknowledgement this impact. To truly be in service in 2023 means we must create spaces that embrace how we are recovering from the pandemic experience.
- Succession planning is everything. We are doing little more than taking up temporary space if we have nothing but a vacuum following behind us. How many political and business dynasties have fallen apart because we are focused on the now, not the next? Ask yourself today: who is following in your footsteps and how you are intentionally supporting their success? (Related and exciting: The first episode of Succession season 4 drops on March 26!)
- Thinking and talking about what we are in service to is both courageous and smart. The more we see leaders like Ms. Sturgeon sharing the tensions around their decision-making, the easier it is for the rest of us to reflect on and better analyze our own decision-making. When weighing your next big decision, ask yourself: what am I service to with this decision? And then tell those impacted by your decision. It will help them understand you and your decision better.
This is another helpful read I found at BBC with insights on the political implications of Ms Sturgeon’s decision: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-64648617