Leadership: What is it? by Martin Robertson

As some of you know, my hero was Blackadder in the First World War television drama; he led his men from the front, even though he knew the end result. How many of us can say we would do that? He was also very cynical. I don’t want to be, I always start out with hope and trust when I meet, and talk, to people, however sometimes I feel that cynicism is forced upon me.

In this blog I want to share my understanding of empathy and what it might mean for me in thinking about leadership. ‘Empathy’ is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. (Wikipedia) Therefore, if you truly believe that each person is different, especially thinking of those with dementia; how can anyone without dementia feel empathy for someone with dementia? All of us with dementia show different symptoms, some are obvious and well known, but for instance I show bluntness, bordering on bullying, due to my dementia. Many people have ostracised me due to this symptom, I don’t blame them for ostracising me, because they could not know what my rare dementia does to me. However, I do think that once they make the effort to get to know me properly, they would understand me better.

BOLD through the use of art, or in my case misuse, allowed me to understand many of the people better. To me, art was the means to the end, not the end itself. It allowed me to see that I could connect with open-minded people and has increased my confidence so much and I am eternally grateful.

Now the challenge is that to me a true leader, or mentor (which I prefer, as we are all Jack Thomson’s bairns), acknowledges their flaws. I would love whoever reads this to be honest and open about their flaws because we are all human, which, by definition, means we are all flawed. The people in the small groups I worked in within BOLD, did admit to imperfections, but social norms stop people admitting imperfections in public. Again, being me, I have never kept to societal norms; instead of being socially mobile upwards, I am proud to have been socially mobile downwards!

My wish for BOLD going forward is that all the cohorts, past, present and future feel free to embrace their flaws; that then makes them truly human.

That would be the best legacy BOLD could have. I chose Loch Lomond as the theme tune as we all walk different roads but arrive at the same destination.