Quiet inspiration and the unspoken leaders amongst us #ff

Earlier this week I had a brief conversation on twitter with @crouchendtiger7 and @GilesCharnaud in response to Andrea sharing that she was on the panel for the HSJ Most Inspirational Women in Healthcare Award. Andrea was asking for views (especially from people outside the NHS) about who inspires them and why. I offered two suggestions, @amcunningham for her relentless quest to support, encourage and engage people in discussions about healthcare in the broadest sense (that’s more than 140 characters so it probably wasn’t that coherent) and my second person was Sister Clare from @RowcroftHospice‘s Hospice at Home team. Clare has been involved with the service since before it was established, talks about it with a passion I’ve rarely seen when people describe their jobs, and of course for me she is the figurehead of the phenomenal service that supported my family when my Dad died. To be fair each and every one of the people from that team equally deserve the credit, they are all inspirational, to me at least.

I guess that’s a bit of a challenge when you start identifying individuals to award praise or gratitude to and I guess I’m guilty of that by responding to Andrea’s question. I commented that I’m not overly keen on awards and was reminded of the value of recognising those who would not nominate themselves:

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Giles touched a nerve for me here as often inspirational people nominated for awards are exactly that. A quick sweep of my twitter archive would reveal a number of people who I am regularly inspired by being nominated for (and on occasion winning) titles like this. That’s great, it really is, I don’t think there’s enough good news or celebration in the world. However it does sometimes feel like there’s a bit of a formula to these things and a pattern in those chosen. Rarely am I struck by someone I’ve not heard of, nominated for keeping their heads down and solidly, reliably, quietly going about their work. My hastily thrown together theory or hunch is that a quick survey of ‘inspirational award winners’ would reveal a preponderance of louder, more extrovert, self confident and voluble individuals.

I can’t help but wonder whether we are overlooking quiet inspiration and leadership and simply suggesting we should all aspire to an extrovert ideal.

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I’ve recently been reading @SusanCain‘s book Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. As someone who readily identifies as an extrovert, albeit with bookish tendencies, Susan Cain’s work has been a fascinating insight for me. I first stumbled across her giving a TED Talk last year, I think it should be recommended watching for everyone, extroverts and introverts alike.

It’s an engaging, inspiring and educational talk. Cain’s book (I’ve not finished it yet) details her thinking in more detail. Quite early on she sets the context as follows:

As adults, many of us work for organisations that insist we work in teams, in offices without walls, for supervisors who value “people skills” above all. To advance our careers, we’re expected to promote ourselves unabashedly.

In response to that reality, this post is to start the ball rolling in acknowledging five women who quietly inspire me, who you may not know or have previously heard of, who are not promoting themselves unabashedly, and yet who are as pivotal and necessary and inspirational as those that you do.

1. @amcunningham Anne Marie is a very visible presence on twitter, but I don’t experience her as promoting herself or forwarding her own causes. As mentioned above she collects, collates and supports discussion like no other and I’m quite convinced she never sleeps! Im not sure where she gets the energy and enthusiasm from but for me it’s contagious. You can check out Anne Marie’s blog here.

2. Sister Clare and the Hospice at Home team @RowcroftHospice Life changing, quiet, competent, steady midwives of death (my Mum came up with that phrase) with a palpable compassion that I will never forget. You can learn more about their phenomenal work here.

3. Anji Mehta, you’ll sometimes find Anji on the @PSSRU_LSE twitter stream but you wouldn’t know it was her! I’ve known Anji for a couple years now, I don’t know her well, but I do know that she is as reliable and steady as they come. Resourceful, creative and the definition of calm, I have never had an interaction with Anji that hasn’t left me feeling better about life. I think it’s safe to say that the bridge between getting research into practice would be even more flimsy if it wasn’t for the Anji’s of this world; check out the Social Care Evidence in Practice project that she is a driving force behind.

4. A year or two ago I met Nat through work @NatAltDesign when she came to draw one of our meetings. Nat went on to live-draw several events and I’ve followed her on twitter ever since. I should confess that I’m a little starstruck by Nat’s art. I have spent a lot of my career facilitating discussions and writing lists on flipchart paper, despite the fact that I often see things in images! I live in hope that one day I’ll learn to draw properly, but until then I get a creative kick from Nat. You can see her work on her website, and you can commission her too!

5. @GrangerKate An almost celebrity these days, Kate has chosen to share her life and experience of living with cancer with the world. I find her humour, resilience and courage show-stopping. I’m not sure that she would seek the attention she is getting but she is doing all within her gift to share her learning with us all – check out her blog for more.

So there you have it, my starter for five. I’m not saying these women are introvert, and I’m not saying they are more important than anyone else, and the fact they’re women is sort of irrelevant (I’ll do a male list another day) but they are all people who (quietly) inspire me and you can follow them all on twitter if you wish (another criteria for this list).

I’d love to know who else I should be paying attention to and who are the quiet inspirations for other people.

0 comments on “Quiet inspiration and the unspoken leaders amongst us #ff”

Anji Mehta says:

Thanks George – I wouldn’t say I deserve to be on this list, especially with such great women but do appreciate it! I work with some amazing people and wouldn’t be able to do any of what little I do without the Martin Knapp’s, Jose-Luis Fernandez’s of the world (and wouldn’t get anywhere on SCEiP without Laura Clohessy!).

And you inspire me – you still seem so enthusiastic and optimistic that research can work with/make a difference to practice where others may have given up a while ago – convinces me there’s gold (or at least ice cream) at the end of the rainbow! Thanks very much.

ps – I’m still expecting something spectacular on the 14th!

I agree the lure of self promotion in an arena sometimes dominated by the apparent need for a ‘profile’ is unfortunate. But for those who quietly get on with a myriad of critical contributions it is a salutary reminder that we need such ‘unsung herdoes’ notwithstanding the cringing which may follow such recognition. Low key praise though does not diminish their giant stature.

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