I've recently taken over as CEO of a fantastically ambitious start-up and feel grateful that I have comfortably realised my potential as a leader. And like other CEO's of companies large and small, I often reflect on what makes a leader lead with success.
There are qualities that we collectively tick off the top of our heads when asked 'what makes a leader' and these include such things as confidence, intelligence, energy, passion and conviction. And when asked to give an example of 'a leader' we cite politicians, CEOs, even fictional heroes. And if lucky a well-deserved nod also goes to parents, teachers, community and social leaders.
But over the past few months I've been reminded of another type of leader. A leader whose impact can be as great, as powerful, if not more so, than those anointed so quickly and obviously with this title.
The leader I'm speaking about is someone whose story can be mired in sadness - a sadness of such magnitude and distraction that we often don't realise that the details in their tale can move mountains. A fact that they are counting on when they embrace the mantle of unlikely 'life CEO'.
The leader I'm talking about specifically is the close friend of an equally special person I know who is battling with the horrific reality of terminal colon cancer (the 'Nuisance' as she calls it in her prolific blog) that is threatening to take her out of this world before Christmas. I have been blessed to be included in Kate Gross's 'outer spiral' as she calls it, and have followed her journey through the sad reality today that she will never see her late 30's.
And this is where we need to see and appreciate how the Kates of this world (and we've seen and valued many of them) lead in a way like no other. Now it's unfair to say Kate Gross has been anything other than leadership incarnate to begin with - having worked at Number 10 for two prime ministers whilst just in her 20's and then becoming CEO of a charity that worked with fragile democracies in post-conflict Africa. But when faced with the sickening reality of death, Kate has metaphorically taken the bull by the horns and writen like the lives of those around her depended on it - starting with a blog and progressing to national newspapers and now a book called 'Late Fragments' (to be released in January 2015)
While fighting sadness, fatigue and pain over the past two years, Kate has written tirelessly about her friends, her family, her love of fashion; she's encouraged us to look at the devastating realities of Africa. She helped define who and how you can grieve if you don't know someone going through this intimately. She helped codify how best to spend the last days with friends and what you should be thinking about if this type of end comes close to you.
But more importantly Kate has been a paragon of dignity; she's worked tirelessly to communicate clearly how those who care to read her work see the glory in the little things in life. And she's helped ensure, through her teachings, that not only will her family be cared for, but every person in her 'spiral' will be cared for and shown love.
So let's not ever forget our hidden leaders - something near and dear to me as I strive to be a better one. They are the ones leading us toward dignity and into the unknown and for that we are forever grateful. Thank you Kate Gross and your beautiful life. May all of our Christmases be bright by taking your beautiful lead.