In Person: speak wisdom

Recent positive examples shown by some people in the public gaze have convinced Karen Middleton that leaders must channel their passion creatively.


I have been writing this column for over four years and not once have I struggled to find a topic that I think will be of interest to you. This time, a week before deadline, I was stumped. Then I recalled a number of high-profile stories of leadership in the press recently.

Having watched the football World Cup avidly and all the punditry that goes with it, the Gareth Southgate story is one that appeals. Clearly, there is his work as leader of a young football team and what they have achieved together against all odds. There is also the way that the England manager conducted himself in such a composed and dignified way, even under intense pressure, and the role model he provides for his team and support staff.

But the story that appealed to me most was that of Gina Martin whose experience of being ‘upskirted’ by a man at a festival last summer led her to launch a campaign to make the practice illegal in England and Wales. Upskirting has been a criminal offence in Scotland since 2010. 

A recent radio programme about Ms Martin revealed a story of courage and standing up for what is right. She turned her outrage into a campaign to try to make a difference. She had no experience of campaigning or political lobbying, but look 
at what she has achieved –  after an initial hiccup in parliament; upskirting is likely to be criminalised as an offence punishable by up to two years in prison.

So the idea of turning the fury you feel into something positive resonated with me.  I cannot bear injustice of any sort and it 
fuels quite an emotional response – but how useful is that reaction? What does it achieve unless it’s turned into something constructive?

I listened to a programme about the use of social media and how Twitter, in particular, is used by people to express anger 
or fury – but all that ever achieves is whipping up further anger and fury. 

This debate was about the usefulness of social media in enabling anger to be released (where else might it go?) or whether it just fosters more negativity. This also resonated with me as it often comes up when I meet members who have come off social media – or never signed up in the first place – because they are fed up, not with the debate about interventions and evidence, but with the tone and anger with which the debate is conducted. What a loss to all that is positive and helpful on social media ...

Look at the reaction to President Trump’s Twitter pronouncements. People react with fury and the fury magnifies. Does this negativity help or change things at all?

Gina Martin’s campaign shows what a different response can deliver. The radio programme reminded listeners how much we have to learn from the civil rights movement and its leaders, and also from the Stoic philosophers of old. And these lessons can be applied when we feel the need to turn to Twitter or other public spaces. 

Leaders who feel the passion but contain it and turn it into something constructive and helpful exert greater influence. 

These leaders stand the test of time because they turn outrage into outcome. The rest just create distracting noise.

So consider what outrages you in your work or stimulates your inner ‘chimp’, the primitive part of your brain that reacts without thinking things through. 

You have a choice. You can react or you can respond. You can be furious and achieve little or you can think smartly and try using influence to achieve change.

As Emma Stokes, President of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy says, ‘The real skill is to rock the boat and stay on it.’

Contact Karen

You can email Karen at:


  • Karen Middleton Chief Executive Officer CSP 

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