Q&A: Deborah Rowland
What book are you currently reading?
Country Girl – A memoir by Edna O’Brien. I have an affinity with all Irish writers I guess and love hearing the life stories behind their writing.
How do you describe what you do?
I bring thought leadership, systemic insight, in-the-field experience, deep empathy and an inner stillness to leaders so that they can face the challenges of leading major change more wisely and more effortlessly – leading to not only successful change outcomes but also more human workplaces and engaged societies.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
My dad. He joined what was then the Post Office Savings Bank straight out of school as a clerk and worked his way up to become the Chief Welfare Officer (CPO these days…) of what became the UK Government’s Department of National Savings. At age 88 he still brings wisdom and encouragement to my work, no doubt based on his continued ability to transcend partisan views and act for the good of the whole.
What does success look like?
Leaders who have accessed their inner core in order to act with outer courage and conviction. Vibrant, dedicated and aligned teams. Workplaces that are agile, open and truthful. Deborah having learned more about herself, her edge and the meaning of gratitude.
What is your competitive advantage?
I bring a unique combination of cognitive capacity/theoretical rigour with deep practical expertise and experience. It’s rare to combine groundbreaking research, IQ and well-honed systemic perception with strong EQ and an instinct to know exactly what to do.
How do you keep your thinking fresh?
I enjoy interacting with and contributing to the academic management field and generally surround myself with bright passionate people whose thinking (and being) I greatly admire. I used to read a ton of books. These days, you catch me either on annual silent working retreats or striding the cliffs of the Cornish coast where most of my original thinking arises.
How much time do you spend travelling?
What is the secret of a great presentation?
Deep empathy with your audience and their contexts, fears and deepest wishes. Bringing your own story, insights and resources to meet this.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Work on what’s inside yourself first. My capacity to both lead big change well myself, and coach others to lead change, was catapulted forward when I addressed my own ‘origin story’ (of adoption) and how it showed up in the present. Sorting out my inner life got me into a sharper, cleaner and more courageous connection to my life’s work.
What is your next goal?
I don’t tend to set goals. But I’d like to see my latest book, Still Moving: How To Lead Mindful Change, make a difference in the world as boy do we need more skilful change leadership in our institutions, nations and the planet right now.
Describe yourself in three words.
Pioneer. Perceptive. Generous
Deborah Rowland is a former PepsiCo and BBC Worldwide executive and author of Still Moving, which offers a unique new approach to leading change. She is on the Thinkers50 Radar for 2017.