Leadership Lessons from Counter-insurgency (I didn’t go looking but what I found was illuminating)

Cathy Presland
9 min readMay 30, 2021

An unusual and unexpectedly fascinating place to find leadership lessons…

Thank you to Couleur on Pixabay for the image.

Love and War?

It may seem bizarre for someone who believes that the foundation of all leadership is unconditional love to be drawing lessons from military strategy, and counterinsurgency strategy at that-the darkest of the military arts. But a combination of coincidence and curiosity led me down what turned out to a fascinating path.

(and yes, the context for this ‘intellectual curiosity’ is the death, destruction, harm that we humans do to each other in the name of… well whatever word we might insert but it does not begin with L and end in OVE. It was an unexpected exploration for me and I found there was more to see than my assumptions. I suspect that is always the case when we choose to look at something we have avoided, and that, yet again, serves as the bigger lesson for me, but perhaps you are also interested in what I saw when I looked more closely?)

It Started With a Boy. And a Pandemic.

It started with my son, home, completing the final year of his history degree from his attic bedroom.

Many stories this past year have started with my son, my husband, or our dog. We have been home together as work and school close down their physical locations and become we locked in our virtual worlds.

It’s been a joy for me to have them home, especially the youngest son with that bittersweet knowing these might be the final years he lives with us. Sad, for him, not to be in a community of his peers, but secretly gleeful at having him close.

And unexpectedly I find myself close to his study process as he submits those final essays and the much larger dissertation.

An Unexpected Avenue of Discovery

He loves to talk his ideas ‘out loud’; he says it helps him make sense of them, and mum is usually the most willing ear for this (second to the dog).

Partly I just love to listen (he’s the baby son after all), and, partly, I find myself fascinated by topics and ideas I’ve shunned for the better…

Cathy Presland

What if making an impact was part of your everyday? Stories to light up your soul. Read more and free courses: https://cathypresland.com/