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  • Martin Betts

Joining the dots backwards!

Updated: May 21

The over-riding message to me of joining the dots backward is that we are all different. What I have learnt along the way is the importance of empathetic leadership. I’m trying to get better at it.




I am starting this blog during our current pandemic isolation, 3 weeks after finishing up my 40+ year academic career as a Deputy Vice Chancellor at Griffith University. I’m using a blog to reflect on my journey to date and what I realise in starting the blog, is that my journey had its foreword scripted by my fantastic family long before I appeared on the scene. I was born in an ambulance speeding across the Essex countryside on a cold December night. It was in that period between Christmas and New Year when we all pause for breath, before seeing out one phase of our lives with a great celebration, and starting the next phase, anew with good intentions, recharged batteries, and a clean slate. That feels so much like where I am up to now, working from home, emerging from an isolation caused by the most cataclysmic and life-changing event seen in many lifetimes.

There will be many stories written about our COVID 19 pandemic experiences and how it changed individuals, groups of lives, companies, governments and nations. But that is not my story here. I am seeking to step back from the latest road block and understand the longer journey into leadership I have taken, and that I am yet to take, for the benefit of others, wherever and whenever they read or hear it.

Steve Jobs said “you can’t connect the dots looking forward, but you can connect dots looking backwards”. That could sound like the pompous and arrogant view of an uncaring baby boomer. It has the potential to come across as without empathy, to generations inheriting the tab, for a pandemic inspired recession, whose magnitude is only now becoming clear, and to environmental and social contexts that none of us are proud of.

My key intended message is in stark contrast to one associated with that image. So, if I can ask you to trust me on that, my ability to make sense of my career to date, and the lessons on leadership it has taught me, is made possible by taking a pause and reflecting on what has transpired over many years of working in universities. In that time, I have had the joy and pleasure to have interacted with countless brilliant and inspiring people. I am not sure how the cumulative story in this blog is going to end yet. I can’t wait to start writing it. And I’m excited about sharing through it, my views about leadership, the lessons I have learned, and the sense it makes to me.

What I do know is that at the heart of my story is empathy. This is something I have learnt through the foundations I have been so lucky to have been given, the lessons of what worked and what didn’t along the journey, and through seeing the value in asking questions and seeking feedback and seeing it as a gift. The over-riding message to me of joining the dots backward is that we are all different. What I have learnt along the way is the importance of empathetic leadership. I’m trying to get better at it.


#leadership #empathy #empatheticleadership

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