Those We Can Learn From

I want to dedicate this fortnight’s blog to Kate Gross.

Until very recently, Kate was a senior Civil Servant in the UK Government.  She was a stellar performer.

In Kate Grossher twenties, she advised both UK prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Kate was responsible for preparing the Prime Ministers for all their appearances in Parliament. Most of her time was spent on the weekly Prime Ministers’ Questions, which every prime minister in history has dreaded.

Aged 30, Kate went on to become CEO of the Africa Governance Initiative, where she advised governments of Liberia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone on how to shape a better future for their people.

Kate was one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40. She and her peers have inspired change that transcends borders.

Kate died on Christmas Day of colon cancer, aged 36.

The reason I want to dedicate this blog to Kate, for whom I had the highest admiration, and who leaves behind  five year old twin sons Oscar and Issac and husband Billy, is that in addition to being all the above, she was also an exemplary communicator.

Kate had a connection with people and a way with words – spoken and written – that made her a natural counsellor and a born leader.

If you want to understand some of Kate’s talent for communication, read her blog which detailed her illness in an informative, evocative way but without self pity – and with plenty of ironic humour for which we Brits are probably famous.

Her piece in The Times, published in mid-December ( you will need to be a subscriber) is also worth reading.   And her book, Late Fragments, is published in early January.

Kate began to write as a gift to herself; a reminder that she could create even as her body began to self-destruct.

I can’t yet think about reading the book myself.  Things are too raw.  But I know it’s not a conventional cancer memoir; nor is it filled with medical jargon or misery. Instead, it aspires for Kate to give hope and purpose to the lives of her readers, even as her own life drew to its close.

I mourn Kate’s passing, reflecting on a tragic loss of what could have been.

But I also celebrate the fact that she was someone I was proud to learn from and who inspired me to be better at what I do.

Kate’s natural talent for explaining the complex in a simple way, and for leading without any pretences, was an opportunity for communicators to practise what I call ‘good grace’.

For, however good we all may be as communications practitioners – and even more, how much we think we are – the fact that communication is a central business discipline means there is always someone, somewhere in business we, too, can learn from.

Kate, rest in peace. I was privileged to know you.

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