Category Archives: Leadership

The kind of leaders we love to work with – firm, fair and fabulous

Some of you are lucky to have worked with great leaders whose leadership style made you blossom. Your creativity and ideas were welcome, you felt as if you were growing every day. Others have had really bad experiences with managers who’s leadership behaviour kept everyone in their fear box. I’ve met both!

There are still many fear-driven leaders and managers who have no sense for the human pace when conducting their orchestras, they make people feel like a piece of meat being thrown to the wolves.

My blog post is about two people I once worked with and what they did to make their team members prosper. It was in different jobs and different positions. One in Sweden and one in the UK. One male and one female manager.

It’s interesting that they had common traits, but very different personalities, and working with them made me super effective and creative. You might have had a similar experience, it’s worth noting what it was in the person’s behaviour that made you thrive. 

They both did small gentle things that empowered people around them – nothing big or miraculous. A nice chat in the morning could set you off for the day. 

They organised regular weekly team meetings where we all could share what we were working on and what we struggled with. The team meetings were well organised, everyone came prepared and we ended on time.

Thanks to the weekly meeting knowledge was shared with everyone, and if anyone wasn’t in the room they could call in from where they were. Notes were taken and shared, and people took action on what they promised. 

Both of them were having lunch with people in their team on a regular basis. They shared their stories, dreams and issues. Openness was key in both their personalities.

I wouldn’t call any of them a technical geniuses, and they were definitely not technophobes, but very open to new ideas and to try new solutions.

Both of them were straight in their communication and if something was BS they would say it out loud.

When planning the year ahead they both arranged several training days for their teams; if you book, plan and pay this ahead it’s hard to cut training out of the budget.

They also remembered what they promised. It made them reliable, every promise counts and ads to your credibility and can also destroy your credibility when you break one. People with bad memory and poor excuses are very distressing to work with.

What they both did were easy and doable management tricks, and there were no fear based patterns involved. None of them used to refer to any leadership gurus or books. They were firm, fair and fabulous. 

They were using their own gut feeling about how to get people to contribute and share ideas, and I always felt as:

‘I have freedom with lots of accountability, better focus now.’ 

It might have been their extraordinary determination to always share knowledge that made everyone work so hard, I’m guessing, but when someone lets knowledge flow and be shared it excites people.

A successful tribe in the beginning of human life here on Earth must have been working in this way – sharing their knowledge and recourses freely.

Thoughtless management style can easily break down a team and its people, that kind of leadership style belongs to the beginning of the industrialism era, but unfortunately this kind of behaviour is still around. moon tree people

As humans we shine together as the moon and stars, both dependent on each other to shimmer.

Thank you to my past managers for showing strong leadership qualities, I will never forget.  

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Thank you for reading. Sofie


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Having an impact, being daring and self-leadership

I was at a course a few weeks ago and one of the delegates stood up and said with a shaky voice: ‘I choose to express myself creatively because I want to be remembered.’ What she said made me think deeply about having an impact on the world around us and what being daring means. A door opening to new possibilities

Having an impact

To have an impact is to change something. You are opening up people’s perceptions and driving something forward. It can also be to create a piece of art that communicates in different ways, whether it be a poem, painting or music.

Most people enjoy working with enthusiastic people so, when you can, work on projects that you are enthusiastic about and the people around you will feel your enthusiasm and it will inspire them to work with you. There will always be people working against you if you try to have an impact, and you need to be good at ‘farming’ your network. You need to focus on the people who work with you, not against you.


When I’ve been involved in a project that has had an impact I’ve always spent a lot of time doing research about the need for the project: Why do we need to do it? What will happen if we don’t do anything?

When you have the facts on the table and the ‘why’ is very clear, then you have enough behind you to move the project forward. It becomes very difficult for people who are risk-averse to say no when you have facts on the table.

High expectations

I once met a spiritual teacher who I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with and she said: ‘You only get what you ask for, nothing else.’ This is a mantra that I love to keep in my mind. There are still days when I don’t dare to ask for anything, but when I consider how to formulate an idea this mantra helps me to ask better questions.

Formulating interesting questions, high expectations and setting brave goals are contagious and the people with the right skills will be queuing up to join you in your project.

The magic of collaboration

There is nothing better than great collaboration, and there is nothing worse than unsuccessful collaboration. In life and at work we experience both. It’s impossible to predict which collaborations will work and which won’t work. But being an impatient person who never listens to anyone else is a great collaboration killer.

I like to work with people who are honest and driven by their own values. When I know ‘why’ they are doing what they are doing and there is no hidden agenda then it becomes a pleasure to work with them.

Whats stopping you?

Fear of doing something wrong that other people can criticise you for is probably what stops most people from having an impact and being daring.

Having an impact often involves ‘being the blue monkey’ and sticking out from the crowd. This can be very uncomfortable in the beginning and some people (and maybe yourself) will try to hold you back.

One of my favourite quotes goes something like: ‘Jump off the mountain and build your wings on your way down.’ We are smart and creative humans and if there is a problem we will find a way to solve it. When I was younger I used to love thinking about this quote and that the skills and resources I would need in the future would be around me when I jumped.

Are we ever ready?

When climbing the career ladder some choose to wait until they reach the top to say what they think. They wait for that ‘moment’ when you are allowed to start influencing others. I don’t think things work this way at all. People on the top who challenge what is going on around them have already done this on many occasions in their careers and lives. They started early. The higher you climb the more conflicts, change and turbulence you need to be able to handle.

There is one rule with power, and that is that the more power you have, the more smart people who want some of your power will surround you.

To become a person who has an impact you have to get your fingers burned a few times. It will hurt, but if you want to take the lead and be impactful you have to be daring over and over again.

Skills are always developed

You’ll improve your impact skills over time. Even though you may not always feel you are progressing, we are blessed and we learn new things every day.

Protect your mind from people who think there is a gold medal for being the most negative person in the room. They have probably never done anything that’s outstanding and creative, and they are just trying to make themselves feel good by holding you down .

It takes practice to become an impactful person, and you have to take some risks to do it.

Your life mission

The person I met on the course who said she wanted to be remembered was talking about what will happen when she is not with us any longer. Will anyone remember her? This is a big question, and there are many creative and impactful people who think about this.

Two other thought-provoking questions are:

  • Do you want your life to be remembered as useful to humanity?
  • In what way would you like it to be useful?

Many people do everything their way in order to feel peaceful in their own mind and they never really connect with the rest of the world. They avoid reading the news, and they are scared of negativity and spend a lot of time trying to feel as comfortable as possible thinking only about themselves.

If you want to feel spiritually connected with the rest of the world you have to engage with it fully, both with the good and the bad things that are happening here and now. There is more to life than trying to feel totally enlightened in your own perfect karma cloud.

Being daring is also about caring. Without caring about others you will find it hard to have a lasting impact.

I often think about who I would like to be remembered as; a person who was quiet and didn’t do something about what is happening in the world or a person who influenced and improved the world? Most days I choose to be the latter person.

Being daring starts from deep within and being impactful starts in your mind. Self-leadership is about stretching your mind about what’s possible. It takes training to be good at that.

Exercise your brain on a regular basis and talk to people who will give you energy to dare more, care more and do more.

…dare more, care more and do more.

This post was first published on LinkedIn, head over there to read some of the comments.


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Digital leadership, innovation and collaboration

When working in digital and creative jobs in any organisations you have to be innovative, brave and daring enough to take risks when you introduce new digital ideas.

Still there are many people fearing new technology and that stops development and can make an entire organisation to a stand still. Standing still and not developing a project during just a few months can be devastating in digital.

Consumers are becoming increasingly demanding (maybe you’ve noticed that yourself!) and to keep your clients happy you need to explore new techniques and new ways to connect.

When you discover new ways to do business you will most likely use digital tools, for example, to establish new ways of trading, new ways of managing customer service and even in the creation of new products.

Businesses that do well are often ahead of the game, use technology well and show the way forward for others. These businesses are not waiting on anyone else or to learn from, they don’t want to copy ‘best practice’ before they take action. They make mistakes, learn from them and then move on to the next project.

An organisation that manages innovation well also knows how creativity works. We lose a lot of our natural creativity during our school years. After being told to do things in a certain way in school we don’t dare to explore things anymore. We try our best to fit in and to not stick out.

Sofie Sandell creativity image

Innovation and creativity are not comfortable

When you break a pattern or try out something new you stick out, and you might find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. If innovation feels comfortable you are probably not innovating, it’s business as usual you are doing. 

You can be lucky and have a team and environment that support you, that’s ideal but far from reality. The opposite might happen, people make fun of you and turn you down which results in you stop trying. Who would dare to be creative in an environment like that anyway? To be creative take a lot of energy on all levels, and with little support it can feel as it’s impossible. 

The ability to be creative is dependent on good communication with your team and shared values and beliefs that will drive you forward, as well as leadership that will quickly forgive you if you mess things up.

I interviewed PA Ståhlberg, Swedish creativity expert and he said: “If you want real creativity, you have to goof!” You might feel uncomfortable making mistakes, but his recipe for success calls for at least three mistakes per month. He said this to me a couple of years ago, now we need to explore ideas even quicker and goof up more often. 

Digital leadership is about knowing what motivates people and how to create an environment that will help the organisation in the long run. 

Language and creativity

When you work in a team one thing that really matters in regards to how creative you feel and dare to be is language. When someone is suggesting an improvement or a new idea, take the time and listen to what your colleague has to say and encourage them to tell you more.

Sometimes we are so busy that the way we communicate with others stops all kinds of flow and creativity and we won’t even spend two minutes listening to our colleagues. If this happens often you will soon see the results: bureaucratic inertia. It’s as if some people have a shell around them and will not let in any new ideas. 

Equally, we often evaluate an idea when the idea is too small and weak to survive criticism. I’ve made this mistake many times and presented a new idea to the kind of people who think that gold medals are awarded for being the most critical person in a business.

When you have a new idea or project you need to give it time to grow stronger and you need to share it with people who will give good input. Then, when it’s well-equipped for scrutiny, you can share it with the people who don’t know how to nurture ideas.

The art of collaboration

All organisations and people benefit from better collaboration, internally and externally. One way of helping creativity to flow is to form better relationships with the people around you. Then when you have a challenge you have more people to ask for help and they will be likely to help you out.

Today digital skills are essential in any profession. Use them intelligently and you will be one step ahead. 

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11 difficult & time-consuming ways to boost your social media strategy

I’m tired of posts that share ‘10 easy ways to boost your social media strategy’. Being great at communication is never easy. Sorry, but it isn’t, never ever. It takes effort, engagement and a big dose of endurance to be great at any kind of communication.

I’ve listed some of the headlines that most annoy me below. I found them by randomly searching on Google for ‘easy ways’ to boost your social media strategy.

‘7 Easy Ways To Boost Social Engagement Today’

‘5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Social Media Marketing’

‘8 Guaranteed Ways to Increase Social Media Reach’

‘11 Incredibly Easy Ways to Improve Social Media Results’

The formula: no effort = great results. This is very rarely true in any context.

I teach large organisations how to manage their social media strategy. Not a single person has ever said it’s easy, quick or simple to do. Nope, not a single one, and I’ve met hundreds of social media managers, digital marketers, and brand managers.

Here are my difficult, time-consuming but dynamic tips to boost your social media strategy:

1) Learn about your values and what you stand for. Get your organisation to agree what these values are and what they mean to you as a group. Being a great communicator always starts with knowing yourself.

2) Get to know who your stakeholders are whether they be online, offline, internal, external or previous or future partners. Have a clear picture of who you are trying to communicate with; this will help you and your team to visualize what you are trying to say.

3) Build a rapport with all teams in your organisation so they will want to get involved. A great social media strategy is about having everyone in an organisation take an active role by being present in social media networks, participating in discussions, sharing content and making sure content is reaching the right people.

4) Attract (and keep) some amazing writers and storytellers to your team. Your words and messages matter in social media. Creating online messages that people want to share is not easy. There is plenty of content online and every word you share must be special.

5) Follow the news. Find an interesting twist on relevant news stories and share your opinion about it on your social media channels (great social media managers are the first to do this). In social media we like to follow people/organisations that have an opinion. Pale, vanilla, boring comments never make an impact online. In situations like this it comes in handy to know your values, and which side you are on.

6) Always keep an eye out for new trends. The day you lose sights of what’s happening in the world you will be behind. Also, follow the changes in how your online communities behave. People’s online behaviour is constantly shifting.

7) Ensure your team are great at image creation and photo management so your online images always look impressive. Some team members need to be fluent in Photoshop and similar design programmes.

8) Know the online privacy laws of every country you are present in, and keep everyone in your team updated about them. Build report and trust with the legal team so they feel contented about your online communication.

9) Create social media guidelines that people can, and will read and understand.

10) Become a big data ninja and learn how to interpret the numbers that all our social media networks spit out. Measure only the KPIs that matter so that you are not spending too much time interpreting numbers that won’t help you improve your online activities.

11) Convince leadership and the finance department that they should invest more money and resources in digital strategy next year, the year after and every year after that. Plan to recruit more team members and get leadership to support the idea that reaching out and staying involved in social media is the right way to go.


The web reflects a complex society that is hard to navigate. In large organisations you have multiple social media accounts in different languages and operating in different time zones. Never trust anyone who says it’s easy to mange your social media strategy, or that a few quick fixes will do it. It isn’t, and quick fixes won’t help.

If you want to stick out in the mega-busy world of the web you need to work on your organisation’s social media skills and inspire other people around your to do the same.

Dig deep and do things that are challenging and time-consuming if you are serious about boosting your social media strategy.

When you are comfortable and don’t feel that working with the web and social media is perplex and confusing you are probably not learning, expanding and reaching as far as you could.


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Are we all inspiration junkies searching for ways to engage our mind?

Is inspiration something that comes from the outside or within? What inspires you and engages your mind and spirit? I’ve been thinking a lot about that when speaking at events and delivering training.

Does inspiration come to you when you focus and pay attention? Or does a big energetic source, like a powerful person, have to be there to inspire you?

The more I think about it the more I’m convinced that inspiration comes to us when we open our minds and let it in. Exactly how that happens is hard to explain, but it’s often a result of meaningful interactions with others.

I heard another professional speaker say that we are all inspiration junkies and just want more and more and more of the ‘drug of inspiration’. There is new inspiration everywhere, do you agree?

In today’s world, where more and more people are getting depressed and burned out what matters then? I also just read in a report that the most common reason for sick leave in Sweden is mental illness.

Will all these inspiring messages matter then?

I’m not sure they will.

What I think will matter more is people who care. People who know how to share ideas in an inspiring way. People who can help you believe in yourself. Engaged leaders.

Let’s hope the next leadership trend will be to learn more about the rules of true engagement?

According to research by Gallup in the US only 30% of all managers are engaged at work.

Here are key fact from the research:

  • 51% of managers are not engaged; 14% are actively disengaged
  • Disengaged managers create disengaged employees
  • Only 30% of U.S. workers are engaged

Another term for the magic of engagement could be ‘one-to-one leadership’, or ‘small team leadership’.

If so many are suffering from mental fatigue due to bad leadership and too much information, the way you share your message and communicate are more important than ever.

What we need to do is to choose more wisely what we focus on and we need to start paying more attention to what we listen to. Another factor that will improve your mental state is to recognize what disengage you at work and in life. Personal insights and knowing what you can do to make things better is always helpful.

To feel good in both mind and body we need to stay connected to our own ideas and ourselves, and we must connect with the people we have around us at work to create a job that is meaningful.

Disengaged managers create disengaged teams. And we can all imagine what this is doing to productivity, creativity and profit.

And a final question, is our need for new inspiration a substitution of engaged leadership?


My next challenge is to learn more about mindfulness and I recommend you google ‘mark williams mindfulness youtube’ and you will find some of his interesting talks.

Stay mindful!

Thank you for reading, Sofie.

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From the Gallup research Only 35% of U.S. Managers Are Engaged in Their Jobs

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9 behaviours that leaders we admire have in common

I often ask people to describe the behaviour of great leaders. And I don’t mean famous leaders; I mean leaders that people have been close to in their life – at work or in any similar situation.

I’ve asked people about leadership behaviours for years and the answers I’ve received have been the same in every part of the world I’ve visited.

Bad leaders

Bad leaders are driven by anger, revenge or arrogance, or it might even be inertia dominating a bad leader’s personality. I have met leaders like this. You might have too. We know that they do not have a positive impact on any team or organisation.

Here are nine behaviours that the leaders we admire have in common; and all points have been made again and again by people I have met and worked with.

  1. The best leaders make you feel included in the work that is being doneand you know that your support and engagement is acknowledged. Great leaders give you feedback and also share positive feedback about you in public. Poor leaders do the opposite. They make you feel excluded, unsupported and share negative feedback in public.
  2. Leaders we love freely share their knowledge and do not withhold important information. If anyone has a question they recognise the question and give a respectful answer. When someone does not share knowledge or makes somebody else feel stupid because they do not understand, this is bullying behaviour, and it sucks.
  3. Quick responses to emails are appreciated and show that leaders are quick to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to requests and that they will not make you wait for a decision or advice. Quick and effective communication is a way of sharing power. Delaying an answer can be a way of misusing power.
  4. People often tell me that the best leaders they have worked with are pioneers; they are curious and explore innovative ways of working. It’s inspiring to be around people who explore new possibilities.
  5. Leaders that we love to work with know how to manage human energyand they let everyone be heard on a regular basis. To do this requires structure and listening skills, and people who are bad leaders are often bad listeners and are scared of structure.
  6. Leaders we admire are also great at managing people’s new ideas. They know that it takes time for new ideas to grow and develop and they help people to feel good about trying new things. In an organisation that is dominated by a blame culture you will feel like the most unsuccessful person on earth if your new idea doesn’t work out as planned. Leaders we love know that people with a different perspective might come up with the best solution to a problem being faced.
  7. We love to work with leaders who support us even when things feel a bit wobbly. Office politics can make us feel insecure – leaders we love to work with will stand behind us even on a stormy day.
  8. Being fair is a behaviour that many people mention as important.Inspiring leaders have a sense of what is fair and what will benefit the whole team. It takes great communication skills to be a fair leader, and you have to explain why you do what you do – it’s about being honest with your intentions and clearly explaining them to your team.
  9. Two words that support great leadership are ‘thank you’ – a phrase that bad leaders seldom use. Better to say ‘thank you’ too often than too seldom.

Basic human needs

Feeling valued and included are two basic human needs that great leaders satisfy in us. When you feel as though nobody is listening to you and you are not part of something bigger, you stop engaging and contributing. For everyone it’s important to be engaged in something and to feel that you contribute and this will make you feel part of something bigger.

Follow other great leaders

Another thought I have about great leaders is that they in their turn have followed other great leaders. So, honour the skills you learn from the leaders you love working with and behave the same way towards the people you have around you as the leaders you admire behave towards you.

Pass on your leadership skills to others. Leadership in action can be powerful.

Always aim for better communication

In all organisations, cities, countries and families, in fact in any kind of situation that unites people, there will be communication issues. All human beings can improve their communication skills in different ways. Leaders who are aware of this are more humble and make sure that people really understand their message.

Unfortunately, there are many leaders who lead by aggression and rage. They are not healthy leaders and they will not help the people and organisation they lead to flourish.

Learn, share and influence

We must do our best to prevent bad leaders from stealing power from us. You can learn new leadership skills from the people you meet and work with – both what to do and what not to do – and remember that your leadership behaviour influences the network of people you have around you.

Thank you for reading.

Sofie Sandell

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Sofie Sandell is a professional speaker and the author of the book Digital Leadership – you can download a free PDF on here or buy a hard copy or Kindle on Amazon.

Sofie Sandell portrait

Photographer Katja Rangstam

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Are you a thoughtleader?

Thoughtleaders is one of these words that we love to say it but we use it in a sloppy way and don’t say what we mean with it. It’s a buzzword and I recently read in the Harvard Business Review that it’s one of those words that have been gaining enormous popularity over the last few decades. I thought I should bring a bit of clarity and share what I mean with thoughtleadership and thoughtleaders.

Mindy Gibbins-Klein, who is a thought leadership strategist and runs a publishing company says: ‘You can’t claim yourself that you are a thoughtleader.’ I agree with her. To be recognised as a thoughtleader others around you must see that you have the desire to be one and will to work hard to stay where you are. Being a thoughtleader means that you exercise your mind, thoughts and ideas all the time and know what’s going on in your area of expertise.

Here are some thoughts on what a thoughtleader is that can be used as a guide:

  • Thoughtleaders are experts in their subject area and other experts go to them for inspiration and to expand their knowledge and awareness.
  • Thoughtleaders take time to develop new thoughts and ideas every day. They try out their new ideas on people they know and often discuss old topics in a new context.
  • Thoughtleaders are creative about the problems they meet in life. They don’t believe in “old truths” such as “we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work so we won’t try it again”.
  • Creativity is a gift and, on a deep, personal level, people who are thoughtleaders nurture their creativity in ways that are good for their mind, heart and soul.
  • Thoughtleaders ignite their ideas by imagining the future and research. They may do this research themselves or it may be other people’s research, but they explain it well to the world.
  • Sharing is caring and thoughtleaders show the world that they care by publishing and sharing their ideas widely. You can share your ideas through articles, blogs, regular newsletters, books, webinars, videos, talks and workshops. There are plenty of ways to share your ideas; I have only named a few here. The Web is a gift and there are thousands of ways to use it to share your ideas.
  • For me a thoughtleader shares their knowledge without making it into a long sales pitch. I see many speakers at events who just try to convince the audience to purchase their products. This is tiring and not thoughtleadership.
  • Passion can often be equal to life-energy, the thing that makes you work extra hard. A thoughtleader is often driven by his or her passion about a topic and thrives on sharing this passion with others. Passion is contagious and people who meet a passionate thoughtleader will want to learn more after reading about or hearing their ideas.
  • The ethics of thoughtleadership is an area that you have to take personal responsibility for. You need to test the field and engage in conversations with fellow experts. This is why networking and connections are vital.
  • Thoughtleaders are having imaginative ideas what the future might look like. I once went to a panel discussion and there were four men who were “social media experts” and none of them dared to say what they thought the future of social media would look like, they were very blend. This is not thoughtleadership either. You take a risk my guessing what the future will look like and you are brave enough to take that risk and share your thoughts if you are a thoughtleader.
  • As with leaders, thoughtleaders are not born, they are made.

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Sofie Sandell portrait

Photographer Sandra Donskyte


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Digital democracy? Yes please!

Last week I attended the annual Digital Leaders lecture in London and the topic for this year was Digital Democracy.

Chloe Smith, a UK member of the parliament, hosted the event and did an excellent job as emcee.

Helen Milner from the Tinder Foundation, a not-for-profit social enterprise that makes good things happen through digital technology, kicked off the evening by talking about what digital democracy means. She said:

‘Digital technology is just a tool and it exists because people use it.’

Did you know that there are still about 10 million people in the UK who can’t use the internet and have no clue about how to connect online? This number is probably similar in other parts of the Western world. It is a big problem and a lot of education is needed to give more people access to the web.

One thing about politics that I’ve been pondering is that I have no idea what the politicians in my community are doing. I’m sure they are working very hard, but I don’t know at what. Do you, for instance, know what the councillors in your community are going to discuss today and the rest of the week? If not, why not? If you live in a country that functions based on democratic principles you should know what they are going to discuss.

One idea that was shared by a politician at the lecture was:

‘Why don’t we have a Facebook group that is there for the weekly topics that parliament will discuss? Politicians can choose to take part or to just read the comments and ideas before they go into parliament.’

This is an excellent idea that would close the gap between people and political decision-makers.

We live in a world of too much information, and the current digital tools being used are not working when it comes to communication. Who doesn’t get too many emails? Members of parliament and other government officials are swamped by all the communication they receive. We must remember that politicians are people and there is a limit to how much communication they can handle.

How to make sense of all the information on the web is a huge problem for everyone. Where I hang out this is often referred to as the Big Data Challenge and it includes all the information that’s stored digitally, such as numbers and other data. How can politicians use big data and make sense of it?

I asked a question at the end of the lecture. I always do my best to ask questions that are short and relevant and make the panellists look good. I asked:

‘Who is your role-model in digital engagement? Who does it really well? It can be a person or an organisation anywhere in the world.’

One of the people that were mentioned was MP Robert Halfon, and his Twitter account.

An organisation that was mentioned was the Net Party in Argentina and the online platform DemocracyOS. DemocracyOS is an open-source platform for voting and political debate that political parties and governments can download, install and repurpose much like WordPress blogging software. Check out their platform DemocracyOS and watch founder Pia Mancini’s TED talk here.

‘Technology has the power to change lives – but it can be most effective when it’s put to use in communities, inspiring people to come together and bring about change.’ Lord Knight of Weymouth, Chairman, Tinder Foundation.

If we ever will reach digital democracy we must get more people and politicians to use the digital tool smarter and better.

And leaders must always explore how technology can help them to better understand society.

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Sofie Sandell by the river in London

Photographer Sandra Donskyte

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Whose responsibility is it to stop bullying?

In the last few months one of my friends has cried on my shoulder because of her manager at work. Specifically, she was bullied. Over and over again she was humiliated and felt as though all her self-worth was gone. Image is a keyboard with a red key saying bullying instead of enter

She also got ill, very ill.

My friend, who was in an international senior role, broke down completely at work, got physically ill, got burned out and even clinically depressed after being treated unfairly.

In her case the bullying manager had taken a dislike to her from the beginning and got upset because my friend could not read her thoughts and understand what she meant, when what she ‘meant’ had never actually been communicated. When my friend spoke in meetings her manager would roll her eyes, never giving her a chance to feel comfortable.

Why do we put up with this behaviour time and time again?

Same plot, same characters and same results.

Who should do something about it?

Ultimately, the head of the organisation, the CEO, the MD or whoever’s at the top, should take the lead in highlighting that bullying colleagues is unacceptable.

I once had a bad manager who was acting as a bulldozer. He had been setting very unfair goals and had given me tasks that were not at all in line with my skills. I called the global HR department and asked if my manager’s behaviour was something that was acceptable. The HR person’s reply was: ‘We would never tolerate this kind of unfair behaviour.’ When I spoke to an HR person based in London the comment was: ‘Well, that kind of behaviour is not uncommon here.’

Mixed messages about what kind of behaviour is acceptable is why you need the head of an organisation to lead change.

Having people become ill and depressed is not the way forward and does not create good leadership models.

Can we prevent bullying from happening? Or, is it human nature to bully each other?

Being a greedy, ruthless and intolerant hypocrite is not something that is needed or appreciated in 2015. Having a bully leading a team sucks energy away from everyone. What we need are organisations that work well on all levels, otherwise they won’t survive.

We want to work with people who behave in a trustworthy way and who display credibility and competence.

Nothing new here, but what we need is long-term planning that takes into account everyone’s interests, health and happiness.

Even the most aggressive person can change but only if they are motivated to do so. We all have dark sides to our personalities but you can learn how to be in control.

One simple thing you can do is to study your own behaviour and emotions. Awareness of how you behave as a leader is key for your ability to lead.

Leaders who are in denial that bullying is happening right in front of them, and then act in a cowardly way contribute to people falling ill. This kind of leaders only plan for the next few years in their career, and that doesn’t include health and joy for everyone in the organisation.

A short-term perspective will only add to problems and will never allow anyone go deep enough to find a solution.

Time goes fast, so spend it with people who are good to you. My friend I mentioned earlier left her job and is exploring a new career path. And I will continue to listen to friends who have issues at work, my shoulder will always to be there to cry on.


If you would like to read more about how to handle bullying at work you can download information from the CIPD. I found the material and case studies well worth reading.

This article was first published in The London Business Journal.

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Sofie Sandell by the Southbank in London

Photographer Sandra Donskyte

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Different kind of members – membership strategy & leadership

I’m off to talk about Junior Chamber International (JCI) London’s journey, membership growth and leadership in Antwerp, Belgium today. It’s JCI Vlaanderen’s inspiration day.

All membership based organisation around the world, they have the same kind of issues:

  • They want more members
  • They want more engaged members
  • They want members to stay longer
  • And they want to build better relationships with their sponsors and partners.

Do you agree?

In my experience the membership is made up of a few different types of members.

Here are the ten most common:

1) Lifelong learners (not only focused on their profession)

2) Information consumers – always learning about whatever through books, seminars, online courses…

3) Continual professional development members

4) Aspiring leaders and thought leaders. Raising their profile in their industry and community from their membership and involvement

5) The networkers and connectors

6) The CV members – JCI looks great!

7) The activists, mission and purpose members. They LOVE JCI!

8) Happy to pay but don’t want to be involved members

9) Money savers – want the discount on JCI courses and conferences.

10) You “should” join members. Told by others they should join.

Who are you?

You can download some free recourses on my website here that will help you to grow your membership.

The world need more leaders and we can all develop our leadership skills.

Sofie Sandell is a professional speaker and the author of the book Digital Leadership. Read more at And connect on Twitter @soffi_proppand Instagram

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Sofie Sandell giving a talk in Belgium

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Social Media Q&A

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