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4 July 2016
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Brexit in the shadow of the Somme

This article is part of the Contemporary leadership series

On 24 June I woke to the seismic shock of the UK vote to exit the European Union. A week later, on July 1st 2016, at 7.28am I observed a two–minute silence held across the UK in memory of the 19,240 British soldiers killed by German machine guns on this single day, exactly 100 years ago.

The unimaginable horror of the Battle of the Somme not only gave the British their bloodiest day in military history, over five months the offensive led to 1.5 million young men (including 460,000 German and 420,000 British) being wounded or killed. Not much was gained from such enormous personal sacrifice. But the event changed Europe, brought down four European dynasties and has left the bones of a generation buried in the earth of northern France.

Deborah Rowland brings a unique combination of experience, insight and research to the leadership of change. She has personally led change in major global organisations including Shell, Gucci Group, BBC Worldwide and PepsiCo holding both Group HR and VP of Organisational & Management Development roles. She also founded and grew a consulting firm that pioneered research in the field, and is currently the Change Coach to the executive board of the German company RWE. She has a double first in archaeology and anthropology from Cambridge University – which continues to inform her work – and is the co-author of Sustaining Change: Leadership That Works (Wiley, 2008). She is a member of the Archbishop’s Review Group into leadership development in the Church of England. Her new book, Still Moving, is based on groundbreaking research into the realities of leading change and will be published in 2017.

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