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30 May 2018
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Lilly Lecture 2018 summary and video

This year’s Lilly lecture was delivered by Professor Megan Reitz, Associate Professor of Leadership and Dialogue for Ashridge Business School.

Prof Reitz has led Speaking truth to power, for the past three or four years to investigate what happens in teams and organisations “when people can talk about things”. Inevitably, she explains, it’s all about power: how power is constructed and how to negotiate the power differences in order to speak up, as well as listen.

Prof Reitz talked about applying a “truth framework” between the speaking-up and the listening, in order to achieve a level of trust that is still not without risk – as illustrated by Charles Handy’s point: “The world may admire the truth-tellers, but few will want to employ them.” The struggle comes with the realisation of having to say something and dealing with the consequences that go with that. Prof Reitz went on to explain how ‘labels’ emanating from status and authority and ‘traps’, such as doubt, offer additional obstructions to understanding the political games played within organisations and how they affect what can and cannot be said.

Ultimately, how does our power silence others or invite others? Do we know the signals we send out, if so, can we amend them?

Prof Reitz covered some pithy, relevant issues affecting the medical profession, but delivered them in a highly entertaining manner. Her points about speaking up, “taking place somewhere between courage and invitation”, and the judicious use of ‘silence’ we impose on ourselves resonated with many in the audience.

The annual Lilly lecture was established by Eli Lilly & Company with the Royal College of Physicians in 1966 and since 2011 has focused on medical leadership to support the work of FMLM. 

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