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Behind the Desk: Louise Macdonald OBE MIoD, Young Scot, Talks to IoD Scotland

19 Jan 2017

What is the greatest recurring challenge you come across in your role, and what’s your strategy for dealing with it?  

The central challenge – and grounding principle – for Young Scot is ensuring we always keep young people at the centre of everything we do. Not one of us at Young Scot forgets that for a moment. This is central to our new strategy for 2016 to 2019, which was launched early this year. This strategy is not just for young people; it was created through a co-design process with young people themselves. It is a strategy that belongs to them and their ambitions and aspirations.

What keeps you awake at night?

That so many young people are failing to meet their true potential and that we still have unacceptable levels of poverty and disadvantage holding them back. Far too often I meet amazing young people who simply need the opportunity and the space to thrive, yet it is still a challenge – especially for young women. 

What makes a good leader great?

A genuine understanding that it isn’t about you. Leadership is less about leading an army and more about cultivating a garden. I try hard to do more gardening... 

Even leaders aren’t the finished article.  What’s next in your leadership development journey?

I have been focusing on the role of a non-executive director through the fantastic IoD training, and have also developed my skills through on-going CPD accreditation with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, which has given me access to a specific skill set and learning materials in relation to stakeholder engagement and communications as an executive and non-executive director.  

What is your favourite social media platform, and what does it bring to your business/organisation?

Twitter is amazing. I am a bit of a techno-geek, and was an early adopter. I like it for lots of reasons, but specifically the way it helps me create new connections and how it ensures I am completely accessibly and accountable to young people. 

What needs to be fixed?

I am a firm supporter of the Scottish Government’s ambitions for 50:50 female-male representation on 
Boards by 2020. Accessing the talents of 50% of the population could transform Scotland in all kinds of ways, but female representation on Boards needs to be visible, so we can forge a leadership path for young women; they can’t aim for what they can’t see.

What leadership advice would you give your younger self?

To focus on developing others. The most important word in leadership is “we” – rarely “I”. The two most important words in leadership are “thank you”. 
The change that we wish to see in the lives of young people can only be delivered through a brilliant and committed staff team and my job is to nurture their skills and grow their capability.

About Louise

Name: Louise Macdonald OBE MIoD
Position: Chief Executive
Company: Young Scot
Number of employees: 45
Short overview of organisation: Young Scot is Scotland’s national youth information and citizenship charity, supporting young people aged 11-26 to make informed decisions and choices as they grow up. 

For more information, please contact

0131 557 5488


Branch and staff contacts can be found on the main Contacts tab

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