exploring our Keys of Kindness together


Tertta Paananen

Tertta is a Resilient Leadership™ Mentor amongst our Resilient Leadership™ Community.

In this story Tertta shares her journey to discover her resilience, especially the many kindnesses that others showed her along the way.


I live in Finland and my guiding wisdom is Sisu. “Sisu” is a word that Finnish people use to describe the national character. It roughly translates to “guts,” but it’s honestly not as much about bravery as it is about determination, especially in the face of odds that can seem impossible. Fending off an invasion of a country 30 times your size in a subarctic winter: this is Sisu. Rising from your origins as a pulp-and-paper country to become a hub for tech innovation like Laura Olin’s company: this is Sisu. The other word that we Finnish people use for resilience is “Springsteel.”

For me as a farmer’s daughter, nature is very important. I like to work in my family farm’s home forest, maintaining its quality. My experiences in nature resonate deeply with me, so words like peak, flow, exceptional, awakening, synchronicity, mystical and spiritual describe them perfectly. What would be a nicer way to spend a summer day, than by picking berries and mushrooms from the farm and the home forest: blueberries, lingonberries, cloudberries, raspberries and strawberries. Also fishing on blue lakes with a small boat or wintertime ice fishing with the kicksledge. Finnish Sauna is also essential part of my life, wellbeing and relaxation. A Sauna is a small room or house designed as a place to experience dry or wet heat sessions. In wintertime after Sauna it is nice to go ice swimming.

My professional resilience was tested when I had to leave the state organisation for which I worked almost 15 years, and had no job. I moved back home to the region in Middle Finland where I grew up. I felt alone in my own company until a business friend – Adriaan Bekman – invited me to research for the horizontal leadership center – IMO Finland. Now we are 2 people in the IMO Finland team. It has been a long journey to create IMO Finland with colleagues as part of IMO International, but I enjoyed doing it. Now 10 years after beginning, I can say that horizontal leadership and organising and leading learning design is mainstream in Finland. My own work and IMO are now interconnected. I learn much resilience in IMO, which is now in many countries. We hold horizontal leadership in Finland, and I love the annual international conferences, which inspires us. Doing good in freedom, out of love towards others, in respect for all that is.

What I have learned from writing and telling my biography here is:
I know my boundaries clearly. I cultivate self awareness. I have peace and joy in my soul. I trust my self leadership. Stressful times give me good learning to find my inner peace, to have loving inner dialogue and loving dialogues with others. I love living in the countryside with its natural resilience like icy roads in the wintertime. Many good, strong people are around me — especially good for a single person with freedom.

My tough times made clear what nourishes me, and the riches I now have all around me.

The path comes into being by being trod upon,
By being discovered step by step.
Do not sit back and expect the path to appear of itself.
One has to begin, to move, to go somewhere to find it,
Even if the movement only means working toward a right attitude.
The inner compass can direct one in the right direction
So that outer movement is not senseless wandering.
— Claire Blatchford, ‘Friend of My Heart’

Wendy Campbell has supported me since 2018 with monthly dialogues for horizontal learning leading design with kindness and resilience.

Here is a short video about my Core Purpose, which keep my resilience strong:

Tertta Paananen, June 2020.