Ambassador Judith Gough discusses the art of diplomacy at Roschier leadership event

Insights|April 25, 2024

Judith Gough, the UK Ambassador to Sweden, captivated her audience at a Roschier leadership series event with insightful reflections on diplomatic leadership, which she characterizes as “acting without being seen.” In this article we share some of her thoughts on leadership strategies from her extensive diplomatic career.

Judith Gough, who has been serving as the Ambassador to Sweden since 2019, engaged in a thoughtful dialogue with Marie-Louise Kjellström from the Novare Leadership Academy. They discussed the new challenges diplomats face today and talked about how important diplomatic leadership is in maintaining international peace and cooperation, especially with ongoing issues like the war in Ukraine and tensions in the Middle East, China, and Taiwan.

Reflecting on significant global crises such as Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent increase in Sweden’s NATO membership, Ambassador Gough described her ambassadorial tenure as marked by substantial international events. With diplomacy heavily impacted by the pandemic – referred to by Gough as a “contact sport” – the constraints of travel restrictions and the shift to remote engagements posed unique challenges. Her prior role as the Ambassador to Ukraine from 2015 to 2019 provided her with critical perspectives on Russia’s 2022 invasion, enriching her understanding of the geopolitical landscape.

Throughout the session, Ambassador Gough emphasized the strategic nature of diplomacy, which she views as a “long game” reliant on well-founded reasoning and persuasive arguments. Addressing a query about representing policies personally disagreed with, she highlighted the ethical responsibility of diplomats as civil servants, suggesting that those inclined towards policy change should consider political careers.

Moreover, she stressed the importance of combining intellectual and emotional intelligence in leadership. Honest acknowledgment of challenges, she noted, is crucial for understanding their impact on people. Looking ahead, Gough underscored the growing necessity for expert knowledge and on-ground experience to combat misinformation and make informed decisions.

In her leadership philosophy, Gough acknowledged diverse leadership styles – from charisma-driven to expertise-leveraged approaches. She advocated for leaders to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, engage in active listening, and utilize collaborative skills to fully grasp complex situations. “The more I know, the better I get at my job,” Gough said, encapsulating her approach to continuous learning and adaptive problem-solving in her role.

Judith’s top leadership tips are:

  • Listen, the key to understanding both people and current events.
  • Be humble, understand your own limits.
  • Be visible, take your role seriously.
  • Take risks, embrace your mistakes, and learn from them.


Judith Gough has been the British Ambassador to Sweden since 2019. She has been active in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 2001, including serving as Ambassador to Ukraine, and has gained recognition in Sweden for her leadership, sharing her experiences in a noted Summer in P1 radio program in 2023 (in Swedish).

Roschier and leadership

This event was part of the leadership series that Roschier has arranged since autumn 2023. Previously instalments have been:

The eternal leadership – A discussion on leadership over time and generations

The ultimate leadership – a conversation with Hans Stråberg

Caroline Farberger and Annie Lööf on value-based leadership