Confident Welsh leaders truly transforming Wales

Once again, the annual Leading Wales Awards Lunch last week was a real celebration of leadership across all walks of life in Wales.

Award winning leaders this year included a head teacher, a probation officer, founder of an award-winning social enterprise, a managing director of a software company, and a frontline manager of a major banking group, an operations manager at a Power Station and another operations manager at a Valleys charity engaging many people in its local community.

They really couldn’t have come from more different backgrounds and sectors. Significantly, 6 of the 8 are women.

Despite being from such varied backgrounds and sectors the common ground for all the winners is a belief and confidence that what they are working towards is right; this is what drives them and enables them to be confident leaders. Each has a passionate belief in and commitment to a cause or business or community, a strong moral compass together with a real complexity of skills, attributes and knowledge.

For us to develop into the Wales We Really Want, to be a country that has built sustainable prosperity in terms of economic growth, Public Services, community regeneration and personal well-being, then confident and transformational leadership in all sectors and at all levels is essential.

Without doubt such leadership needs to do more than ensure that current targets are met and delivered upon. It must also engage the enthusiasms and motivation of others so that they contribute to creative and innovative ideas, services and products in order to help transform and ensure that their organisation or business has a sustainable future.

The Leading Wales Awards focuses on a rounded assessment of leadership and its impact seeking evidence of both transactional and transformational behaviours and activity.

Transactional leaders are very focused on organising and managing people and resources to achieve the agreed corporate goals and targets. They could be described as leading the service objectives and goals presently in hand. Transformational leaders develop and maintain the vision, having a clear idea of where they want to go, are passionate and motivating to others; they build trust. They are innovative and challenging. They are looking to build an ever better and stronger future for the business or organisation.

In other words, such “rounded” leadership is about “bringing home the bacon” now as well as making sure there will be more and improved “bacon to bring home” in the future i.e. both of the elements described above. To create the future, leaders need an aspirational vision which they are passionate about and they really do care about the people they work with and for.

I believe Wales needs to cultivate more transformational leadership while ensuring good transactional delivery as well. After 11 years of the Awards and the hundreds of nominations, 11 Judging Days and the extensive alumni of winners I am convinced that this is the kind of leadership that will help us build The Wales We Really Want.

Currently, leadership styles and delivery are, I believe, skewed to being over-focused on being transactional – we are incredibly good at setting targets, monitoring them and measuring progress. Necessary as this is, it does not inspire, engage others or motivate them; it does not help us create a sustainable future. This kind of leadership approach instead can often have the opposite effect, be de-motivating, making employees feel that “big brother” is simply checking on them all the time, that they are not trusted and not listened to since the priority is the current objectives and their delivery.

This emphasis on the “targets based” kind leadership does not engage hearts or even minds.  There is a real danger that it is the targets that drive the delivery and sight is lost of the values and purpose of the service or business or organisation. This is really dangerous – it can lead, as we saw with the Staffordshire NHS Trust and now again with the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Trust to seriously damage the very people the organisation is there to help. The real care, health and even very tragically lives, in some cases, of patients ended up being sacrificed to the “god of targets and monitoring”.

Welsh Government can set all the targets it likes in terms of health and education but unless those who work in these fields are inspired, trusted and motivated to engage those they work with and for – targets on their own don’t generate positive change. It is the leadership that makes the difference. To lead differently takes bravery, aspiration and confidence (rather than arrogance!) in one’s own values and beliefs.

Professor Laura McAllister in her Patrick Hannan lecture at Hay the other week offered her take on how “we might make Wales a more confident, more self-assured, more successful country. The critical ingredient that features in the admittedly rough and ready, rather personal recipe that I offer here is more confident leadership,” she said.

To me it seems that more confident leaders are those who really know who they are and what they stand for; they are able to fully embrace “transformational” styles of leadership, together with the transactional kind. Their clear and aspirational vision is communicated to others so that it engages them to be part of achieving it. They care passionately about their vision, but they also genuinely care about their employees, customers or clients. So they build a work place culture where people really know what’s expected of them, know how they contribute to the bigger picture, are encouraged to generate and share creative ideas and know they will be listened to. These confident leaders don’t feel they have to try and “know it all”; they trust the colleagues they’ve appointed with their individual specialist expertise and listen to them and genuinely work with them collaboratively. They are definitely not afraid to raise their head above the parapet and fight for what they believe in.

As Professor McAllister said, the leadership we need to make Wales a more confident and more successful country should be “Not just better than we currently have, but brave, visionary, ambitious, exemplary leadership, based on aspiration, confidence and a little bit of positively channelled anger!”

Well said, Laura! Let me just add the word “transformational” to your phrase of “confident” leaders. We need “transformational, confident leaders” I believe.

It is tempting to promote the gender issue here, with 6 out of the 8 of this year’s Leading Wales Awards winners being women. For me though the real issue to promote is that all the winners (irrespective of gender) are indeed “brave, visionary, ambitious, exemplary leaders based on aspiration, confidence and a little bit of positively channelled anger!” They also do not have big egos or a wish for “celebrity status”; they are very clear that it is not about them – it is about their cause and those for whom they work with and for.

Wales needs leaders in all walks of life, in all sectors, including political ones, who are absolutely clear about their values, have clarity and can articulate to others their sense of purpose and direction and who confidently lead with the right ingredients to deliver the recipe of transactional and transformational leadership.

These really are the leaders that are essential to building The Wales We Really Want!

May I personally congratulate all the winners and finalists of the 2015 Leading Wales Awards – who are all confident Welsh leaders transforming Wales.

The 2015 Leading Wales Awards winners are:

Leadership in the Public Sector

  • Joy Ballard, Headteacher, Willows High School, Cardiff

Leadership in Social Enterprise

  • Wendy Sadler, Director, science made simple

Leadership in Private Sector

  • Joanne Owen, Front Line Manager, Blackhorse, Lloyds Banking Group

Leadership in the Voluntary and Not for Profit Sector

  • Lindsay Bruce, CEO, NewLink Wales

Young Leader

  • Sam Lewis, Operations manager, Randomz Ltd

Next Generation Leader

  • John Burnett, Operations Section Head, RWE Generation

Women in Leadership:

  • Emma Powell, Director, Zipporah Ltd

Leadership for the Future

  • Wendy Hyett, Women’s Pathfinder Project Manager, Wales Community Rehabilitation Company
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1 Response to Confident Welsh leaders truly transforming Wales

  1. Pingback: Confident Leaders transforming Wales #supperconversationatffresh Monday 15th February | Reflections on Leading

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