2005 Winners & Shortlisted


Public Sector

Alistair Neill, Chief Executive, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough

Winner
Two years ago, Alistair took on ‘the toughest job in local government’ after spending 21 years in the private sector.

He’s worked in 28 countries, turned around multi-million pound international businesses and recovered from malaria, but for Alistair, taking on the role of chief executive at Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council was his greatest challenge.

He said: “I relished the opportunity of leading the council forward into a new future. I knew it would be a challenge to turn around its fortunes, but I was looking forward to it.”

Prior to his move into the public sector, Alistair ran the divisional BP operations in Asia-Pacific and later turned around a failing US multi-national business with annual losses of $35 million.

But after starting a family and becoming increasingly aware of such local council issues as schooling and transport, Alistair decided it was time he got involved.

Bryn Davies, Principal, The College Ystrad Mynach

Scaling mountains as a solo climber in his youth, Bryn Davies learned early on how to make quick decisions and act without hesitation. Now, as principal of a large college, Bryn declares, “the buck stops with me,” and he knows he must be quick-witted to stay ahead of the game.

Still a lover of the outdoors (he has plans to sail a new 21-foot yacht later this year), Bryn ranks his introduction of a massive culture change at The College Ystrad Mynach as his greatest business achievement.

Injecting innovation into the sleepy routines and practices that existed when he joined in 1997, Bryn has succeeded in encouraging and empowering staff at the College to make big changes.

“Together, we have trebled income and the number of staff as well as dramatically increased the number of courses we offer.”

‘Management by walkabout’ is how Bryn describes his leadership style. “Being accountable for 12,000 students and 800 staff is hard to do from the confines of your office. So I try and get out and about, to chat to people and offer
solutions. “.

Not only has Bryn changed the environment within the College, but has literally laid new foundations on which to build for the future. Working directly with surveyors to pioneer a redesign of the College buildings, the new exterior features a large mural depicting the tail plane of a 747 aircraft. “I wanted to feature something bold that shows we are a college of the twenty-first century, a college of the future.”

Bryn is inspired by a self-belief that he can make a difference. He enjoys the challenge of making changes that have a beneficial outcome and a positive effect on people’s lives.

After completing a politics degree, Bryn spent time working as a civil servant before teaching English and communications to people ranging in age from 16 to 40. He then spotted a lucrative gap in the market to co-ordinate training placements for companies. Using his knowledge and expertise in education, Bryn set up a business. His workforce quickly grew to 26 staff operating across five towns, and the organisation helped over 500 youngsters and 500 adults to embark on apprenticeships and employment.

It wasn’t long before Bryn was headhunted away from his own company and lured into academia, where he catapulted himself into roles of increasing responsibility. He believes his compassion for others and ability to laugh at himself helped him progress in becoming a leader.

“I see my role as representing everyone in the College. I must steer the direction and pave the way for people. A good leader develops a vision, and impassions others to deliver.

“Knowing when to stop nurturing people is the hardest lesson in leadership!” Bryn said. “You work with people and encourage them, but you can’t do it all yourself. Leadership is about teaching what you know, and giving people the space to grow to develop ideas by themselves.”

Martin Yones, head of business development and technology, nominated Bryn for the Leading Wales Awards, describing him as an unconventional leader with a left-field approach. Martin explained: “Bryn commissioned a painting of the college which features nearly 300 full-time staff. On closer inspection, you can see that Bryn appears more than once, dotted around the campus. This is a great illustration of Bryn’s dynamic ‘walkabout’ style and shows what a highly visible leader he is to everyone in the college.”

Glyn Jones, Principal and Chief Executive, Pembrokeshire College

Whilst growing up, leadership was never a quality that Glyn Jones recognised in himself. But nowadays, overseeing 12,000 students and 700 staff is all in a day’s work.

“It wasn’t until I started my postgraduate training in education that I realised I was good at motivating people. As a team leader of outdoor education courses, I had the opportunity to work with a wide range of people of all ages and backgrounds, as well as people with special needs. Learning I could inspire others and harness their skills gave me a great feeling of personal growth.”

Glyn’s leadership style is all about encouraging others, and at Pembrokeshire College he has pioneered an award-winning staff development programme*. Team effort is the driving force behind a successful organisation and Glyn believes being a good leader is about being not too demanding and providing rewards as well.

Glyn said: “Keep it simple. Communicate clearly and set straightforward priorities. Allow your staff to get the job finished and don’t create unrealistic workloads.”

Good staff morale is another important feature for good leaders. Staff should be happy and motivated and given praise when it’s due. “No matter what your role within an organisation, we all respond well to positive strokes,” he said.

Barry Walters, assistant principal, has worked with Glyn for five years and admires his open-door policy. “Glyn is a high profile, approachable leader who treats staff with respect and encourages them to grow. He makes time for people and has set up focus groups so that he’s available to offer advice to staff on a regular basis.”

Glyn took an alternative path into academia, initially graduating in Law in the 1970’s and working as a commercial contractor for a large textiles company. Having then decided his passion was to work in education, he returned to his studies and gained a Masters in the subject.

Setting a goal and having the determination to achieve it, together with humility and perspective, are qualities that Glyn believes aspiring leaders need. “You can’t be oblivious to when you’ve upset someone or lose sight of the bigger picture. Having a sense of my own mortality inspires me to lead and I regard my family – my wife and our three fantastic daughters – as my greatest source of pride.”

*2004-2005 Beacon/Elwa Award for College Engagement with Employers.

Dr Sue Hybart, Director of Planning, Cardiff University

Dr Sue Hybart may be Cardiff University’s director of planning, but few would have guessed her career path when she was studying for her PhD in Landslides.

Having worked her way up the career ladder from planning officer to director of planning at Cardiff University, Sue considers her management of the merger between the university and the College of Medicine, a not undaunting proposition, as her greatest business achievement.

Having helped to create a stronger university for Wales, linking academics from both institutions to extend research and compete on an international level, Sue seems a natural leader, but she didn’t recognise her own strength until it came to the crunch.

She said: “I never really thought of myself as a leader until this project, although others obviously saw something in me. Bringing two organisations together involves the work of many people, so it was a complex project to manage – with huge pressures. I had to really focus on the objectives and communicate them well in order for it to succeed.

“I started to recognise leadership qualities in myself and in many of the other people I was working with. Leadership isn’t something reserved for top-level management and that became clear during the project. I think if you can engage and inspire others, their leadership qualities will soon surface.”

Sue defines her leadership style by the way she works with others. Her innovative project management system helped to give everyone a sense of ownership over the project and coaxed other leaders into the limelight.

“I think anyone can play a leadership role in at least some aspect of their work, given the right encouragement. Some of the strongest leaders I’ve seen aren’t at the top of organisations. While those with a natural aptitude obviously have a head start, I think many leadership skills can be learnt and developed over time.”

Clearly a natural project manager, Sue has recently taken on another mammoth project in her personal life too. As well as handling the strategic planning and merger management for the university, Sue is also renovating an old house while living in it.

“That is probably my biggest achievement personally,” Sue said about the DIY venture. “Just like in the business world, you get such a sense of satisfaction from seeing your project take shape, develop and succeed and it’s that feeling of pride in my work that inspires me to lead.”

As well as being sensitive and respectful of others while keeping sight of your target, Sue believes in the importance of a leader being able to generate and maintain a good team spirit – a sense of humour helps!

Louise Casella, the university’s director of strategic development, nominated Sue for the Leading Wales Award: “Sue is a great people-person and has the rare ability to inspire confidence in everyone she works with. She gets everyone involved in the processes and takes them all every step of the way with her.”


Voluntary and not for profit organisations

Lottie Miller, Community Development Manager, Rhondda Housing Association Ltd

Winner
Lottie Miller has always had a way with words. Not only is she fluent in French and Italian, she also speaks the language of leadership, too.

Once a translator working in the vineyards of France, where grapes are transformed into wine, Lottie is now responsible for a team of seven people who are helping to transform communities in Rhondda for its local people.

Following demand from local residents, Lottie took the lead in creating a new department at Rhondda Housing Association, dedicated to regenerating the area and improving people’s quality of life, including education, health and the environment.

“It was very much a team effort,” said Lottie. “I’m lucky to have a very passionate and supportive group of people to work with and together we managed to access over £1m for our local community work, which was a huge achievement.

Lottie describes her leadership style as the ‘principle approach’ which she bases on integrity.

“Along with a lot of energy and enthusiasm for what you do, leaders also need to be honest with themselves and their team. Believing in each other, and yourself, is the key to success.”

Perhaps Lottie’s self-belief and determination have gotten her where she is today. She had a heart operation at four years old and was told she would only live to the age of 15.

“I was told I’d never be able to have children and that I’d have to live my life wrapped up in cotton wool, but I refused to let it get me down and here I am. I have a great career and three children, so I’m living proof that believing in yourself is a powerful tool. And it’s one that applies to leadership, too.

“To be a good leader you need to be really motivated and passionate about what you do. But you also need to be quite ambitious and adventurous, especially when you are pushing through organisational changes or strategies that can have a huge impact on other people’s lives.

“For example, we recently introduced a scheme that brings trainees from disadvantaged backgrounds into the workplace to help them gain new social and vocational skills, and when you can see a scheme like this going so well, it spurs you on.”

Bev Wheeler is a community development officer who has been working with Lottie for over three years. She said: “She’s a thinker. She always thinks first and doesn’t give an automatic response. She has very imaginative ways of working, too. For example, we were working on a project which tries to involve people of all ages, but were struggling for new ideas of how to engage people. Then Lottie suggested storytelling. It worked so well but she still won’t take praise for it!

“Maybe it’s her Quaker background, but Lottie is very tolerant and believes that everyone should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. She’s very encouraging, gives praise and always looks for the positives. She has my total admiration and respect.”

Jim Edwards, Director, RNID Cymru

Improving the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people from all over Wales is a major motivator for Jim Edwards. “Knowing that the work that my team and I are doing helps others to be treated with equality in their everyday lives is really what motivates me. I feel privileged to be in a position that enables me to play such an active role in helping to achieve a world where deafness and hearing loss are not barriers to opportunity or fulfilment.”

Jim began his career as a social worker for deaf people and later moved into the voluntary sector. He has worked in a variety of roles for the RNID and then single-handedly set up RNID Cymru seven years ago. “Childhood friendships with deaf people inspired me to follow a career working with and for deaf and hard of hearing people. I quickly learnt my second language, British Sign Language, when I was 10 years old. I then worked really hard to develop my receptive ‘understanding’ skills and the expressive skills followed”.

Jim also believes in championing his 50 staff. “I have a ‘controlled open door’ policy at work. Even though we must work within an array of policies and guidelines, it’s important to remember that our staff are the most fundamental part of our organisation. It is therefore important to me that people are always treated as valued individuals.”

The best leaders aren’t always the most obvious, either. Jim said: “I admire people who take the quiet approach to success and are totally focused on the delivery of what they set out to achieve. Horatio Nelson and Queen Elizabeth I were some of the greatest leaders of all time: they believed in what they were doing and worked throughout their lives to achieve it.”

“I started to recognise leadership qualities in myself and in many of the other people I was working with. Leadership isn’t something reserved for top-level management and that became clear during the project. I think if you can engage and inspire others, their leadership qualities will soon surface.”

Neither is leadership confined to those in senior management positions. “I believe leadership exists in all walks of life and is within people of all ages. The soft and gentle way my daughter handles her friendships at school is inspiring. She has a very subtle approach to getting her own way!”

Being committed to a cause and having passion and determination to reach your goal are pre-requisites for good leadership, according to Jim. “Anyone who has a sense of direction and an ability to express it can become a good leader. If you are enthused by a vision and can inspire and champion your team, you can achieve your common goal.

Jim has plenty of clear advice for aspiring leaders. “Firstly, listen to the people who work with and for you and value their ideas, criticisms and suggestions. Secondly, keep a strong clear focus. And last but certainly not least, keep your antennae up! Make sure you know what’s going on around you at all times. Don’t get caught napping!”

Colin Jones, Chair of RNID Cymru, nominated Jim for the Leading Wales Awards due to his innovative achievements since joining the organisation. “Jim is an excellent and highly committed ambassador for the deaf and hard of hearing community in Wales. As a well-respected and inspired leader of a dedicated team he has consistently achieved significant quality-of-life enhancing benefits for his clients throughout Wales.”

Rob John, National Services Manager for Wales, Terrence Higgins Trust Cymru

Working alongside a pool of volunteers and staff for 15 years, taught Rob valuable skills in counselling, leadership and training. Combined with his arts background, he made creative use of rapid changes over the past year to encourage staff to embrace broader horizons as part of a combined all-Wales team. Rob’s solution-focused approach and willingness to read the “team temperature” helps people learn to live, work and play effectively despite the ravages of HIV within their communities.

Geoff Lake, Chair, Drive

Made redundant from the steel industry in 1978 where he was a senior laboratory technician, Geoff worked at the local learning disability hospital and was soon pushed into nurse training. While training he joined Drive, becoming its chairman soon after. He worked hard to organise it and give it proper direction.

Geoff was convinced that institutional life disabled people further and that it was possible for people with disabilities to live normally and within the community. “I believe a good leader has a clear idea of what he/she wants to achieve and the ability to inspire others to want to achieve it too,” he says.


Businesses with fewer than 250 employees

Ian Hopkins, Managing Partner, Leo Abse & Cohen, Cardiff

Winner
Ian’s arrival helped to transform Leo Abse & Cohen into one of the region’s top law firms and he has been helping them to collect armfuls of awards ever since.

Becoming managing partner in 1997, Ian adopted what he describes as an ‘inclusive’ style of leadership, involving everyone to transform the firm into one of the region’s most innovative and forward-thinking legal businesses.

After getting an MBA, Ian instigated and led the firm through the biggest changes in its 50-year history, creating an environment where “everyone puts the ball in the back of the net.”

As well as entirely restructuring the firm’s management system, he reorganised departments to ensure more effective delivery, and opened the firm’s Swansea office in 2000 to expand its geographical reach.

He also introduced non-lawyers to the firm’s board, including human resources, marketing and finance directors.

And he has taken his staff with him every step of the way. “You can’t be a leader without involving others”, he said. “Leo Abse & Cohen isn’t a one-man-band and, as managing partner, I see it as my duty to motivate the other leaders in the firm to help us achieve our common goal.”

He counts Leo Abse & Cohen’s creativity and success as his greatest business achievements, with the firm and its employees picking up such awards as ‘Small to Medium Sized Law Firm of the Year’ and ‘Legal Executive of the Year’ at The Western Mail Business Awards, and an Arts & Business Cymru Award for its innovative use of art in employee development.

It was also shortlisted for the highly competitive category ‘Best Marketing Campaign’ in the national Law Society Gazette Centenary Awards, run by the UK’s leading legal publication.

Ian’s inspiration to lead comes from the firm. “When you see the business continuing to go from strength to strength and every single member of staff rolling up their sleeves to carry on making improvements, it is inspiring. Everyone gets a sense of professional pride in what they do, no matter what level they’re at. I think that inspires us all.”

Robert Lloyd Griffiths is the marketing director at Leo Abse & Cohen. Referring to Ian, he said: “He’s a very natural leader. He has the ability to listen to others, take on board their views and action them in a way that keeps everyone ‘in the know’.

“The firm has evolved beyond recognition under his leadership. He’s helping to ensure that law firms are finally recognised as businesses.”

With his greatest leader of all time being Nelson Mandela, it’s not surprising that Ian had these words of advice to aspiring leaders: “No matter how well you plan things, sometimes they go wrong, but your ability to bounce back and move forward is what will make you a strong leader. Keep persevering.”

Linda Haggett, Deputy Managing Director and Head of Human Resources, Protectagroup

According to her colleagues, Linda is a woman on a mission – an accurate description when you consider that she is leading the way in a business that has recently been named as Wales’ largest independent insurance broker.

Linda always wanted to be a leader, a quality she says she inherited from her father, and originally chose to influence other people by joining the Metropolitan Police.

After working as a civilian with the Met, heading up a team of 25 delivering fire-arm statistics to the Home Office, Linda returned to Wales in search of a new leadership challenge.

Now Linda is not only the head of human resources at Protectagroup, she is also the deputy managing director.

To date, she has helped the business collect awards including the Welsh Development of the Year Award and ELWa Modern Apprenticeship Award, and is continuing to make sure that people remain the ‘heart-beat’ of the company.

“It might sound strange, but although I’ve always recognised leadership qualities in myself, it wasn’t until the Leading Wales Awards that I realised I was a fully-fledged leader,” said Linda.

“Having someone nominate me for an award for excellence in leadership really brought it all home and I was thrilled. It was great the way everyone got behind me and it made me think about the issue of leadership in more detail.

“I’ve always thrived on challenges and I’ve ploughed a lot of energy into ensuring that people are Protectagroup’s number one priority, both in the shape of customers and staff.”

In just 18 months in both her roles, the company has not only been named as Wales’ largest independent insurance broker, but it has also completed a successful management buy-in, which saw Linda gain a 10 per cent equity in the business, acquired Broker Gateway & Vanguard Insurance and has several new acquisitions on the horizon.

But Linda insists she isn’t an ‘ivory tower’ leader: “Locking yourself away from your staff isn’t the way to lead. You must be accessible and communicate with them at all times.

“I like to think I have a ‘touchy-feely’ approach to leadership, in that I always try to encourage others, listen to their ideas, give plenty of feedback and, most of all, to say thank you as often as possible. It’s a simple thing, but it makes an enormous difference.

“My background in human resources has helped me to put people right at the centre of everything I do as a leader. They can make or break plans, but you must have them on board if you want to succeed.”

Tracey Bryant is a training officer at Protectagroup. She has worked with Linda for over five years: “Linda’s an amazing lady. She’s honest, passionate and committed. She draws on her personal experiences and turns everything into a positive. She also never makes any false promises and always delivers, which, in turn, spurs you to deliver for her, too.”

Linda Haggett, Deputy Managing Director and Head of Human Resources, Protectagroup

According to her colleagues, Linda is a woman on a mission – an accurate description when you consider that she is leading the way in a business that has recently been named as Wales’ largest independent insurance broker.

Linda always wanted to be a leader, a quality she says she inherited from her father, and originally chose to influence other people by joining the Metropolitan Police.

After working as a civilian with the Met, heading up a team of 25 delivering fire-arm statistics to the Home Office, Linda returned to Wales in search of a new leadership challenge.

Now Linda is not only the head of human resources at Protectagroup, she is also the deputy managing director.

To date, she has helped the business collect awards including the Welsh Development of the Year Award and ELWa Modern Apprenticeship Award, and is continuing to make sure that people remain the ‘heart-beat’ of the company.

“It might sound strange, but although I’ve always recognised leadership qualities in myself, it wasn’t until the Leading Wales Awards that I realised I was a fully-fledged leader,” said Linda.

“Having someone nominate me for an award for excellence in leadership really brought it all home and I was thrilled. It was great the way everyone got behind me and it made me think about the issue of leadership in more detail.

“I’ve always thrived on challenges and I’ve ploughed a lot of energy into ensuring that people are Protectagroup’s number one priority, both in the shape of customers and staff.”

In just 18 months in both her roles, the company has not only been named as Wales’ largest independent insurance broker, but it has also completed a successful management buy-in, which saw Linda gain a 10 per cent equity in the business, acquired Broker Gateway & Vanguard Insurance and has several new acquisitions on the horizon.

But Linda insists she isn’t an ‘ivory tower’ leader: “Locking yourself away from your staff isn’t the way to lead. You must be accessible and communicate with them at all times.

“I like to think I have a ‘touchy-feely’ approach to leadership, in that I always try to encourage others, listen to their ideas, give plenty of feedback and, most of all, to say thank you as often as possible. It’s a simple thing, but it makes an enormous difference.

“My background in human resources has helped me to put people right at the centre of everything I do as a leader. They can make or break plans, but you must have them on board if you want to succeed.”

Tracey Bryant is a training officer at Protectagroup. She has worked with Linda for over five years: “Linda’s an amazing lady. She’s honest, passionate and committed. She draws on her personal experiences and turns everything into a positive. She also never makes any false promises and always delivers, which, in turn, spurs you to deliver for her, too.”

Jeremy Masding, Chief Executive Officer, FIRSTPLUS Financial Group Plc

Jeremy joined the Barclays Group from school. He started in the Rugby Branch as the office junior and since then has worked overseas, in corporate banking and in strategy & planning – interspersed with some time in the Cabinet Office and studying for an MBA at Manchester Business School.

Jeremy is an advocate of value-based management as the core philosophy of a publicly owned corporation.

Stuart West, Managing director, Biocatalysts Limited

Stuart may have started out as the reluctant leader, but in the last 10 years he’s proved himself wrong and transformed his business into an award-winner.

When a series of events left Stuart as the only candidate in the company to take on the role of managing director, it was only loyalty to the business that saw him accept the job.

“I never saw myself as a leader,” said Stuart. “But I believed in the company and wanted to do everything in my power to improve it.”

After being thrown into the role of leader, Stuart set about turning the business around and giving it a new direction. As well as putting quality systems in place, he developed the company’s first long-term strategy.

“My first two ports of call were the customers and the staff. Listening to what they wanted helped me to make improvements that not only boosted staff motivation and customer satisfaction, but also sales.

“I wanted to create a culture of improvement where everyone strives to be the very best they can and the business went from strength to strength from there.”

Since Stuart’s arrival in the top job, Biocatalysts Limited has picked up a host of prestigious awards, including Small Business of the Year at The Western Mail Business Awards 2005, The Queen’s Award for Enterprise, Parcelforce’s Small Business Award and two Outstanding Practice Awards from Investors in People.

Stuart’s approach to problem-solving has also earned him praise. His practice of ‘transformability’, which aims to look to other industries for inspiration, has resulted in the business becoming one of the most innovative in its field.

When looking to be inspired, Stuart need not look any further than his own home. His 13 year-old daughter Lauren has a neuromuscular condition, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and uses a powered wheelchair. Despite this physical limitation, she compensates with an amazing strength of character, participating in life to the full with her friends and achieving well academically in school.

“Lauren is one of the toughest people I know. Although, perhaps because she has been through so much and copes so well, she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. This is a common trait we share! Even though she is very weak physically, her strength mentally is overwhelming and I always think that if she can do it, so can I.

“Although I never pictured myself as a leader, it’s now a role I’m very comfortable with. I think I judge my success as a leader on the success of the business so that has motivated me.

“I think one of the most important characteristics for a good leader is the ability to see the big picture and the people in it. Treating everyone equally goes a long way and communication is also crucial.

“Winston Churchill was a superb leader. Not only was he inspiring in hard times, but he never shied away from his responsibility as a great leader. He made very difficult and controversial decisions for the greater good and believed in his judgement. That, to me, is inspiring.”

Mike Clay, general manager at Biocatalysts Ltd, is one of four managers on Stuart’s team. He said: “Stuart leads by example. He has a ‘do as I do’ style, which is very effective. He’s a dynamic leader and his passion for the business is infectious.”


Businesses with more than 250 employees

John Bath, Chief Executive, Brecon Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Hay-on-Wye

Winner.
John Bath has a natural passion for quality, so it is not surprisingly that he has gravitated to a role which demands 100% accuracy.

As chief executive officer for a healthcare packaging company, ensuring drugs are packaged correctly carries enormous responsibility since people’s lives are at stake each and every day. Making sure mistakes don’t happen requires company-wide commitment. And John’s infectious enthusiasm has made that happen at Brecon Pharmaceuticals.

Des Preece, training and standard development manager, nominated John for the Leading Wales Awards. “The theory of leadership is a discrete session within the company management development program. The participants always manage to become actively involved in any discussion regarding the qualities and characteristics expected from a leader. John joined the company in 2001 and within a very short time the tangible aspects of leadership were obvious to all. John’s energy and vision has created a thriving culture. Change is regarded as dynamic and the fear factor of failure has been replaced with an encouragement to try and in trying to learn, develop and ultimately succeed.”

This isn’t the first time John’s commitment to quality has led to significant organisational change. In the early 1990’s John moved back from the USA, where he had been working for six years, to head up a failing UK arm of the business. As managing director, he was tasked with the job of deciding the fate of the factory which was beset with ancient equipment and disastrous employee/management relations. It took John just one year to turn the factory around and convince a highly suspicious workforce to buy into his ideas. Indeed, he succeeded where many others before him had failed.

Getting others to share his vision is something John said he learnt at school. “I was really inspired by my physics teacher who had real passion for his subject and I realised that there is nothing more infectious than enthusiasm.”

Such enthusiasm spurred John, at the tender age of 19, to pursue the study of atomic and nuclear physics at Oxford University: “Studying the subject in the 1970’s was so exciting. Major discoveries were taking place at the time. But trying to find work in this field was difficult, so I decided a career change was in order.”

He quickly rose through the ranks in the packaging industry, entering senior management in his early thirties. He gained an appreciation for the importance of quality from reading the work of guru W. Edwards Deming. John explained: “A lesson I’ve learnt now that I’m older and wiser is that if you want to lead people down a chosen path, you really need to know what you’re talking about. Over time, your confidence grows as you learn what works and what doesn’t. “

For those aspiring leaders without years of expertise behind them, John advised, “Get a good mentor. Try and work alongside someone whom you respect and who inspires you.”

IIn the face of adversity, John upholds his belief that integrity and honesty are his driving principles. With a fervent belief in doing what’s right, John will not compromise his beliefs for the sake of success. “If I fail,” he said, “I fail honestly”.

Annie Finlayson, Business Development Manager, PHS Group

Annie definitely has her hands full managing a full-time job co-handling 15 acquisitions a year at PHS Group, taking care of her four children all under the age of 13 and setting up her own business.

And if that wasn’t enough, the 36-year-old is a non-executive for Careers Wales, a mentor for Barnardos and a school governor. She also has two degrees, an MBA and is a qualified teacher and a chartered marketer, having spent over ten years studying in evening classes.

It’s not surprising that Annie was recognised twice at the Welsh Woman of the Year Awards, as a finalist for ‘Management Achiever’ and winning ‘Most Effective Returner’.

She considers herself a naturally people-orientated leader and thinks her drive and enthusiasm keep her going: “I left school at 16 with no qualifications, but I had so many things I wanted to do that I decided to go back to learning while I was on maternity leave with my first child.

“I think there is a natural order of things and people fall into the roles they are comfortable in. I’ve always been an organiser and a leader in my mind, even when I wasn’t officially in a position in my career to lead others.”

At PHS, Annie’s superb organisational skills have resulted in an innovative new system to improve customer retention levels. By developing new ways of monitoring and stemming the flow of potential business cancellations, she has been able to keep valuable business contracts – and develop new ones.

She is also setting up her own business, Lifestyle Management Services, helping individuals and corporate employees achieve a better life/work balance by outsourcing everyday tasks. She should be experienced enough for the job considering the juggling act she performs everyday with her own different roles!

But she counts her greatest business achievement as her award nominations. “Being shortlisted for any award is flattering. It’s a very proud moment because you know someone has recognised the work you’re doing and taken time out of their own busy lives to enter you.

“I’ve always been very passionate about what I do and I think it can be infectious. I want to try and motivate others because it’s important not to lose sight of the people you are working with – without them you can’t achieve your common goal. You can’t be a maverick leader, so you need to make sure you’re working at a pace that everyone can keep up with. Clarity and honesty are also important traits to have.

Talking about her favourite business leader Richard Branson, Annie said: “He’s an emotionally intelligent leader, which I think is very important. He’s not afraid to learn from others and has the courage to take risks when he needs to. It’s a very effective leadership style that I aspire to myself.”

Catrin Davies from Dolmans Solicitors nominated Annie. She said: “Annie is extremely focused in everything that she does and works hard to achieve her goals. What makes her special is that she leads by example and actively supports and encourages others. She gains great satisfaction seeing her staff achieve their goals. She’s an inspiration both professionally and personally.”

Annie Finlayson, Business Development Manager, PHS Group

Annie definitely has her hands full managing a full-time job co-handling 15 acquisitions a year at PHS Group, taking care of her four children all under the age of 13 and setting up her own business.

And if that wasn’t enough, the 36-year-old is a non-executive for Careers Wales, a mentor for Barnardos and a school governor. She also has two degrees, an MBA and is a qualified teacher and a chartered marketer, having spent over ten years studying in evening classes.

It’s not surprising that Annie was recognised twice at the Welsh Woman of the Year Awards, as a finalist for ‘Management Achiever’ and winning ‘Most Effective Returner’.

She considers herself a naturally people-orientated leader and thinks her drive and enthusiasm keep her going: “I left school at 16 with no qualifications, but I had so many things I wanted to do that I decided to go back to learning while I was on maternity leave with my first child.

“I think there is a natural order of things and people fall into the roles they are comfortable in. I’ve always been an organiser and a leader in my mind, even when I wasn’t officially in a position in my career to lead others.”

At PHS, Annie’s superb organisational skills have resulted in an innovative new system to improve customer retention levels. By developing new ways of monitoring and stemming the flow of potential business cancellations, she has been able to keep valuable business contracts – and develop new ones.

She is also setting up her own business, Lifestyle Management Services, helping individuals and corporate employees achieve a better life/work balance by outsourcing everyday tasks. She should be experienced enough for the job considering the juggling act she performs everyday with her own different roles!

But she counts her greatest business achievement as her award nominations. “Being shortlisted for any award is flattering. It’s a very proud moment because you know someone has recognised the work you’re doing and taken time out of their own busy lives to enter you.

“I’ve always been very passionate about what I do and I think it can be infectious. I want to try and motivate others because it’s important not to lose sight of the people you are working with – without them you can’t achieve your common goal. You can’t be a maverick leader, so you need to make sure you’re working at a pace that everyone can keep up with. Clarity and honesty are also important traits to have.

Talking about her favourite business leader Richard Branson, Annie said: “He’s an emotionally intelligent leader, which I think is very important. He’s not afraid to learn from others and has the courage to take risks when he needs to. It’s a very effective leadership style that I aspire to myself.”

Catrin Davies from Dolmans Solicitors nominated Annie. She said: “Annie is extremely focused in everything that she does and works hard to achieve her goals. What makes her special is that she leads by example and actively supports and encourages others. She gains great satisfaction seeing her staff achieve their goals. She’s an inspiration both professionally and personally.”

Mark Watkin Jones, Group Managing Director, Watkin Jones & Son Ltd

Mark Watkin Jones may be the ninth generation of the same family to run the business, but his leadership style is the most innovative in the company’s 200 year history.

After taking over from his father as group managing director three years ago, Mark set about transforming the culture of the business.

“The business has been hugely successful and one of the first things I wanted to do when I took the reins was to give something back to the staff,” said Mark.

Mark began his mission by appointing the company’s first training manager to improve staff development and career progression, which resulted in several internal promotions.

He also set about improving his employees’ working environment and invested heavily in renovations, refurbishments and new IT systems. A new canteen, relaxation rooms and even an outdoor picnic area were also constructed for all staff.

“I wanted to put employee well-being right at the top of our agenda and create a friendly working environment that would motivate staff and make them feel involved in the success of our business.

“I wanted to be able to lead with an ‘open-door’ policy and ensure that all staff shared in both the company’s success and their own achievements. Teamwork was very much my buzz word.”

He introduced a staff communication forum and annual bonuses, as well as along with The Long Service Awards, complete with cash prizes.

The changes paid off and the company was named ‘Employer of the Year 2004’ by The Welsh Daily Post.

“I’ve always worked for the company. I started as a quantity surveyor after I graduated and have worked my way up. I think that helps when it comes to leadership – you need to earn the respect of your staff.

“I have experience in all aspects of the business, so I can relate to employees’ needs and I think that’s a very important part of being a leader, too. You must understand where other people are coming from.

“I think I inherited some of my leadership abilities from my father, who is very much my inspiration. I watched him build up the company from a young age and I want to keep up his good work, as well as adding a few improvements of my own.

“I think my generation requires a new style of leadership. Staff expect a lot more from you and it’s your duty to deliver on that. Human resources is a priority and people need more flexible working conditions, so I’ve shaped my leadership around that.”

Jon Mendoza says of Mark : “While Mark’s ongoing programme of significant improvements to the issues that contribute to high staff morale has had a considerable impact on the Company’s continued success, it is his willingness and ability to lead from the front that really impresses all who work here. Were it necessary, he could very ably undertake any of the senior roles in the organisation, and this breadth of intellect, knowledge, experience and competence assists and encourages all staff to do their very best for the Company.”