Leadership Stories

Aimee Bateman, Founder & CEO, Careercake.com

As founder and CEO Aimee has responsibility for leading the overall growth strategy, financial and organisational management, external communications, and marketing and sales efforts.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
The biggest lesson I’ve learnt was to get out of my own way. And what I mean by that is ‘the biggest prison we live in, is the fear of what other people think’. This has impacted the way I lead my team and encourage them to find their truth, speak it and let their individuality shine through…regardless of what people will think.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Careercake.com?
As a start- up a few years ago, recruiting the team of awesome talent was a highlight. I was just a lady with an idea and a start-up in my kitchen. Having industry leading experts leave huge companies (and salaries) to join me on this mission is something special.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
Trust is key. Nothing else matters if you don’t have that.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
Understanding the mind shift in our workforce. 45 % of our workforce are millennial and by 2025 they will make up 75%. Adapting leadership to the Millennial mind-set and expectations will be key if you want to future proof your business.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Ashley Cooper, my Chairman and seed investor.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Trust


Karen Davies, Chief Executive, Purple Shoots

Karen is the founder and chief executive of Purple Shoots. She set it up 5 years ago to provide funding to individuals who are excluded from all other forms of finance apart from high cost providers, to remove the barrier of access to finance to allow the many talented and entrepreneurial individuals on benefits to realize their potential. She is responsible for all strategy and for driving the direction of the company, for raising finance both to run it and capital to lend, for maintaining proper processes to comply with FCA and other regulators, for promoting what Purple Shoots does to a wide audience and for the day to day lending activity as well as running a small team to develop and run the self-reliant groups.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I didn’t plan to be a leader. My passion and drive were to do something about the disadvantaged and social injustice I saw around me. In the end that meant creating something of my own to do it and drawing in other support and investment to work with me. My Christian faith has taught me to be bold and single-minded about following the right path and to be unafraid of striking out in a direction that goes against the norm, but also to respect and value every individual who I come across.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Purple Shoots?
A major challenge which we face constantly is the need to challenge mindsets and attitudes towards people struggling with poverty and unemployment. There is still a belief amongst some that poverty in the UK is the fault of those who are in it and there is a very negative attitude towards people on benefits. This is a completely false understanding of the reality, but it hampers us sometimes in our ability to raise money and engage partners to work with us. An equally damaging attitude is the one which sees people facing disadvantage as problems to be solved when in fact they are frequently talented, resourceful and capable and need only an enabling environment and perhaps a small amount of financial support to realize this potential. The highlights of my role have been seeing so many people do this with our support, either through starting a small business or through our self-reliant groups.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
Through working with those we serve and seeing them flourish and transform things for themselves, I have learned a deeper respect for each individual. I have also learned to be patient. My natural inclination is to make things happen, but it is far more effective and sustainable to be the enabler and to wait for people to do it for themselves, even if their timeframe is longer than I might like.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
The biggest issue facing leaders in Wales now is I think the need to respond to uncertainty in the economy and changes in the way work is happening. There is a need to think differently and creatively to ensure that Wales is an inclusive place in every respect and that parts of the population are no longer left behind. Leaders in politics and business have different roles to play, but one thing we can all do is to continuously focus on and draw attention to the positives of visiting, living and working in Wales.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
A contemporary Welsh leader who I admire is Rob Parsons, chief executive of Care for the Family which is a UK wide charity supporting families. He was a partner in a law firm with a good career ahead of him but gave it all up to do what he believed in. His charity now has a turnover of over £3.5 million with numerous offices but he retains the head office in Wales. His organisation has probably kept thousands of families from breakdown.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Commitment

Rhodri Wyn Jones, Organisational Development Manager, National Assembly for Wales

Rhodri has worked in a number of different departments at the Assembly, and experienced working practices in both the Business and Resources Directorate. As Organisational Development Manager he has the opportunity to be creative in designing new and exciting initiatives, while working with colleagues to make a positive impact at work.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My Grandparents lived on a farm and I’d regularly help when I was younger. One summer, when we were bailing hay, my grandfather turned to me and said: ‘Whatever you do, don’t spend your life looking at the clock.’ When working, I’ve found that this works best when you feel passionate about what you do. This mind-set doesn’t just benefit your enjoyment, but it also boosts the enjoyment of those who work with you. I’m reminded of my Grandfather’s advice every day before work, and I try my hardest to make time fly.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with the National Assembly for Wales?
Helping to improve employee engagement has been my most rewarding achievement, particularly when we’ve faced organisational challenges such as Brexit, Assembly Reform, and launching our Youth Parliament. My role is centred on employee engagement, and my focus has been on empowering staff to un-tap leadership potential within the organisation. Through conducting staff surveys and working alongside our Executive team, I’ve helped design and implement action plans to address staff feedback and energise a strong employee voice to promote our values. By working in partnership, and listening to feedback, we’ve been able to build capability during an unpreceded period of change.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
Doing the ‘little things’ can make a big difference. Taking a genuine interest in people and saying thanks along the way can help build trust within the team and boost morale. So, when the chips are down, you need people who are willing to help you, and have honest conversations.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
Trust. The reality of ‘fake news’ has had negative recursions across the whole of society and people no longer trust the information they receive, nor the people who are responsible for it. Trust is the foundation of effective leadership and we need genuine and honest leaders to guide the way.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas is the personification of authentic leadership, and his glittering rugby career is only surpassed by his passion to help others. He’s used his profile to raise awareness of mental health in Wales and selflessly shared his experience of being a gay man in sport to protect others.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Authenticity. The ability to connect authentically with others and help build genuine relationships is key to gaining trust and inspiring people to make a difference.

Veryan Richards, Patient Representative, Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales

Veryan is a patient representative on several Royal College of Psychiatrists Committees in London and in Wales including the RCPsych in Wales Executive Committee. She contributes as a lay participant towards shaping the policy narrative and improving patient experience. Veryan is co-author of the RCPsych College Report ‘Core Values for Psychiatrists’.

 How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

The experiences of growing up through the years of terrorism in Northern Ireland and living with a chronic mental health condition in a culture where mental illness is often stigmatised has given me an insight into adversity, conflict and suffering as well as the resilience and desire to focus on opportunities for genuine dialogue and change.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with the Royal College of Psychiatrists?

  • The development of the Royal College of Psychiatrists College Report 204 – ‘Core Values for Psychiatrists’ and moving it through to the implementation phase.
  • Identifying some of the challenges at the interface of primary care and secondary care and creating solutions for patients and clinicians.
  • Addressing issues that surround the respectful use of language in mental health care.
  • Understanding the constraints and opportunities within a large organisation.
  • Remaining focused on the bigger picture.
What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?

  • Positive changes in attitudes, processes and outcomes is possible and deliverable.
  • Respect, collaborative working and enhanced communication skills are fundamental for engagement.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
Leading through change. Within the context of dealing with the complexities and uncertainties of Brexit, reduced budgets in the public sector and changes in the political leadership in Wales, it will be important to have an open constructive approach and a deliverable agenda.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Baroness Grey-Thompson – living with the considerable challenges and limitations of a physical disability, Baroness Grey-Thompson has led by example in her successful career as a Paralympian, politician, broadcaster and patron of several charities. She has received honours in recognition of her service to disability and disadvantaged people and continues to provide inspiration for what is achievable.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Engagement