Leadership Stories

Mari Arthur, Director, Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales

How have your life experiences helped make you the leader you are today?
Being brought up in a family of strong west-Walian women I have never felt constrained by my gender, education or position. I have travelled many countries on my own, I have taken every opportunity I have been presented with and I have enjoyed every job I have ever had (from panel beater and leach farmer to Director of the national sustainable development charity and building links with companies in Wales and China).

What have been your proudest moments since taking up your leadership role with Cynnal Cymru?
I am proud of being part of such an amazing team. Together we have turned around the charity from one that relied on funding to one that supports itself through generating new income every month. Our small team and board has developed an entrepreneurial attitude which has enabled us to win contracts with some of the leading organisations in Wales. We drive sustainable action and support stronger local economies.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these times and from working with your colleagues?
How amazing they are, how none of us know what we are capable of until we are pushed to our limit and the Cynnal team have evolved into a different machine; together we have produced more than the sum of our parts, producing so many positive result, benefitting Wales in so many ways, from uplifting salaries of thousands of low paid workers salaries to influencing decisions on air quality.

Tell us about a time or two when you have had to display courage in your leadership role
In 2015/16 Cynnal’s Welsh Government funding ended after 14 years. No one thought the charity could exist without this income and support. I needed to convince our board of trustees, and the team, that the four remaining staff could turn the charity around and develop new sources of income. I believed we could do it, I had complete faith in us, and the Board supported us all the way.

What do you think are the biggest leadership issues facing us in Wales in 2019?
Climate change, Brexit, polarisations of citizens, more organisations competing for a shrinking pool of funds, the breakup of traditional cultural-political blocks, and the lack of cohesiveness this could bring. Operating in a climate of uncertainty can result in short-termism and can make leadership difficult. Challenges can result in creative, alternative models of success; a brave new Wales where we make sure the environment is prioritised and becomes an opportunity.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
I have always admired Leanne Wood. She has an unshakable belief in Wales, her community and the people she works with. We need more people to recognise the skills and abilities we already have in Wales.

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

 

Dr Catrin Middleton, Head of Programme – Genomics for Precision Medicine Strategy, Cardiff and Vale University Heath Board & Welsh Government

How have your life experiences helped make you the leader you are today?
Ers yn blentyn, ces i fy magu i fod â meddwl agored, ymholgar, ac i fod â hyder i gwestiynu’r drefn arferol. Dysgais bwysigrwydd cyfathrebu’n effeithiol â’r gallu i sefydlu perthnasau o ymddiriedaeth gyda phobol o gefndiroedd gwahanol. Drwy astudio ar gyfer fy noethuriaeth ym maes ymchwil canser, fe ddes i ddeall gwir ystyr gwaith caled a dyfalbarhad – roedd rhain yn flynyddoedd trawsnewidiol yn fy ngyrfa.

From an early age I was encouraged to develop an open, enquiring mind that was prepared to challenge the status quo. I learnt the importance of effective communication and the ability to build trusting relationships with people from all walks of life. My doctoral training in the field of cancer research later taught me the true value of hard work and tenacity – these were transformative years in my career.

What have been your proudest moments since taking up your leadership role with Cardiff & the Vale University Health Board?
Mae gweithio ar y groesffordd rhwng meysydd academaidd, diwydiannol, Llywodraethol a’r GIG wedi gofyn i mi ddatblygu perthynas gyda a rhwng sawl sefydliad, yn y gobaith o uno agendâu gwahanol tu ôl i un nod cyffredin. Ynghyd â sefydlu grŵp cynghori, sy’n cynnwys aelodau o’r cyhoedd a chleifion, roedd sefydlu diwylliant o gydweithio o dan faner Partneriaeth Genomeg Cymru yn uchafbwynt i mi. Mae gweld y newid mewn agwedd er gwell wedi dod â boddhad mawr.

Working at the interface between academia, industry, Government and the NHS required me to build relationships with and between many organisations, uniting a number of competing agendas behind one common goal. Together with establishing a Patient and Public Sounding Board, creating a culture of collaboration under the umbrella of Genomics Partnership Wales has enabled early progress and has benefited all partners. The positive shift in engagement levels has been incredibly rewarding.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these times and from working with your colleagues?
Mae gennym ni oll lawer i’w ddysgu oddi wrth ein gilydd; waeth pa gymwysterau proffesiynol sydd ganddon ni na pha mor hir rydyn ni wedi bod yn ein swyddi. Mae bod yn barod i rannu profiadau ac anelu am y gwerth sydd i’w gael wrth weithio ynghyd yn hybu syniadau newydd ac yn annog effeithlonrwydd. Mae cynhyrchu ein gwaith ar y cyd gyda’r cyhoedd a chleifion wedi bod yn wefr ac yn fy atgoffa’n ddyddiol o’r rheswm y dewisais i weithio ym maes iechyd a gofal.

We all stand to learn from one another, regardless of any professional qualification or length in service. Being willing to share experience and to look for the value in the ‘whole’ rather than in the ‘sum of its parts’ encourages new ideas to form and drives efficiency. Co-producing our work with patients and the public has been transformative – a humbling reminder of why I work in the field of healthcare.

Tell us about a time or two when you have had to display courage in your leadership role
Roedd gweithredu model newydd o lywodraethiant i’r raglen waith, a hynny yn gynnar iawn wedi i mi ddechrau yn y swydd ac yn aml yn wyneb gwrthwynebiad, yn dipyn o her. Rhoddais bwyslais mawr ar gyfathrebu’n rheolaidd i egluro’r rheswm y tu ôl i unrhyw newid oedd ar droed, ac ro’n i’n werthfawrogol iawn fod y criw i gyd wedi’u plesio o fewn ychydig iawn o amser wrth iddynt weld eglurder a chydlyniant yn disoldli’r hen ffyrdd o weithio.

Implementing a new operating model and governance structure so soon into my time in role, causing a shift in areas of responsibility and accountability whilst often being met with resistance to change, was particularly challenging. My approach was to reassure colleagues with proactive communication on a regular basis, explaining why I proposed each change. Thankfully, people were quickly pleased by the clarity and coordination achieved through the new method.

What do you think are the biggest leadership issues facing us in Wales in 2019?
I arwain rhaglenni trawsnewidiol o’r tu fewn, er lles ein dinasyddion ni yng Nghymru, tra hefyd yn buddsoddi mewn perthnasau y tu hwnt i’n ffiniau. Mae deall gwir fanteision cydweithio ar lefel ryngwladol, ac wedyn rhoi yn ôl i’n system iechyd a gofal ddatganoledig, yn rhywbeth sy’n agos iawn at fy nghalon. Rwy’n credu’n gryf fod gan arweinwyr yng Nghymru lawer i elwa wrth estyn llaw dros yr Hafren.

To lead ambitious transformation programmes from within, for the benefit of Welsh citizens, whilst also investing in relationships beyond our borders. Understanding the advantage of collaborating at a UK wide/international level and being able to translate this to enable progress within our devolved healthcare system, is something I’m very passionate about. I believe leaders in Wales will always stand to gain from extending an olive branch.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Mae’r tîm rheoli a arweiniodd Gymru yng nghystadleuaeth bel-droed Ewro 2016 yn haeddu clod mawr wedi iddynt greu cyn argraff ar lawer, yn fy marn i. Nid yn unig am eu gallu i greu ymdeimlad o berthyn ar y cae ymysg eu chwaraewyr, ond hefyd am eu gallu i uno cenedl drwy ddefnyddio angerdd a balchder fel gwreiddiau i’w gwaith tîm.

The leadership team behind the Welsh Euro 2016 football campaign made a lasting impact on many, I’m sure; not only in their ability to unite a team of players, but to also unite a nation through using passion and pride as foundations for their teamwork.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Ysbrydolgar. Fe ddarllenais i unwaith am bwysigrwydd cyfuno eich agwedd tuag at arwain, gyda’ch pwrpas mewn bywyd… gweler isod…

Inspiring. A statement that once left its mark with me, reads: “if you connect your leadership with your purpose – that thing which ignites you and makes you come alive – you will become a beacon for those around you”

 


Ian Titherington, Lead Engineer (Drainage), Cardiff Council

How have your life experiences helped make you the leader you are today?
First of all, I don’t see myself in any way as a leader! I have developed certain level of experience in drainage engineering over my 30-year career and by combining my knowledge of Local Government and to an extent politics, I have been able to persuade key organisations to back some of my ideas. I think I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

What have been your proudest moments since taking up your leadership role with Cardiff Council?
Delivering the Greener Grangetown project. It’s a sustainable drainage scheme that from the very start, aimed to deliver as many benefits as feasible, creating a cleaner, greener environment for all. Once the design was set, we refused to compromise on what was promised to local residents, letting grass & gravity do the work of miles of sewers, three pumping stations and a treatment works.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these times and from working with your colleagues?
With the project team, the most important lessons learnt were to understand what we did in our respective roles and to recognise the priorities of each of our organisations. A partnership only truly works when you are all prepared to compromise for the very best combined solution. There has to be a commitment to trusting each other.

Tell us about a time or two when you have had to display courage in your leadership role

It’s far too challenging to find adequate funding for multi-benefit projects, as departmental ‘silo funds’ actively discourage such an approach. When conventional routes to project funding don’t work, then you need to cast a wider net and find like-minded people high up enough in other organisations, win them over & create momentum for your idea. It can never stand still, as it will end up gathering dust on a shelf.

What do you think are the biggest leadership issues facing us in Wales in 2019?
Wales like the rest of the UK faces a public deeply cynical of politicians, big business and many large organisations. Winning back trust through delivering achievable aims is key, but these aims also have to excite & engage. I think this engagement has to come from the bottom up, not in a patronising way but in a genuine attempt to involve communities in their future.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
I admire people who do the hard miles for their communities, clubs or other groups without seeking personal gain. I come across such individuals through local community links & sports clubs. The mentality to ‘put something back’ is one I greatly admire; it’s something that lifts my soul a bit when I come across it. We all have a responsibility to do this, when we are able to.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Responsibility.