Leadership Stories

Disclaimer: All details included in these leadership stories have been provided by the finalists themselves. All information has been accepted in good faith. Any references to individuals or circumstances have been relayed in the finalist’s own words and have not been verified by the Leading Wales Awards Directors or its Consortium. Any views expressed are those of the individuals concerned and are not necessarily the views of the Leading Wales Awards Directors or Consortium members.

Sharon Jones

Sharon Jones is the Business & Partnership Director at Creating Enterprise. She is responsible for developing and running the Employment Academy. Her remit is moving over 1,000 out-of-work tenants closer to employment. Together with her team of mentors they create innovative services to engage hard-to-reach tenants. She leads a team of over 30 volunteers and 9 tenants who are directly employed within the Employment Academy.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I started my first social enterprise at 27 thinking I knew everything. You only realise how little you know when you start learning more! In the beginning there were only a few employees, I did everything from cleaning to accounts. I believe this has been the biggest thing to shape me into the person I am today, not just as a leader. I don’t sit in an office telling people how to do their job. I want to understand what my team’s jobs are like to do, so when there’s an issue, I can fully understand it and help them come up with a solution.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Creating Enterprise?
Creating Enterprise was a brand new company, everything had to be set up from scratch, which was hugely exciting and hugely challenging at the same time. As a subsidiary of Cartrefi Conwy housing association there was support from their staff, but this was challenging as they work in a very different way and had set ideas of how systems should work. After getting over these hurdles, the main highlights have been creating the Employment Academy the way I wanted it and using 20 years’ of experience to pick out the best bits and develop a programme supporting teants into work that is really unique and person-centred.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
My biggest learning has been the importance of patience – things take time and not everyone works at the same pace as me!

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2017?
There’s a reluctance to collaborate. Collaboration is often seen as a threat: people fear their organisation will be taken over or lose its identity. There’s lots of talk about partnerships, shared goals and working together but when it comes down to it many are not brave enough to take that step. But new ways of working are needed.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
I first met Kelly Davies-founder of Vi-ability in 2011 when she won the Wales Start-up of the Year award. She struck me as someone with huge drive and an amazing idea who wasn’t going to let anyone stop her from realising her vision. 6 years on she’s grown Vi-ability into an international social enterprise delivering her mission worldwide. She is inspirational.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Empowering Others

Paul Nagle

Paul Nagle is the Chief Executive Officer of SHEDNET with the main responsibility for developing and implementing the strategic vision of the organisation which is focused on supporting the opening of Men and Women Shed facilities and activities across Heads of the Valley regions in a financially sustainability manner.

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

  • Born in the Rhondda has given me socialist values and pride in the impact of volunteering and community action – re-enforced through time spent on a Kibbutz and a variety of governance positions
  • My father, an Irish immigrant, was self-employed so I learnt the value of enterprise and hard work from an early age
  • As captain of the school sports teams from under 13’s to senior level I learnt the importance of teamworking
  • I have run private and social enterprises for over 23 years and have modified my leadership style and now use a coaching style

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with SHEDNET?
Highlights:
– Starting the company and secured £37,000 funding in year one
– Lead role in opening of Porth Men and Women’s Sheds engaging with 188 people
– Lead role in opening THE SHED Community Hub which is a flagship and branded way to promote Sheds with sustainability as a core value through commercial activity in the form of a Café and Takeaway and one anchor tenant. Expected to make profit of £20,000 pa to be reinvested in Shed activity

Challenges:
– Marketing the concept of Men and Women Sheds to uninformed audience
– Financial sustainability of the organisation

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
I have learnt the positive impact that Shed activity makes to people’s lives and the realistic opportunity to generate significant profit from commercial activity to support Shed development across valley communities. We now expect to replicate THE SHED business model across many valley town centres.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2017?
The main issue for me lies with the changing of a dependence culture. For many years we have looked to the public sector, including the European Union, for the supply of facilities and services. These are reducing or disappearing and leaders need to inspire people to build a better future through engagement in community and enterprise activity.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
As a sports fan, I admire the work of Chris Coleman and Warren Gatland but the leaders I admire most are Richard Morgan OBE and Margaret Jervis OBE for the 40 plus years of their lives they have invested in Valleys Kids and Neil Hammond who has spent a lifetime supporting many community initiatives in the Rhondda.

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

Gareth Simpson (winner)

Gareth Simpson is Enterprise Development Manager at RCMA Social Enterprise Ltd and at Riverside Real Food – Cardiff Farmers Markets. He is responsible for the day to day management covering all business functions, the development and delivery of weekly markets, and the co-ordination of part-time team and logistics. His role also includes recruiting and support new business start-ups, securing new outlets for local food through working in partnership with venues and organisations and delivering promotional activity to maintain footfall and viability.

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

Life experience has always been about helping others. Teaching (Business Education) led to the Third Sector combining the ‘helping’ and business aspects. Development roles include CPCKC childcare business start-ups; Valeways – countryside access, ‘Walking for Health’ programmes, walking festival, work parties with vulnerable groups. Growing up and living in rural Wales keeps you humble and makes you resourceful. Having backpacked around the world in my younger years opens your eyes and ears.
These roles and experiences all involved people – talking, listening, helping, supporting and playing a small part in making plans and aspiration a reality Social Enterprise has allowed this path to continue.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with RCMA Social Enterprise?
Highlights. Turning enquiries to set up a food business into reality. Transitioning from community led roots to the thriving social business of today. Leading the Community Garden to 10 years and it achieving independent charitable status. Rescuing Roath Market from closure. Creating opportunities for the ‘streetfood’ sector. Reaching new audiences – University ‘campus markets’ and St Fagans. Doing S4C news feature with second language Welsh!
Challenges Running a high profile/expectation organisation with a small part-time team. Increasing public sector pressures for use of public space. Developing new initiatives whilst always looking after core activity. Overcoming misplaced perception that buying local is always expensive.
What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
There are always solutions, speaking to colleagues, clients and customers are key. There’s much respect for what we do and we must honour that. Highlights are fantastic, consistency is important.
You’re only as good as your last ‘highlight’, but they’re important for development and raising profile. Highlights are for everyone involved.


What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2017?

Maintaining quality of offer without compromise when faced with ongoing political and economic uncertainty stemming from past banking crises, public sector austerity and Brexit. Food and Farming is a prime Welsh industry and employer, making the country quite vulnerable to significant change. Secure consumer incomes and confidence to spend are paramount.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Fundraisers. No names, they are in all communities, who selflessly arrange events and raise money for charities, services and clubs. They have my complete respect and admiration.
Sam Warburton – down to earth Cardiff boy at the top of his sport with honesty, integrity and hard work. Speaks eloquently, commands respect without asking for it.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Co-operation