Leadership Stories 2019

Arthur Beechey, CEO, Agoriad Cyf

How have your life experiences helped make you the leader you are today?
As a person who had been in care my early life had seen the emergence of resilience and spirit in my character. My first job as a management trainee with the MMB taught me the importance of a strong value base, respect and integrity in leading others.  Seeing the effect of coaching and mentoring put into me led to my lifelong belief in it as part of a leader’s toolbox.

What have been your proudest moments since taking up your leadership role with Agoriad?  
Having grown organically a set of leaders within the organisation and seeing staff develop in respect of strategic thinking, decision making and delivery ability. The scale and scope of empowerment increasing across the organisation. Moving from grant dependency. Surviving difficult times where the landscape was outside our control.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these times and from working with your colleagues?
Potential is not limited to job role, age or title. I don’t have all the answers. There are plenty of hidden skills and talents within the organisation my duty is to discover them. Be accessible to staff at all levels consistently and transparently. Work with and for your staff to nullify threats and develop opportunities. Praise and recognition are effective. Be honest about threats. Don’t compromise your values. Communication.

Tell us about a time or two when you have had to display courage in your leadership role
Standing up to prime contractors whose transactionally dominated systems derived from a UK wide approach to contracting does not reflect the context and reality of our area. Dealing with European funding bodies who’s late, payments threatened our survival. Some staff and Board thought that we should not rock the boat by challenging them. However, from this the leaders emerged from both a board perspective and I.

What do you think are the biggest leadership issues facing us in Wales in 2019?
The prime contractor model is the biggest challenge in our sector. This is a model that suits shareholders. Wales does not have any indigenous Primes which reflects our economic position. We are not short of Leaders in Wales or potential Leaders what we need is policies and structures that will provide the opportunity for Wales to utilise its own leadership capacity and capability in shaping its future.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Any Leader who faces head on the challenges of moving from grant dependency to sustainability. Leaders who see and accept collaborative activity as the path to sustainability. Any leader who will challenge the transactionally dominated systems we have at present.

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

 

Simon Michaels, Multiple! Founder and Board member for several ethical enterprises including Riverside Market Garden, bodloni, f3, Crystal Group, Mindful Work

How have your life experiences helped make you the leader you are today?
I have diverse work experience; I’ve been a consultant in private practice, I’ve founded and helped run several different ethical organisations, and I’ve been a Trustee of several charities.  In most cases, at least in the last 25 years, I’ve held a leadership or Board role. Inevitably in the course of these roles I’ve come across management problems and conflict, but I’ve also gained many useful insights.

What have been your proudest moments since taking up your leadership role with these organisations?

  • Establishing f3 in 1999 – a social enterprise comprising 17 members, driving innovation in local food systems and sustainable food chains
  • Co-creating the Sustainable Business Review in 2015 – a tool for Welsh Government to help food businesses understand and check their contribution to sustainable development
  • Co-founding RCMA Social Enterprise in 2001 – the community business that runs the farmers markets in Cardiff – and helping take this to a profitable model
  • Co-founding Riverside Market Garden in 2010 – a community business on a 5-acre plot growing organic vegetables – and recently handing this over to a worker’s co-operative to run
  • Acting as Trustee and Treasurer for the Crystal Group charity since 2005 – running a retreat centre near Abergavenny, and helping take this to a sustainable model
  • Establishing Mindful Work in 2017 – an ethical business with a mission to help one million people gain simple mindfulness tools to meet stress at work (about 750 helped to date)

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these times and from working with your colleagues? Probably the key learning from this has been to appreciate that good leadership means being clear about values, selfless, patient with others, and always innovating and inspiring. But above all, the value of collaboration has been my main lesson. Listening is probably the key skill needed.

It’s also critical in my view to be humble about what I don’t know, and to encourage employees to develop their skills so they become better than me and self-sufficient – at which point I can move on.

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

  1. Negotiating the withdrawal from one social enterprise of a board member, who had acted in such a way that he had to leave. I did this without blame or anger and kept a cool head.
  2. Knowing when to leave the Board, when I feel my role is done – rather than holding on to power.
  3. Facilitating a conflict situation where an employee had a grievance and helping find an equitable solution.

What do you think are the biggest leadership issues facing us in Wales in 2019?
In the social enterprise sector, especially in care, health and environment, the impact of austerity and Brexit has been significant. This has forced many organisations to restructure, cut staffing, and balance social impact against budgets, whilst the challenges persist.

Leaders need to be patient, stay true to their values, and above all keep talking to everyone with honesty and humility. They need to keep innovating, be creative and always reframe problems as a way to generate new solutions – which often requires innovative collaboration.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
I love the work of Kevin Morgan, Professor of Governance and Development in Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning. He has always inspired people to think radically about key sustainability issues such as children’s nutrition.

I also admire Rhodri Thomas, the Principal Sustainability Consultant at Cynnal Cymru. His modest and friendly approach is a winner at motivating individuals and companies to think with a wide perspective.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
One word is a tough challenge so here’s one that is always critical:  listening.

 

Vicki Roskams, Engagement Leader, Enbarr Enterprises Limited and Enbarr Foundation CIC

How have your life experiences helped make you the leader you are today?
I learnt from an early age to make the most out of a bad situation. As a young carer for my alcoholic Mum, this taught me Responsibility, Self-Reliance and Empathy. My love of animals built my Trust, Loyalty and Persistence. These experiences all involved Collaboration. Talking/listening/helping/supporting and laying the foundation to enable Resilience to achieve Aspirations/Create Opportunities and Rebuild HOPE & Possibilities, especially in our Communities. We-Rise-by-Lifting-Others.

What have been your proudest moments since taking up your leadership role with Enbarr Enterprises Limited & Enbarr Foundation CIC organisation?

  • Setting up Enbarr Foundation which works with young people and those furthest away from the job market to believe in themselves and the power they hold within igniting their aspirations/skills.
  • Growing/Transforming/Nurturing my team, we get to have proud moments a lot in Enbarr.
  • Reskilling/Assisting over 2100 people find sustainable careers in 4-years, across those most at risk in our community, whilst assisting alleviating poverty/stigma/isolation/homelessness/education and unemployment concerns.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these times and from working with your colleagues?
People learn by making mistakes so allow them to step outside their comfort zone and support them if they fall.

  • You are just one person. You must invest in your skills, those around you and collaborate so all grow together.
  • Leadership isn’t just about motivating others to follow, its inspiring them to step up and lead for themselves to create greater opportunities for future generations.

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

  • Giving talks around Disability awareness, initially was hard and I worried people would judge me regards previous Mental health Issues & hidden disabilities. Whilst considered confident, I drew on courage to fully share.
    • Challenged Perceptions – Developed a vision, took the risk to develop the John Summers building to rebuild lost skills, improve STEM/Skilled Jobs access, promote community cohesion.  Overtime had to demonstrate courage/innovation to build a team/community around me.

What do you think are the biggest leadership issues facing us in Wales in 2019?

  • A changing Workforce Demographic, Inclusions & Gender Diversity & Sustaining HOPE alongside technology driven change–
    • Welsh population increase to 3 million by 2041, alongside resulting dependency ratio of those who can’t work
    • Lack of opportunities for Young People in leadership roles
    • Lifelong learning to fill emerging skills gaps
    • Backfill retirees’ jobs
    • Level the playing field in gender equality of management/board/sector dominated roles

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?

  • Gemma Morgan–Inspiring speaker, battled her demons, demonstrates great vulnerability whilst storytelling #Empowering
  • Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson-changed people’s perception of disability, One of the most respected Welsh voices for modern public life. #Inspiring
  • Dilys Price–changing the perception of the older generation through her do-or-die-attitude. “We all have potential, it’s very important we recognise that. “#LEGACY
  •  Social Enterprises selflessly serving communities, promoting social good, inclusion and hope. #Championing

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?  
Collaboration/Partnership