Leadership Stories

 

Cerys Furlong, Chief Executive, Chwarae Teg

Cerys sets the strategic direction for Chwarae Teg, stretches their ambitions as they strive to make Wales a world leader in gender equality. She empowers and enables colleagues to do their roles as effectively as possible, leading by example, showing what they can achieve if they all work together.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was brought up in a big family, surrounded by music, laughter, politics. I’m one of four girls and my parents brought us up to know that we could do anything we wanted. My Mum died in her 50s, and so a huge amount of my drive and passion is wanting to make her proud, but also leave nothing behind- you never know what is around the corner. Both my parents worked really hard. But they were also school governors, political activists, active members of our community. They brought us up to believe the world could be a better place.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Chwarae Teg?
In the eighteen months since taking the role of Chief Exec at Chwarae Teg there have been lots of highlights and challenges. So far I have been lucky enough to mark 25 years since we were established, launch our first commercial service Fairplay Employer, extend our Agile Nation 2 project by two years and raise our profile within the media and across political spheres. However, none of that has come without hard work, difficult decisions and some failures.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
At Chwarae Teg I have found that our people are motivated by an exciting ambitious plan which involves everyone and each role pulling together. I also know that change doesn’t happen overnight, so sometimes you just need to be patient and hold your nerve.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
I think our biggest issue is lack of ambition for what we can achieve in Wales, and too much timidity about taking risks. We’re a small nation and need to be prepared to try different things, accept we may sometimes fail, but importantly learn from those mistakes and move forward.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
I don’t have one role model or think anyone represents all I admire. But I’ve worked with some amazing people and tried to learn from all of them- whether that is adopting things they do or vowing never to be like them because of the negative impact that have on people around them.

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

 

Sarah Matthews, Chief Executive, Centre of Sign-Sight-Sound (COS)

As Chief Executive, Sarah ensure COS’s focus is on the best interests of the Deaf and sensory loss communities they serve. She leads COS in challenging discrimination and promoting rights of these communities and providing them with quality services which enable service users to achieve their own full unique potential.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I truly believe that my life experiences have led to me being in the role I am meant to be today, Chief Executive of COS. Having lived with sensory loss myself since birth and a mother of two children with sight loss, I have experienced the daily challenges our service users face and worked hard to find effective solutions to these. Working in health and social care for nearly 30 years, I was often frustrated as a practitioner at not being able to affect greater change, which is what led me to pursue a career pathway into a leadership role.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Centre of Sign-Sight-Sound?
The main challenge has and remains to be, the difficult economic environment in which COS along with other voluntary sector organisations must operate and indeed survive. Whilst understanding well the current pressures on the public purse and hence many of our service commissioners, it is a constant challenge to source and obtain funding to maintain our vital services. What makes this challenge all worthwhile is having the absolute privilege to work with the most skilled, dedicated, inspirational and hardworking team at COS I have ever worked with. From Trustee Board to operational staff teams my colleagues are amazing people.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
Working as a team is key to success, having trust that as colleagues you will support each other and that you are all working to a common vision, gives individuals the confidence and motivation to achieve great things.  Partnership working enables sharing of expertise/resources and best service user outcomes.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
The biggest issue for leaders currently is the period of change/uncertainty we are going through, with cuts in funding, new legislation being interpreted and implemented and rising uncertainty around what the picture will be post Brexit. This calls for leaders to be courageous about thinking differently and being innovative.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson epitomises everything in a leader and positive role model I aspire to be. From being an elite para-Olympian to a Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords, she has championed disability rights and role modelled that we can all regardless of our background and circumstances achieve great things.

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

Martin Pollard, Chief Executive, Welsh Centre for International Affairs

(until 30 June 2018)

During Martin’s time at the WCIA, he led the charity’s strategic development and tripled its size over three years. He designed key programmes, secured funding and recruiting a talented team of senior staff. He also kept in touch with their beneficiaries by training teachers and delivering educational work in schools.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I’ve always been keen to try different things. In my professional life, I’ve been privileged to travel to numerous countries and meet people of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs. These experiences have nurtured my ability to understand different perspectives and collaborate across apparent boundaries. In my personal life, I’ve dabbled in being a DJ, writer, politician and stand-up comedian; this has given me a fearless edge and a thirst for new ideas. And my family life with my wife and son has kept my feet on the ground, reminding me that work is not everything and enjoying yourself is crucial.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with the Welsh Centre for International Affairs?
I was delighted to develop the WCIA’s profile and ambitions in such a way that we secured funding for two major projects. ‘Wales for Peace’ has been a highlight for me. It took 18 months to develop the project from scratch – meeting stakeholders, writing and rewriting plans, and since then seeing the work flourish under the excellent leadership of Craig Owen. These high points also underscore the challenges for the WCIA, which (like many charities) has been under pressure to secure the finances needed to keep it sustainable in the long term.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
Leading is sometimes about realising your own goals, but just as often it is about effectively representing others. I’ve learned a lot about the value of partnership, and the importance of genuinely taking others’ input on board. I’ve developed the ability to listen, reflect and not be precious.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
I think that Wales faces a big challenge in self-confidence. We’ve had devolution for two decades, but it sometimes feels as if we’ve stagnated. How can we truly strike out and forge a long-term, confident vision of Welsh society and institutions? Our leaders need to relish that challenge.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
I admire Laura McAllister for excelling at several things – sports, academia, politics, human rights – and always doing them with a combination of knowledge and approachability. I also have a lot of time for Ali Abdi and his local leadership in Cardiff – he is someone who can really connect across communities.

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

 

 

Emma Williams, Development & Marketing Manager, Women’s Aid RCT

Emma’s role at Women’s Aid RCT involves her working directly with the Chief Executive Office and the Services Manager to develop strategic and business plans.  A large part of her role is identifying, researching, developing and early stage management of new business opportunities within the context of WA-RCT’s overall strategy. She directly manages all the development projects within the organisation.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have learnt that the people around me are my most valuable resource. As a leader I make an effort to know my team, their skills, their strengths, their weaknesses and even their likes and dislikes. This supports me to get the best out of them as individuals and to create opportunities to challenge them further and inspire future change.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with WA-RCT?

Highlights
I began my career within the sector as a volunteer in 2008 and worked my way up from an officer to a co-ordinator to development manager at the third largest women’s aid organisation in Wales. Implementing systems, processes, and structures to drive through improvements that have seen the organisation and my teams go from strength to strength.

Challenges
To create new and innovative services that meet the ever-increasing needs and the demand for services with limited resources through a period of austerity and year on year financial cuts.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
Planning ahead, focussed and determined, committed to development of self and others, open communication, always treat others respectfully and fairly, create an empowering environment, always lead by example, have patience and perseverance, be reliable, honest and have trust in your own abilities, demonstrate integrity.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
Austerity, Increased Poverty – changes to benefit system, poor wages, lack of affordable child care provision and lack of affordable housing continue to have a negative impact. Lack of skilled specialist workforce presents barriers to recruiting the right people quickly, Political Uncertainty and the ongoing concerns and uncertainty regarding Brexit.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Leaders I admire most are those who are driven to succeed, have excellent foresight and a knowledge and understanding of their environment.  Leaders who are tenacious, determined and strive to achieve results regardless of the challenges they face.

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