Leadership Stories

 

Vivienne Buckley, Deputy Principal, Bridgend College

As Deputy Principal Viv is responsible for curriculum and teaching and learning, ensuring standards and quality across a breadth of FE and HE subjects.   She is responsible for upholding the College mission of creating an atmosphere in which everyone can ‘Be all that they can be’.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I attended an all girls school, which engendered a firm belief that girls could do anything!  I was encouraged to aim high and assume that I would be able to achieve.  School also taught me that if you studied drama you got an early lunch ticket, and it was here that my love of performing arts was formed!  Working in professional theatre honed my ability to look at issues through a different lens and focus on making changes for the greater good.  Teaching, where every day brings new challenges, has also been a key influence.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Bridgend College?
The FE Sector is truly transformative, making an impact on the learners that pass through our doors is both motivational and inspiring.  It has been a pleasure to be part of the journey of Bridgend College to its position as the best performing general FE College in Wales.  The successes stories of students are a clear highlight, but it is also a challenge, against a backdrop of ever decreasing funding and changing political climates to ensure that the learner remains at the heart of every decision and is afforded the best educational opportunities we can facilitate. 

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
Through challenging times, I have learnt that resilience is a key to strong leadership and the ability to diversify in line with external pressures and internal drivers is essential.  I have learnt to cherish the highlights and remember that people are the reason why we do, what we do and always come first.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
Regionalisation, nationalisation and internationalisation.  Wales needs to position itself as a ‘provider of choice’, which generates a skilled, adaptable workforce open to innovative and sustainable industries: a place that nurtures talent and retains it. To do that we need coherent pan-Wales strategies across public sector organisations.  #TogetherStronger

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Past: Elizabeth Andrews (suffragette, campaigner), never forgot what she believed in and fought for health and education services.

Present: Michael Sheen (actor, political activist), passionate, takes people with him and a brilliant orator.

Future:  Rebecca Dodds (Bridgend College student governor), self assured and passionate 18-year-old…watch this space.

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

Mark Jones, Principal and Chief Executive, Gower College Swansea

Mark’s role is that of Principal and Chief Executive.  His particular responsibilities are wide and diverse with the most important ones being to set the overall direction for the organisation, the key priorities that we are looking to achieve and the overall pace of change and movement within the organisation.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I’ve been fortunate to have worked in a wide range of different organisations in public practice, industry and across the education sectors – and the experience of working under a number of very different leaders has helped me develop my own beliefs and skills in terms of what makes a good leader and what doesn’t.  In addition, I also have my own set of personal values which are built on advice that I have received from family, friends and colleagues such as ‘treat others as you would want them to treat you’

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Gower College Swansea?
Highlights include the development of new programmes and new markets, the creation of new partnerships and the opening of new buildings or facilities.

But at the heart of our organisation are our students and their successes are our greatest highlights, whether that be individual students getting a place at Oxbridge or being offered a job or an apprenticeship or being promoted at work following completion of a College training programme.  And for many, it is simply arriving at College with few qualifications and leaving with their futures mapped out – and having achieved all of that with the College’s support.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
There are so many ‘ups and downs’ in any organisation that the most important skill to learn is that of being ‘resilient’ – because staff want a leader who has a positive approach and also because it is important to have an eye on the ‘long game’ and long-term relationships.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
The biggest issue continues to be the impact of ‘austerity’ and the need to generate additional income to offset the ongoing financial pressures and, as a result, to be able to continue to invest both in maintaining the highest quality of service but also in the future of the organisation.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to work alongside a large number of talented College Principals and senior leaders from across the further education sector.  During this time, Colleges have merged, grown, developed new programmes and build new campuses whilst continuously improving the quality of teaching and the student experience.
What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Influence

Professor Martin Kitchener, Dean and Head of School, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University

As Head of Cardiff Business School for the last six years, Martin has led a large and diverse academic community of more than 3,000 students, 300 employees, with an annual revenue of £44M pa. His main contribution has been to implement a distinctive public value strategy that has delivered improvements in financial performance, academic strength, staff satisfaction, governance, and social contribution.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My leadership approach can be traced back to my childhood when my parents emphasized the idea that a sense of direction is necessary to make key decisions.  As my mum told me: “If you can’t be decorative, you must have a purpose”.  This injunction began informing decisions including the time to be allocated between playing sport and doing school work, and my concentration on social science.

Following this early emphasis on personal purpose, my experience of running a research group at the University of California taught me that high-performing teams have a shared sense of organizational purpose within an inclusive culture that nurtures the multiple talents of diverse colleagues.

More recently, my experience as Dean of Cardiff Business School has underscored the importance of using a clear sense of purpose to help balance the demands of external constraints and opportunities, with the internal needs of the School.

Cumulatively, these life experiences have forged my commitment to growing the first business school with a clear purpose to deliver both economic and social benefits to our students, colleagues, and the wider world.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Cardiff Business School?
The main achievement of my leadership tenure has been leading a collaborative effort to design and implement a ‘Public Value Strategy’ that is unique among the world’s 14,000 business schools. This strategy directs Cardiff Business School to: “promote economic and social improvement through interdisciplinary scholarship that addresses grand challenges, while operating a progressive approach to our own governance”. Pursuit of this shared purpose has enabled the School to deliver the following strong, and balanced, set of enhancement to organizational performance:

  • Economic – doubling revenue in six years to £44M resulting in an annual contribution of £300M to the economy, while supporting 900 jobs,
  • Academic – ranked 6th for research quality among 110 UK business schools, only Oxbridge and London business schools are ranked higher. Only School at Cardiff University to be listed in Times World 100 subject ranking.
  • Improved staff satisfaction, as measured by Cardiff University survey 2018.
  • Progressive governance including the introduction of a Shadow Management Board to widen involvement in decision-making.
  • Social improvements including policy changes arising from our research into the relationship between alcohol pricing and violence.

Key challenges have involved operating within an increasingly competitive international markets for students, research income, and reputation, and balancing the rapid growth of the School with the well-being of the staff and students.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
The most important message from my experience concerns the potential for performance improvement that can arise from using a shared view of organizational purpose as a kind of moral compass to help guide strategy and decision-making. In the case of our public value strategy, this has reminded us to consider carefully how does an individual issue or challenge relate to our purpose of promoting economic and social improvement among our students, colleagues, and the wider world.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
The need to balance requirements for delivering improved economic performance while meeting our obligation to improve social conditions for colleagues, and society.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
I have huge admiration for Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. She has demonstrated a serious commitment to delivering economic, social and environmental improvements for future generations in Wales. There is a clear connection between that project, and the Public Value strategy of our School. In addition, Sophie pursues her objectives with an authentic, human, and collaborative leadership style.

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

Craig J Middle, Staff Officer, Grade 2, Engagement, 160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales.

Whilst supporting operational effectiveness of the Army Craig’s role requires him to deliver wider agendas such as Youth and Employer engagement.  This requires him to establish partnerships with external organisations with a view to securing youth opportunities and employment throughout Wales.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Leading has always been in my blood since my early days within Scouting from being the Sixer, patrol leader and Chair of the Venture Scout Unit.  Within employment, developing administration systems and sales department to owning my own business.  I am service to my country and community driven, therefore joining the Territorial Army and becoming a County Councillor was natural for me.  I always wanted to lead to make a difference, so I worked hard to become an Officer and Cabinet member.   These combined made me an adaptable leader with a focus on outcomes and progression for the wider good.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with the 160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales?
Understanding the scope of the problem and getting the buy-in from stakeholders. Encouraging the military Units to support activities which amount to Corporate Social Responsibility.  Delivering the Army transformational programme by re-engaging with society in a way we have not done for decades.  This has been a natural fit for me that has seen the introduction of the Armed Forces Covenant framework for Wales to engage with Local Authorities and key agencies.  It has also allowed the development of the Armed Forces Pathway schemes to allow youths to progress from Career to Employment within or outside the Armed Forces.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
The willingness of all I have engaged with to support the Armed Forces by deliver on their pledges made via the Covenant.  The willingness of Educational establishments to see the potential in delivering the Armed Forces Pathway scheme by offering Young people leadership, team building and Industry accredited training.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
Understanding the bigger picture and what does success look like.  The ever-changing technology and means of communication, the loss of face to face engagement and the current generations demands and aspirations that are very different to ours and therefore there is a greater need to develop leadership potential.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Nye Bevan, through his early days as a miner to establishing the NHS.  He had the ability to stick to his principals and see through change.

Sir Tasker VC.  WW2 where he was awarded the VC to his involvement with WRU.  When Sir Tasker entered a room, you could sense the respect people had for him.

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