Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

Do we need to talk more about ‘leadership’ in Wales?

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This morning I was involved in a conversation….a conversation about leadership.

That might not seem that exciting or unusual, or is it? How often do we, in Wales, have open conversations about leadership – especially in business?

The leader isn't always the manager!

The leader isn’t always the manager!

The conversation, that I was a part of, was in one of the Leadership Cafes that have been hosted during the nomination period of this year’s Leading Wales Awards. The Wales Co-operative Centre is co-sponsoring this year’s ‘Leadership in Social Enterprise’ category, with Social Firms Wales, so it was fitting that today’s event was held at Monwel Signs & Services, a social enterprise, based in Ebbw Vale, that’s been going for 45 years.

Barbara Chidgey, of Leading Wales Awards, facilitated the discussion that was lively, honest and open. The conversation ebbed and flowed, on one hand agreeing that leadership was the key driver of business success and financial growth, while also hearing that people don’t necessarily recognise their leadership skills and that there are others who simply enjoy the limelight, and are not ‘real’ leaders.

While we talked about the leaders that inspire us, whether a parent or an ex-President or Prime Minister, it was clear that more work needed to be done to promote the work of women in leadership positions. Barbara said this was something she was keen to achieve, through the ‘Women in Leadership’ category in the awards.

Do we recognise the true importance of leadership in Wales? Many of those who attended this morning’s event thought not. It was suggested that some people are scared or reluctant to come to the fore, as leaders, and pose important, relevant and, at times, difficult questions, especially to decision makers. Some said that could be down to a lack of confidence, people concerned for their future, or even a ‘bullying’ culture that might lead people to not say what they’re thinking and feeling. The group felt it was a leader’s job to take risks and to generate courage among whoever they’re leading. There was also some discussion about leaders developing people then being able to let them go. This again could be relevant in families, when children leave the nest, or in work when a colleague is looking to further their career.

We were reminded of the ‘Leadership Zoo’ that had been the subject of conversation at other Leadership Cafes. This looks at different leadership styles and characteristics and how our behaviours relate to those of  certain animals. This was also important to help leaders recognise whether they have the right mix of ‘animals’ in their ‘zoo’ (skills in their team) or if some of their team members are forced to be something they’re not. Personally, I think I’m part monkey and part lion!

What was clear at today’s meeting, was that leaders are not necessarily ‘the big boss’, it could almost be anybody. By the same token, being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean you do everything. The group felt a good leader was inclusive, a part of the team, which is important when dealing with a crisis, for example.

This word cloud captures some of the things we talked about

This word cloud captures some of the things we talked about

Towards the end of the discussion, we looked at succession. A good leader also needs to help plan for the future and when to bring someone into their position. Supporting continuity for the future, the group felt, was just as important as being a constant source of inspiration here and now. 

I enjoyed today’s event. It helped me to see things from a different perspective, which is always healthy. Where would we be without good leaders? As a rugby fan, I always like to see the captain being helped by other team members, so there are several leaders on the pitch.

So, strike up a conversation about leadership. You might be surprised where it takes you. Also, there’s not long left to nominate your favourite leader(s) in Wales, for this year’s awards. The nomination deadline is Friday 14th March. I’m sure most of us know someone in our communities that are leaders who are deserving of at least a nomination – they can often be the unsung heroes of a community; the people who have an idea, a vision, and inspire others to help realise that vision. While we were talking about social enterprises today, the leaders you may think of may work in a local school, a different type of business, a community project or voluntary organisation. They’re all valid.

Written by Mark Smith

March 3, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Posted in social enterprise

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