Tell us about your journey to becoming a leader
I am a Civil Engineer by profession. I went to university in the 1980s and at that time that was a very unusual career choice for a woman. I chose that career because I wanted to travel the world and do something that helped other people. After university I went to work for local government because they offered the best graduate training scheme and that meant I could become chartered as quickly as possible and then fulfil my ambition to work abroad, as well as appealing to my values. However, once I began work I loved it, and when I was identified as potential leader of the future by Kirklees Council I was given so much opportunity to achieve my potential through learning and development that I never wanted to leave. I have had numerous jobs over the time I have been with Kirklees culminating with me becoming the Chief Executive in 2017
How would you describe your leadership style?
I think I have many styles, as over the years I have learned that it’s important to use the appropriate style at the right time. However naturally I think I am a pace-setter, action-focused and transformative, with the ability to think outside of the box.
What values are most important to you as a leader?
Integrity, Authenticity and Respect
What three key attributes do you think define a successful leader?
- Communication skills – being able listen to people, understand what their issues are and be able to translate those into actions.
- Empathy- being empathetic to others is for me a key attribute. It drives me to perform better
- Self-awareness – knowing what you are and what you are not good at and surrounding yourself with people that are better than you in areas where you lack expertise.
Is leadership development important? Why?
Leadership development is hugely important as it can really help shape you as a leader. It provides you with the knowledge and the tools to adapt your leadership styles depending on the situation. It can also help you to build great teams by recognising the importance of that and enabling you with the skills to spot potential talent and role models to help support the development of others. I think that the Sir George Buckley Leadership Centre is a fabulous example of the support that is required and will be invaluable for the region to nurture future talent.
What lessons have you learnt as a leader?
It doesn’t matter how great a leader you are; you can’t do everything. Know what you’re good at and what you’re not. It’s all about the importance of teamwork – no one can cover all bases that a great leader needs to do, but a great leader will recognise that.
What has been your biggest challenge as a leader?
On a personal level I have very high expectations and I want to do everything yesterday. I recognise that though and have developed strategies to manage the impact of that on others.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders?
You need to be true to yourself and authentic. Early in my career, someone once said that often the more senior you become it’s not about how good you are, it’s more about who you are and your values, as it’s often taken for granted that you’re already good at what you do. Take time to work out who you are it will really help you define your leadership style.
Can you recommend any good leadership books?
“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith
What career would you be doing if you weren’t doing the one you’re doing now?
I would have loved to be a Social Worker. Having seen how very important a good Social Worker is and how they can make a real difference to families that need extra support I truly value the challenging but rewarding job they have. Given that I am really motivated by making a difference for people I can’t think of a better way to do that.