When Finance Wales and Barclay Corp offered me the chance to meet Professor Laura McAllister at their networking event, I jumped at the chance. Who would not want to meet a woman who juggles more current roles than most people have in their entire lifetime and is:
- Chair of Sport Wales
- Professor of Governance at the University of Liverpool’s School of Management
- Member of UK Sport and the Welsh Football Trust
- Project sponsor for sport at the University of Liverpool
- Chair of the Sport Liverpool Strategy Group
- Member of the National Assembly Remuneration Board
- Trustee of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, and
- Member of the Wales Advisory Committee of the British Council
Prior to the event, ‘Effective Leadership and Building Successful Teams’, I was hoping to get some tips on leadership, but also some insights about what it took to be on so many diverse boards.
Laura definitely did not disappoint and delivered all that and more. In fact it is the more that I want to share today, because, to me, the “more” underpinned everything else (I promise I will share the rest too, just not today).
I only met Laura for a couple of hours, so I am not saying that this is her definitive list, but when listening to her it struck me that she has some underpinning values, or intrinsic qualities that she brings to bear and help her with her success.
If you are aspirational, especially to board level, these five key qualities are worth reflecting on, as it was clear that they stood Laura in good stead. Some of them may well be innate, but I felt inspired and motived by each one, and felt there was something I could reflect and learn from them. Do they resonate with you too?
What was interesting about Laura was that learning seemed to be part of her DNA. She related how in sport she had always spent a lot of time honing her skills and that a part of that was learning from mistakes. One powerful statement she made was “I learn through failure, not success”. In fact, in sport, success is often rejoiced in the moment but then athletes swiftly move on to the next challenge. They take it for granted that they need to learn from failure. More and more though, the lessons of success have become equally important. After all, confidence comes from knowing what works.
Life is complicated; it is hectic and quite often full of choices that we have to make. Sometimes opportunities come at the most inconvenient of times! When Laura was being encouraged to apply for the Chair of Sports Wales, she didn’t really see how she could take it on. It was only after talking to a friend and mentor, that she was challenged with “what does your gut say”. We know the answer to that, and it turned out to be a fantastic decision. Remembering to trust your own intuition is really important and personally I think that is a skill you can hone. Keep asking yourself that question and you will start to become more in tune with your intuition, which usually has your best interests at heart.
Number 3 you might say, well actually this list is in no particular order as Laura oozed passion. What was interesting for me was the clarity she had about what she was passionate about. I believe we would all have more fulfilling lives if we made better choices, but you can only make good choices when you have good information. Knowing yourself and what your passionate about is key to that, but all too many people I meet do not understand that about themselves and, if they do, they often compromise it. Such is her clarity that from time to time she likes to “cull” anything from her life that does not feed that passion. What a brilliant thing to do!
This is an area that I struggle with, often putting anything and anyone before my own personal well-being. I need to constantly remind myself to re-energise and put myself first in order to give to everyone else the best version of me. Laura did that naturally. She talked about knowing her body, knowing when she was working and thinking at optimum levels. She shared two simple things that supported her, one was just “let the train take the strain” whenever you can and the other was when running (that might not be so simple for everyone, but any repetitive action would apply) she doesn’t play music, she doesn’t automatically plug her earphones in, she just lets her mind wander, lets it do its thing. She suggested that you will be surprised what insights, ideas and inspiration you will gain from adopting this method.
I have never really considered having a diverse outlook to be a life skill or value as such, but when you hear Laura speak you can see that it is. She loves diversity, she loves difference, she seeks out opposition, and she wants to disrupt the status quo. To help her do that she seeks out people who are different, who will question her own thinking, and will shine the light on different aspects of a situation or uncover blind spots. It made me realise that this attitude just dissolves bias and prejudice and provides a fertile ground for coming up with truly outrageous but brilliant solutions.
For more information about the event, search #greatleadershipis on Twitter.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.
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