2015 Public Sector Finalists

Joy Ballard Headteacher, Willows High School and Chris Jones of Academi Wales

Leadership in the Public Sector sponsored by Academi Wales

The shortlistclick on a name to read their personal “Leadership Story”

Joy Ballard – Headteacher, Willows High School, Cardiff (winner)
Leighton Davies – Director, Finance Centre of Excellence, BBC
Dr Emyr Roberts – Chief Executive, Natural Resources Wales
Roger Thomas – Corporate Head of Service Delivery, Mid & West Wales Fire Service


Joy Ballard

Headteacher, Willows High School, Cardiff

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

My life experience taught me that without a decent education and good qualifications, very few people are able to achieve their full potential.    I gained my very first qualification when I was 26 and prior to that my life was very difficult.   I lived in poverty as a child and became a young parent to three children and my only means of supporting them was through various part time cleaning jobs.    I wanted a better life for my children so engaged in an adult education course and my life really started from there.   I learned that every child deserves a chance and needs a champion in their corner.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Willows High School?

The main challenge was to inspire an entire community which is one of the most deprived in Wales to believe in itself, to know that no matter who you are or where you are from you can achieve as well, if not even better than anybody else and to transform a tired, demotivated team of teachers into a high performing outstanding team, all of whom would be prepared to go the extra mile to ensure that no child under my care would fall through the net and fail to achieve their potential.   The main highlight has been achieving this.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?

I’ve learned that a vision for success in a demanding environment is not just a statement but needs to be embedded in everything that we do and that as the lead professional it is essential to be highly visible and a constant role model to others.  Winning hearts and minds contributes towards success but not without strong management systems made effective and consistent through robust and regular quality assurance activities to ensure that ambitious targets set are fully achieved.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales is in 2015?

A lack of collaboration to raise the aspirations of our children, particularly those in poverty.   Schools need greater awareness of skills gaps and opportunities for young people in Wales so that the very best talent in our schools can make a contribution towards driving the country forward.   There is so much wasted talent in schools, decisions taken regarding curriculum, careers advice and preparing young people for the future should not be made by the education system alone but by government, commerce, industry and schools working together to ensure the very best futures for the children of Wales.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?

I admire Leighton Andrews for his courage and for letting his heart rule his head by going against his own policies and standing by his local constituents backing a public campaign to prevent the closure of a local primary school.    I also admire Warren Gatland for his visionary leadership and motivational skills.   And finally, I admire Sir Tom Jones and his passion for all that is Welsh and understanding of being a nation united.  Not really a leader but such a fabulous advocate for Wales.

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

Joy Ballard took up her role as Headteacher at Willows High in September 2011.   At that point and following the closure of another school Willows High was the lowest performing school in the country.   As Headteacher, Joy is responsible for the wellbeing and achievement of every pupil and for ensuring that her team of staff offer a high quality learning experience for all pupils.   Under her leadership Willows became the county’s highest performing school compared to any other in challenging circumstances.   She has supported other schools and helped them to improve and has for the past year worked closely with officers from Welsh Government and the Consortium developing a self improving school system for Wales with incredible results.


Leighton Davies

Director, Finance Centre of Excellence, BBC

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today? 

I grew up in the Dulais Valley.  My Dad worked as an engineer in a factory and guided me towards accountancy, because “all the bosses were accountants” so I have him to thank for setting me on this journey.  I was proud to be the first Welsh FD for GE Aviation where I learned the importance of clear leadership incorporating lean and 6 sigma principles. Whilst at GE I gained international work experience including projects in Tokyo, Atlanta and training at Harvard Business School.  This rich experience combined with my roots enables me to deal with people at all levels.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with XYZ organisation?

The main highlight has been transforming the BBC Finance Centre of Excellence into a high performing team which adds real value to the business.

By providing clear and strong leadership I have been able to drive a visible cultural change within a team of dedicated and hard working staff. We have all been on a journey of transformation but have reached the point where providing world class service to the business is at the heart of everything we do.

The reward for me is that, for the first time since its inception in 2006, the BBC Finance Centre of Excellence has a strong reputation within the BBC, and it is hugely rewarding to see this reflected in pride and morale.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?

Leadership requires adapting to each organisation’s culture.  I realised that a leadership style which worked at GE needed to be adapted to the BBC.

Doing this again, I would be more patient and realise that cultural change cannot happen overnight.  You should always look to improve yourself as a leader.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2015? 

Wales has world class people and businesses.  The challenge for leaders is to inspire confidence in their teams to work with world class organisations as peers and really push themselves to stand shoulder to shoulder as equals with the best in the world.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why? 

Henry Engelhardt, CEO of Admiral Insurance. As the leader of the FTSE 100 Company which he founded, it is his positive attitude and simple philosophy of “if people like what they do, they will do it better” that in my eyes makes him a truly inspirational leader.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you? 

Inspiring

Leighton is Director for the BBC Finance Centre of Excellence (CoE) comprising approximately 200 staff.  He has overall responsibility for leading a high quality finance service to the BBC from monthly management accounts to the publicly available Annual Report and Accounts. As a member of the Senior BBC Finance Team, Leighton provides strategic and day-to-day leadership for this large team, based on a culture of continuous improvement and simplification.  He is also responsible for the team of approximately 200 outsourced staff based in India.


Dr Emyr Roberts

Chief Executive, Natural Resources Wales

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I have had a wide range of personal and professional experiences during my life which I have tried to learn from and use. I was brought up in a small village in Anglesey, and I have ensured that NRW is close to the communities it serves. I have worked my way up through organisations, and I have remained approachable to everyone I lead, regardless of rank or position. I have always worked with people who are experts in their field and my leadership makes the most of everyone’s skills and ensures that we are all using the best knowledge available.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Natural Resources Wales?

The launch of NRW in April 2013 was a huge achievement given what we had to achieve in a short period. Dealing with the winter storms in 2013-14 severely tested us, while agreeing single terms and conditions for staff with the unions showed that we could deliver a mature settlement. The challenges are motivating people to keep going and do their best, even in the face of change and uncertainty. The longer-term challenge is to create a unified culture for NRW and putting in place sustainable programmes which improve environmental, social and economic outcomes.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?

  • To be patient and to take no-one or nothing for granted.
  • To believe in the decisions that I make.
  • To take counsel from a wide range of people, including Board Members, staff and friends.
  • To stay calm even in the roughest weather.
  • To trust the people around me.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2015?

Across the public sector, we face delivering better outcomes with diminishing resources. That means identifying ways of working more effectively and efficiently; this needs buy-in from staff, who often have the solutions; and we need to communicate well to our stakeholders why it’s no longer possible to do everything.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?

Although I have only heard him speak, I admire Henry Engelhardt, the CEO of Admiral Insurance. He has created a FTSE 100 company, maintained the Welsh roots and invested in Welsh skills, has high staff engagement, contributes to good causes, and seems a fun guy.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?

Opportunity

Emyr is Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of Natural Resources Wales. He is accountable to the Chairman and Board of NRW, and leads an organisation of around 1900 fte staff in a number of locations throughout Wales. Emyr chairs the Executive Team meetings and is responsible for ensuring that the organisation delivers its Corporate and Business Plans, and the annual Remit Letter from the Welsh Government. He meets Welsh Government Ministers on a regular basis, as well as other senior stakeholders who interact with NRW.

Emyr usually spends at least two days a week out of the office, visiting NRW projects and meeting staff and other organisations. He also regularly speaks at conferences and represents NRW on groups such as the Wales Resilience Forum.


Roger Thomas

Corporate Head of Service Delivery, Mid & West Wales Fire Service

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

Having joined the Fire Service as a firefighter I have gained experience at every role within the organisation up to and including strategic manager. This varied development pathway has enabled me to understand the challenges facing all strata within the organisation and I endeavour to use these experiences to inform and shape my decision making and leadership style. Working within a dynamic operational environment has taught me the importance of teamwork and trust; I feel that these experiences have equal value within the broader management setting.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Mid and West Wales Fire & Rescue Service?

Mid and West Wales Fire & Rescue Service is the epitome of a ‘can do’ organisation and the commitment of our 1400 staff is truly inspiring. Whilst our traditional ‘core’ business involves resolving emergency incidents the MWWFRS has expanded its portfolio enormously over the past decade to include proactive community safety work and taking an active lead in the collaboration agenda with public, private and third sector organisations. The public sector landscape remains challenging particularly from a financial and change management perspective but we have identified opportunities to innovate and to challenge existing norms in order to protect our communities.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?

The ability to engender trust and build positive relationships are key factors in managing successful organisational change; being authentic and demonstrating integrity helps to foster an environment in which leaders emerge from all areas of an organisation. Effective communication is also important in order to support individuals through this process.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2015?

Economic pressures have generated uncertainty within the public sector in Wales. I believe that the Welsh Public Sector should embrace these changes as an opportunity to improve collaborative interventions which will ultimately lead to more joined-up, cohesive and leaner organisations.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?

From an academic perspective Professor Catherine Farrell (University of South Wales) inspired me to think differently about leadership. From an organisational perspective the Fire and Rescue Service is replete with inspirational leaders at all levels; their commitment to serve and protect our communities is essential to our success.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?

Integrity

Roger Thomas Is Corporate Head of Service Delivery at Mid and West Wales Fire & Rescue Service. MWWFRS employs over 1,400 members of staff and covers around 4,500 square miles – almost two thirds of Wales. The Service is responsible for over 1,000 operational personnel, 58 fire stations and deals with over 13,000 operational incidents every year.

Disclaimer: All details included in these leadership stories have been provided by the finalists themselves.  All information has been accepted in good faith.  Any references to individuals or circumstances have been relayed in the finalist’s own words and have not been verified by the Leading Wales Awards Directors or its Consortium.  Any views expressed are those of the individuals concerned and are not necessarily the views of the Leading Wales Awards Directors or Consortium members.


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