Executive Women in Leadership network addresses ‘Effective Leadership’

  • Leadership
  • Thought Leadership
  • FWB Events

The Executive Women In Leadership network recently held a fascinating session addressing ‘Effective Leadership, held in the offices of Baillie Gifford.

The key speakers were Julie Marshall-Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Cabinet Office, Ian McAulay, until recently CEO of Southern Water and Alice Thompson, Purpose Coach and Social Bite co-founder. They all come from very different backgrounds with a range of skills and life experiences which they generously shared with us and there was a lively discussion on how we can all be more effective and impactful leaders.

Julie addressed the topic of ‘Leadership effectiveness and team dynamics’. She explained that human beings are part of social systems which are made up of lots of different, often unconscious, characteristics that we’ve accumulated over time. These become our toolkit – for understanding ourselves and the teams/systems we work in.

When leading a group she encourages leaders to ask the as if question ie what is this group behaving as if they are here to do? She also encouraged leaders to consider the following when leading different types of groups:

Are questions tolerated?

Is there room to think, to collectively be curious?

Is there a preoccupation with details and seemingly trivial matters?

Is adequate time and respect given?

And finally, use your emotional experience to give you clues that the team may be stuck in unhelpful anti-task behaviours.

Alice talked to us about using purpose to access our potential. She explained that purpose is integral to our brain’s ability to perform at its optimal level when trying to set and achieve our goals. Purpose is multi-layered and defined as “interoceptive” and “exteroceptive”.  To access all of our brain’s potential for achieving goals in the most effective way, we need to have balance between our interoceptive purpose and exteroceptive purpose. She also commented that recent findings on positive psychology show that making our strengths stronger is the most effective way to make progress and succeed – instead of focusing on (or often trying to address) our shortcomings.

Ian explained that for him, there is no one thing which will make you excel. Success as a leader comes from being relentlessly committed, doing the hard miles with integrity and passion, and optimising the potential of people, processes and systems. He said that having the will to win is not as important as having the will to prepare to win, and that knowing your own strengths, whilst building your team to complement yours and those of their colleagues, is important. He also encouraged us to recognise and support the quiet leaders from within and firmly believes that great leaders help ordinary people do extraordinary things.

He concluded with some wise words from none other than Winnie the Pooh:

Judy Wagner


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