Speechless in Canary Wharf

There have been very very few moments in my life when I have been rendered speechless with amazement! Last night was one – to be chosen by other charity Chief Executives as “Britain’s Most Admired CEO” was unbelievable and took my breath and words (decent ones anyway) away – and I then had to say something sensible!

I can now reflect that, 18 years on from the launch of Changing Faces, I am really so proud of what we have achieved – so far – and now to be recognised as having ‘achieved’ and done so in a way that brings admiration is just so satisfying – and I hope the glow will ripple around my family, my team and everyone we support and represent…

It comes hot on the heels of a fantastic event at the House of Commons at which we really communicated effectively with 100 national opinion leaders and policy makers – and two of the children in the posters were there to be acclaimed as well… The message which our speakers – Roger Berry MP, John Varley (CEO, Barclays Group), Nick Robinson (BBC Political Editor) and Margaret Hodge MP (Minister for Culture), Tony Hobson (our Chairman and of Northern Foods) – brought home powerfully was, in effect, that “the time for face equality has come”. We will be following every one of those there up to get them to turn their commitments into practical outcomes…

What gives me such pleasure about my Award is that, for perhaps the first time, I am commended not just for our mission or my campaigning skills (which has been gratifying enough) but for being an effective CEO. I have many people to thank who have helped me get this accolade but there is one who shall be nameless who has helped me to understand that however well I might be able to ‘lead from the front’, it is ‘leading from behind’ that is just as important if you want to lead an effective team.

Leadership is now for me not just about having a strong position and convincing, motivating and sometimes pressing others to follow your direction, but also about enabling others at all levels to bring their skills into play and show their leadership skills too. This may sound trite but there is a fine line between the two that has to be judged on almost all occasions – in everyday discussions and in management meetings. Gaining the discernment to decide when to do which – and the skills to do so – has been partly gleaned by watching a master craftsman at work – and I hope I am now passing them on too… I salute him!

And now back to my holiday!

6 thoughts on “Speechless in Canary Wharf

  1. Hi, James – it’s Amanda Adams (you’d never recognize the alias – maybe not the name: Keith’s wife). I’ve just seen all this because TODAY my daily e-mail from Keith’s mother included the news that somebody’d seen you reading the news somewhere (she said yesterday – maybe a clip was shown?). So by coincidence we know: Congratulations! And on the newsreading as well! And “Well done!” to your poster-children – there was a time, as you know, when Caroline (ours, not yours) could’ve’ve take a lot of courage from them. There are still a lot of her childhood photos from about two years old to six that she’d rather disappeared.
    I gather you’re on holiday. Relax and enjoy!
    I’m happy to see you have a blog.
    Hundreds of kisses to Harriet, especially from the dogs.
    And to Carrie, Simon, and Charlotte as well.

  2. Dear James,

    Congratulations for leading the tireless work that your organisation carries out. Thanks to Changing Faces, we are all so much more aware of the psychology of facial deformity and disfigurement, our own perceptions and about the importance of really valuing everyone for who they are and not what they look like. I follow the charity with keen interest from my perspective as a medical professional and look forward to witnessing changes in our society as attitudes to disfigurement continue to change.

    Kind regards,

    Ambika Chadha

  3. Hi james u probably wont remember me i met you years ago at the lonch in scotland and you gave me one of your books and singed it (i havent long finished reading it, was really good) anywaz just wanted to say changen faces is amazeing helped me a lot when i was haveing a bad time in my life, and now i can deal with issues about my disfigerment alot better, 🙂

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