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!