A very interesting survey has just been published by the brilliant Leading Wales awards. (Disclosure here, Real Radio sponsors the awards, so I have an interest…)

Interesting, because in some ways it shows Wales up in a very bad light indeed. The survey, undertaken in December said respondents found it extremely difficult to name Welsh leaders, with only 50% being able to name 2 or more. Not one Welsh person made it into the top 10 of world leaders (headed by Winston Churchill) and perhaps even more worryingly, some 40% said they were ‘very dissatisfied’ with the performance of their own business leaders, including their decision-making and general leadership skills. Good old Nye Bevan and previous Leading Wales Awards recipient Rhodri Morgan were in there, but not terribly highly placed it would seem.

Is it ‘cos I’s Welsh?

Is this a ‘Welsh’ thing? Is it about the old inferiority complex again? Do we not think of ourselves as leaders? Or are there really none to be found here?

I think that’s fascinating, as I meet Welsh leaders EVERY DAY. I meet business leaders, entrepreneurs, academic leaders, social media leaders, creative leaders, radio leaders, leaders in parenting, leaders in education, leaders in blogging or leaders setting up events and festivals.

Wales, it seems to me, is bursting at the seams with leaders. I sometimes think that Wales is the single most entrepreneurial country in the UK. Its seems there are micro businesses / small businesses / on line businesses / production companies / web design companies / graphic designers / authors / teachers / lifestyle businesses / tech businesses, all sorts, just working away, seemingly slightly under the radar.

A Great Nation

And these people are BRILLIANT. There is something about the uniquely Welsh mixture of unfussy, non fancy yet outright passion for a cause or an idea that is extremely potent. I meet these people every day and they inspire me everyday. It might be a mum dealing with autism, and single-handedly taking on a school and an LEA to make sure she gets the right thing for her kid, it might be someone with an idea for a product or service that they just have to get off the ground. It might be a newly qualified grad who is going to change the world, or an old school businesses man who has reinvented himself as a new media guru(can we call it new media still?).

And there are many organisations doing amazing things too.  Here are a very few examples… From Autism Cymru, genuinely setting the autism agenda, here and abroad, to BBC Wales, making the best content. First Doctor Who, now Sherlock, stunning TV at its best. Or take Admiral Insurance making tons of money and still regarded as a brilliant place to work, the team there know they have a route to management and leadership in that organisation should they want it. There’s also PHS based in Caerphilly, they are a HUGE organisation, doing amazing things and making tons of cash in an industry most people don’t even think twice about. There are more and more examples of brilliance and of course brilliant leadership in Wales every day.

So is it that we don’t want to talk about it? Are we embarrassed? OR do we not recognise the ‘greatness’ and the leaders around us for what they are? More importantly, what do we do about it?

PLUG – The Leading Wales Awards

Worrying isn’t it? The reason I have supported The Leading Wales awards for the several years I have done, is because I think Leadership, especially for Wales, is such a vital part of our burgeoning country’s path to the future. Recognising leaders, and celebrating them is a natural extension of that. The Leading Wales Awards does this for all sort of categories of leaders. Leaders in business for sure, but also leaders in the community, leaders in the public and the charity sectors, leaders working with kids and young people, leaders all over Wales in fact. But it won’t be down to award ceremonies to do it all. In fact, so much ‘leadership’ goes on unrecognised and unremarked upon, that one, albeit one very well done awards ceremony, is clearly not enough. By the way, follow the links up top there, and enter someone for an award. If they deserve it, enter them. It’s easy to do, and so very rewarding for everyone concerned.

It’s not just about ‘Land of my Fathers’, it’s about the Future of my Children

What ever  the reason, its got to change. Get with the programme Wales! You are simply amazing, and its time to grow into your potential. We’ve said it all here already. Creative, energetic, driven, family orientated, teaching by inclination, technologically advanced, entrepreneurial, fabulous Wales. Stand up for yourselves!

We’re Welsh and we’re proud. Yes, but its more than that. We are Welsh and we are brilliant. YOU are brilliant Wales. I meet your people and talk to your businesses every day. They amaze me everyday. Be proud. Recognise, celebrate and revel in what we have here. Believe the hype!

An enthusiastic, confident Wales is what I want for my kids. Perhaps its starts here. In twenty years time, maybe there will be a few more Welsh names on that survey, leading Wales forward.

  1. Tanya
    Tanya says:

    It’s the same as the theory the rich get richer….the same leading professionals and leading businesses get acknowledged. There is a mountain of talented leaders waiting to be conquered! Although, maybe the little talented leaders are quite happy doing their thing, being successful in their own way. After 10 years in media and 5 as a small business owner I certainly recognise my favourite leaders. Because they promte themselves with creative flair with no desire to get scrambled up by the media mix! So Tony, perhaps welsh leaders in many industries are well and truly alive it may be the down to media spin as to whether we hear about it? Or choose to read about it.

    • damiandowling
      damiandowling says:

      I think thats a great point Tanya. How do we find out about these people and celebrate them? There is little chance to in the traditional media it would seem?
      I also think that you are right, we are too inclined to hide our lights under a bushel, and we should be more inclined to speak up.
      I see it every day where business people over the border take self promotion for granted, yet us this side of it are quite shy and retiring by comparison
      thanks for taking the time to post, really appreciate your comments

  2. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Hi Tanya – one of the great things about the Leading Wales Awards is that we are recognising individual people whose leadership is making a real difference in Wales (at whatever level, in whatever sector) …………. we are just uploading our archive of the previous 7 years of finalists and winners ….. have a look tomorrow and you’ll see loads of “ordinary people who do extraordinary things” across Wales. Our nominations, finalists and winners are certainly not about well-known names.

    Each year it is a real privilege to read the loads of submissions – truly inspiring.

    Let’s keep spreading the word and encourage even more nominations this year!

  3. David Hain
    David Hain says:

    Spot on Tony! They are here, and we all need them for the future of our children. How can we flush them out into some kind of forum/network/event that would mean they connect with each other and develop an action message, call to arms, protest movement – whatever!

    Wales, let’s face it, is not a large player on the grand stage. You can ‘get your arms around it’. To me that means that if a relatively small group of people were to share and promote a few critical messages and help each other out to achieve them, a real and material difference could be made.

    So, again, how do they become engaged? What is getting in their way – fear, modesty, level of aspiration, government, busyness? I’d love to know, because we have at least our fair share of great people at numerous levels, and loads of good examples of groups (a lot of them women, in my limited experience) who are trying to get on with things.

    And I know I shouldn’t use the 3rd person – I could/should be one too. So how do we rally people and to what cause? How can the awards be used as a springboard? What could Real Radio do? what could I and people like me do?

    Cheers for being the catalyst of this rant!


  4. damiandowling
    damiandowling says:

    Thanks David! A pleasure to listen to you rant. Something like the awards is clearly a good place to start, but like me, we all seem to have plenty of questions and not enough answers!
    Whats the way forward?

  5. Alison
    Alison says:

    Well said…… but I don’t think there is Pride in any part of our great Country anymore be it Wales, England, Scotland or Ireland. The question is does it take a great disaster to bring people together and drive leaders to the front ie war? We are all to busy fighting our own personal wars to take such an interest in others achievements. Now don’t get me wrong I applaud the “Hero’s” of this world and cry along with Sports personality of the year and Pride of Britain. But can I honestly say there is a ” leader” in any part of this Great Country I am proud of and support fully, No.

    I liked this one the best so far, it has me questioning???

    • damiandowling
      damiandowling says:

      Really interesting remarks, thanks Alison. And I am delighted this is making you think, as thats really all I can ask. Thanks for taking the time to comment, appreciate it.

  6. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    I believe strongly we are all leaders – indeed we all have a responsibility to lead. In our home and family (look what great inspiration there is so close to each of us and we are part of that – as parents, as siblings or as grown up children who need to take a leadership role when our own parents become frail and in need); in our friendship groups (we influence our friends and they influence us – this is leadership); in our leisure or volunteer activities; in the workplace – I believe that every employee to some lesser or greater extent has a leadership role and to fulfil that by contributing their ideas, listening and influencing others in a positive manner.

    I’ve long subscribed to what I call the microwave model of leadership i.e. an individual leads and influences those in their close network (personal or professional), these other individuals then influence and engage their personal and professional networks ……… so for each of us (be it at home, in our community, our country or our work) if we can express clearly “what really matters to us” (i.e. clearly articulated values) and turn that into a clear goal to achieve, then we influence and engage others to support, walk with is and work with us on that ….. this for me is leadership.

    For me it is Margaret Mead’s statement personified of “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” This maybe one person in a family galvanising and encouraging the family and friends network to support and encourage another family member dealing with a challenging time or illness – or it maybe a business entrepreneur e.g. Richard Branson – or it maybe passion for one clear cause and determination to stand up for that cause whatever form that takes – Nelson Mandela.

    I believe we are surrounded by fantastic and inspirational leaders – but do we recognise them? do we recognise that what we are seeing and witnessing is “leadership”? My instinct is that the answer to that question is “no” ……….. to me there seems to be a perception or assumption that “leadership” is something that others do (or fail to do!)

    I believe we are each capable of fantastic and inspirational leadership – and are leaders, but we simply don’t call it that.

    I’ve had others smile at me when organising events about leadership and the music that I want to play is “You raise me up” (not because I am a Westlife fan – I prefer Il Divo’s version “Por ti sere”!) but because of the line in that prayer which says “you raise me up to be more than I can be” – emotionally that for me is leadership ……….. that family member who influences their family to give their all to support in every which way they can (no matter how hard it is) for another member of the family – that person inspires, engages, supports, leads and can do the “hard” conversations as well (perhaps challenging the behaviour of another person) without damaging the other person’s confidence or sense of worth. This is leadership – it is in our midst.

    If we each fulfil our own leadership roles to the best of our ability – then the microwave model kicks in – others are inspired and take up the mantle, they lead others ………….. but let’s articulate it clearly and consider how we, as individuals, in our own lives are leading, how do we encourage others to acknowledge their own role in leading and do it even better and do more, how can each of us lead even better?

    Por ti sere mejor de lo que soy …………. who inspired me through their leadership to “be more than I can be”? My father without a doubt and my daughter in a totally different way ….. and many, many others throughout my life.

    Il Divo are playing in the background …… 🙂

    • damiandowling
      damiandowling says:

      Another post worthy to be published in its own right Barbara! I for one would look forward to reading your thoughts on leadership in a more orgnaised and regular manner! I love what you have to say on the subject and the obvious passion you have.

      Great comments as ever, thought provoking and stimulating at the same time

      come back soon with more!