Enjoy the latest in our leadership series. We ask a range of entrepreneurs, business owners, experts, women and men from a range of sectors and industries: ‘What Does Leadership Mean to You?’ Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award, replies.
I have been in organisational leadership roles for over 17 years and have learnt that leadership is about creating the right ecosystem that allows everyone to problem solve! It is not about one individual’s capability but about the leader’s ability to empower those around you.
This ethos continues to underpin my leadership style as CEO of The Diana Award till this day. It’s about the collective.
Reflecting back on some of my key values as a leader, here are 11 key values that govern my leadership style:
- Set the Tone. LEAD
It is important as a leader that you set the vision, the strategy and you take the lead in navigating the direction of the business. To do this effectively, you have to know your game and be on top of it. Set the big picture and then guide your team through the details and vehicle of achieving that picture.
- It’s a mission, not a job
Being a third sector leader requires much more than ‘seeking a job’. It requires the understanding that you are on a mission. It requires passion. Passion is infectious and has a great way of energising the people around you. Passion makes the impossible seem possible. I always say to myself that the minute I lose my passion for The Diana Award, then it’s time to leave. You cannot lead what you do not believe in. You cannot lead what you are not passionate about.
- Encourage ambition and growth
I understand that I need a great ecosystem around me for the organisation to thrive. I encourage my team to be ambitious and to think beyond their current role. The Diana Award is about creating change for young people and to be effective in this, we need to be ahead of change; in some ways predict change. That requires ambition, innovation and big thinking. This, in turn, breeds growth for the team.
- Take risks, be creative
As a leader, you have to remain relevant to your audience and that means sometimes taking risks. I encourage my team to think beyond the box, be creative, explore breadths and widths we hadn’t explored before, because we cannot win big if we only play safe.
- Be accessible
I love spending time with my team. Creating time to talk through ideas, to listen and to be present is a great tool for building trust and confidence within your team as a leader. Keeping diary appointments with your team maintains effective communication. That is key to success.
- Be accountable
Accountability starts from me. I set the tone and culture of accountability as a leader. It is important my team see this always and in so doing, they understand the importance of accountability. The charity sector, in particular, has been plagued with issues around trust and accountability and therefore, I am particularly keen to ensure that I remain accountable to all our stakeholders, including the young people we serve.
- People matter
I see every member of my team as my mission partner, therefore their pain is my pain and their success is mine too. I believe as a good leader, you invest in the people around you. Your team, your volunteers and your stakeholders. They make you great. I believe in the WE not just the I.
- Set the standard; role model your approach
All great leaders walk the walk and set the example for the rest of the team to follow. People believe what you do, much more than what you say. When your actions and words are aligned you get much better buy-in.
- Celebrate milestones
This is one of our key ethos at The Diana Award. We believe in doing life and work together, therefore we seek out ways to mark milestones, celebrate small or big wins but also celebrate life events such as birthdays, proposals (we’ve had a few), and anniversaries including work anniversaries.
- Be authentic
As a leader, I bring all of me to work daily, not a version of me. Remaining authentic to yourself allows people to know you, your style, your core and what makes you tick. It also allows people to understand your expectation of them. People see through masks very quickly which eventually breeds a culture of mistrust. My leadership style is one of authenticity and integrity always.
- Give the glory and take the crap
Sometimes you have to be that leader who is prepared to take the bullet. You cannot be trusted as a leader if you cannot protect your team. Protecting your team also means not hugging the glory!
Tessy Ojo is the Chief Executive of The Diana Award – the only charity that bears the name of Diana, Princess of Wales. The charity benefits from the support of The Royal Highnesses, Prince William and Prince Harry, as well as the UK Prime Minister as a Patron.
Tessy is passionate about engaging young people in social action and helping them reach their full potential. She is an inspirational speaker and regularly consults and comments on issues around youth participation, charity growth, diversity, women in leadership and other social issues affecting young people.
She won The Leadership Award at the 8th Annual PRECIOUS Awards in 2014.
Connect with Tessy on Twitter: @ttall