As part of our International Women’s Day celebrations, we wanted to feature some of the work being done by leaders, who just happen to be women, and hope that others will be inspired to invest their future career in public life. Laurie Bell, Chief Executive of the Cheltenham Trust, took some time to answer a few questions and provide some useful insights.
What first attracted you to the role?
The opportunity to make a difference and to influence the provision of cultural and sporting activities in Cheltenham to improve people’s wellbeing and lives.
What in your career path to date do you think has most prepared you for CEO roles?
Being the communications lead following the nerve agent attacks in Salisbury in 2018. Leading a team consistently and working with local and national stakeholders and partners for 10 months through this unprecedented incident and sustaining the resilience and agility to lead, respond, inform and reassure was a huge learning curve.
Were there any early surprises? And which of your own skills has most come in to play?
The scale of challenge of what was needed to turn around a failing organisation and to rebuild the reputation and trust of staff and all stakeholders to realise the potential and to galvanise success.
Communication, engagement, listening and learning are key skills – you never stop learning or growing!
Was there any advice you received in the early stages that has been invaluable?
Leadership is recognising the strengths and skills of others and enabling these to shine and grow.
How has your sex/gender changed your approach (if at all) or are you aware of skills/behaviours you deploy more specifically as a woman?
Communication is core, combined with emotional intelligence to sense check culture, atmosphere, morale and energy. Whether these skills are more predominant in women I’m not sure, but I have worked with many senior men who have leadership roles, who definitely do not demonstrate these attributes.
What advice would you give other aspiring leaders?
Always believe in yourself and your ability to believe in others and allow them to flourish and grow. Leadership is not a competition it’s the ability to lead others to go above and beyond. Always believe in the art of the possible and you will make it happen!