Alison Elton recently joined our Education Practice as Senior Consultant, with last 13 years experience working in Higher Education within both Professional and Commercial Services. We caught up with Ali to find out more about her background, why she joined GatenbySanderson and her views on leadership.
Why did you decide to move into executive search?
I have always been involved in matching people to roles in some way. Prior to joining GS, I spent 13 years working in Higher Education at a Russell Group institution, initially joining to improve student employability by growing an on-campus student recruitment service, which now has a presence at universities across the UK and Australia. I then moved into a role to lead a strategic change project to improve recruitment, remuneration and professional development of teaching staff across the university, impacting positively on the student experience. This sector experience combined with my natural fascination in people and skills matching, made executive search a natural progression.
What does true leadership mean / look like to you?
Having worked in higher education for many years, I have seen a variety of different leadership styles. Opinions tend to polarise when a new leadership style emerges. Often, when working on a leadership campaign, we are asked to find leaders with the ability to “take people with them” – on the surface this seems like quite a simple skill, but what may work for some, may repel others. University leaders have a big job on their hands. They need to engage and inspire academics, professional services teams, students and the plethora of external stakeholders involved in the smooth running of these large, complex organisations.
For me I think a key element of good leadership is the ability to break down barriers. Universities can be very hierarchical in structure, they have complicated governance and they use a raft of acronyms that can be difficult to translate. Clear and concise communication is important – free from jargon. Also being approachable and accessible – humanising and giving a face to the Executive Team. Finally developing strategy that sets clear but challenging objectives – and ensuring structures are in place so that everyone understands how they personally contribute to the bigger picture. Combined, these are great tactics to “take people with you”.
What do you think makes GS stand out?
It’s often a collection of small things that make a huge difference. Our candidate care levels are exceptional and we take equal pride in the service we offer our candidates as well as our clients. Taking the time to arrange feedback with each and every candidate we meet, those that progress in a process and those that don’t, really sets GS apart – it also helps to build the foundations of our future relationships. We also bring a lot of expertise together, be that sector knowledge, cross sector working, interim provision and leadership development. There’s no other provider that works via such integrated methodologies, resulting in great customer service an ever deeper network and leaders who can transition more effectively into role.