Inclusive Leadership from our Director of the Year

Posted 13th December 2019
By Focus7

We are hugely delighted that our very own COO Leona Barr-Jones has been named Director of the Year for Inclusivity in 2019

The finalists were chosen from the hundreds of directors who were nominated across nine different categories from across the UK, so winning this coveted award was no mean feat. The expert judging panel convened to decide the overall winners, which were announced at the awards ceremony on Friday 18th October 2019 at the stunning venue, The Brewery, London.

The legendary Sir Trevor McDonald OBE hosted the ceremony alongside the wonderful Roger Tilling, best known as The Voice of University Challenge. Leona was really delighted to be able to meet and chat to such an icon as Sir Trev.

IoD Director General Jonathan Geldart said:

“I would like to congratulate all of our Award winners, each of whom have shown dedication, ingenuity, and leadership, inspiring those around them. Better directors make for better businesses, which is to the benefit of the economy and society as a whole. The judges had a tough job on their hands picking the first among equals, with all of our finalists standing as beacons of excellence from every corner of the UK.”

As IoD East’s Ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion and the Armed Forces, Leona works with so many leading organisations and businesses on their leadership, diversity and inclusion, we asked her to share some her thoughts on Inclusive leadership with us:

“After spending over 20 years working on equality, diversity and inclusion in both the Army and in business, it is truly an honour to be named national Director of the Year for Inclusivity by such a prestigious organisation as the IoD.

My Nan used to say, “Always be true to yourself” and she was absolutely right. Start by bringing your authentic self to work and strive to be an authentic leader, proved to be the best business and leadership advice I have ever had.

In addition to being an authentic leader and true to yourself, always strive to be an inclusive leader. Inclusive Leaders listen before they lead, they build diverse teams, with diversity of thought and ensure that everyone feels listened to, respected and valued. Say thank you and celebrate success at every opportunity.

“Diverse teams perform better, improve engagement and are recruitment and retention positive.”

I like to foster a collaborative leadership style, be consultative and then take everyone with me for any change. I strive to give clear direction and then hold my teams accountable to deliver. As an Army Officer I prefer a Mission Command style, where I will tell you my end state and the outcome I wish to achieve, but I won’t tell you how to deliver that outcome. There is no micro-managing unless you ask for help. What I will do is build coaching and mentoring to support decision making and delivery at all levels.

My advice to new leaders would be to ensure you spend time working “on the business and not in the business”.  This is relevant whether you have founded a startup or you are a new department head.  Look to improve process and procedures and efficiencies within your area of responsibility. Build a highly effective innovative and diverse team. Look after your team and they will look after your customers and stakeholders.

“Inclusive leadership enhances trust, improves cohesion and maximises team performance.”

I am often asked what’s the secret to building a strong and diverse team. I would say, set down your values and standards and give clear direction. Then build your team based on your values. Have values-based and competency-based interviews and if people are in breach of those values then they are not right for your team. Collaborate with all members of the team and share your vision with them.

One of my biggest goals is to reach more people in business and in organisations talking about the importance of good leadership and building Diverse Teams and Inclusive Leadership.”

If you would like Leona to come and speak to you or your teams about leadership, diversity and inclusion in your organisation, then drop her an email at

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