The changing face of leadership

Roseann Kelly MBE, CEO of Women in Business - 16/11/2021

Inspiration is a funny thing. At times it can manifest in the strangest of circumstances, lighting the fuse of creativity to yield new ideas and possibilities good enough to stop you in your tracks. Other times it is the distant end-goal of a long and winding road, an abstract gemstone that’s difficult to ascertain, and harder still to put your finger on.
Inspiration, to me, is a catalyst. An agent of change. Whether it’s that flash of brilliance to tipple the first domino, or the unrelenting passion and resilience which, over a prolonged period of time, creates a tangible difference in how we perceive our surroundings, be they personal or professional.
It’s infectious, too. A kindled sense of positivity is something to be shared, to leave others feeling enthused about the Next Big Thing just as it inspired you. This energy, capable of putting the wind in one’s sails, can so often be the driving force behind any great leadership. Of which there was no shortage at Killeavy Castle on 4th November, when Women in Business welcomed a host of speakers both international and inspired for a half-day celebration of female thinkers and doers.
Leadership, distilled into stirring insights and beautiful anecdotes about effective management in the workplace and beyond. Women inspiring women, as it should be. Hearing the stories and the journeys first-hand, filled with challenge and resolve and fist-pumping highs, was nothing if not inspiring, and a chance to spotlight the leadership qualities we need to see more of throughout the next decade.
Empathy, compassion, inclusivity, to name but three. To quote the former First Lady Michelle Obama, do we settle for the world as it is? Or do we work for the world as it should be?
In February 2021, almost a full year after Covid brought life in the UK screeching to a halt, the Hampton-Alexander review confirmed a key target of workplace equality had been achieved. The number of female directors at FTSE-100 firms had increased by 50% since 2016, and that, as of 2021, women now hold more than a third of roles in the boardrooms of Britain’s top 350 companies.
That, to me, is deeply inspiring. Should it have happened sooner? Absolutely. Do men still dominate the top ranks of business? For now, yes. But these headlines and milestones not only signal a changing of the tide, but the changing face of leadership.
Our keynote speaker at the conference, Suzanne Wylie, spoke to empathy, compassion and the many other characteristics that define great leaders when recounting her own career within Belfast City Council, first joining as an Environmental Health Officer and going on to become the Council’s first female Chief Executive in 2014. A truly inspiring and authentic journey. Having worn many different hats during her time at the Council, Suzanne leaves behind a legacy that will no doubt inspire the next generation of female business leaders, both directly and indirectly. 
Inspiration, funny though it may be, resonates most of all when it leaves a lasting imprint on our minds. That positive agent of change we can all utilise as we work towards a world where empathy is king queen.