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The Power of Leadership: Reflections from the 2023 PPMA Conference

by Anj Popat


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Whilst the PPMA Conference provided a great opportunity to catch up with those I hadn’t seen in a long time, this year I found the conference to be thought provoking and a point of reflection. 

During a conversation at the conference, my colleague David Weir relived a well told story of how in the many years he had been recruiting, I was the first person who declined a permanent job in favour of a fixed term contract. And whilst this has turned into a funny story over the years, my reasoning at the time very much aligned to what I felt was one of the key themes of the 2023 conference: Leadership! I had been burned by what some would call a “bad manager” and clearly didn’t want to end up in the same situation again.

Over the last 12 months, I’ve been on my own journey of becoming a leader and, as always, it’s had some ups and downs. I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of my learnings from the conference that I will be looking to apply. 

In what feels like a societal perma-crisis that is ever evolving, the right leadership is the key to retaining a motivated workforce that works in an inclusive environment based on equitable principles. This is the case for any organisation whether public or private. 

So, what can you do to create a psychologically safe environment? 

1.      The last 3 years have humanised the workforce in a way that is unprecedented. Actively listening to your workforce and understanding their lived experience through open questioning will help to shape a trusted and open working environment. 

2.      Take action – Steven Hargreaves, in his session on compassionate leadership mentioned that leaders need to be fierce and have the ability to speak truth to power. This aligns with the societal model from Yasmin Sheikh - TEDx Speaker, Diversity Trainer and coach’s session which talks about fixing the system, not the people. 

3.      Continuous feedback cycles – ensuring feedback is provided in a 360 manner, at the right time, and in a way that shows you care.

4.      Building trust through empowering your workforce, giving them ownership, and creating respect to allow for inclusive cultures.

5.      Recognising that we are all imperfect, admitting your mistake, apologising, and learning from them.

6.      And most importantly, self-compassion. Be kind to yourself! 

Whether you were sitting in on Yasmin’s session around inclusivity, Perry Timms' session on organisational resilience, Steve’s session on compassionate leadership or Ian Thomas CBE’s session on imperfection – the golden thread throughout focussed on a leader who listens, apologises, learns, takes action and moves on.

So, what is HR’s role and how can we as recruiters support our peers in ensuring that we have the right leadership? To quote Jill Parker, FCIPD, MSc from Doncaster, “HR is the engine room” of an organisation and it has never been a better time to be in the profession. As we humanise our workforce, leadership skills should be one of the key measures of any senior recruitment both on a permanent and interim basis.

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