Gary Reed, assistant director membership, Wales, discusses the two drivers for developing this years Wales conference topic: Values based leadership. The Annual Wales conference will be taking place on Tuesday 20 March 2018 in Cardiff.
People and values
The first driver was a very emotive one. Whilst facilitating the final day of the six-day Welsh Crucible programme developing the future research leaders for Wales, we did the usual around the room feedback on what Welsh Crucible programmes had meant to people. Pleasingly many said insight, clarity of direction and purpose in their research, and confidence to name a few. One delegate started to feedback and suddenly became very teary and said ‘this is the first time I’ve felt valued and I’ve felt that my research is valued’. This was a very emotional response and other delegates agreed. Whilst this is very pleasing that our work as facilitators had been done in building the confidence of the delegates (we only tell them that they are the future research leaders of Wales a maximum of seven times a day!), it saddened me that I work in a sector in Wales where every university has a set of values that usually include a statement like ‘our people are our most valued asset’ and yet some employees don’t feel ‘it’. While there are many good leaders and managers in Welsh universities who do value their team, there are obviously some individuals who don’t. They probably don’t come to work each day with the intention of not valuing people, but somehow those high level values have not penetrated into the modus operandi of these individuals.
So, my first question to explore as part of the conference was ‘how can we make these behaviours and values in the strategic plan feel real for people of all levels in the organisation?’
To answer this question, I arranged for Leadership Foundation, key associate, Mark Trezona to develop and inspirational session which would explore what we mean, both individually and organisationally by ‘Values Based Leadership’. James Moore from the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust will also join the conference and share their journey in making their organisational values and behaviours real.
Distinctiveness of Welsh universities
The second driver influencing the conference theme was the uniqueness of Welsh universities and how they differ to their competition across the border and further afield. Many Welsh universities were founded from local communities collecting and donating funds to establish a university. This creates a real sense of community ‘ownership’ and consequently drives the Civic Mission and Leadership of Place in a more profound manner than some universities. Wales as a devolved nation is politically slightly ‘left of centre’ and this socialist essence can be felt in some of the education values such as equality of opportunity for everyone. This was one of the drivers for the Diamond Review’s restructuring of student funding from covering course fees to providing a means-tested maintenance grant of various levels. It’s pointless having your course fees paid if you cannot afford to live! Another example is the expectation of Welsh universities are a driver for local and national economic development. Both these requirements are highlighted by the Education Secretary’s commitment to a Civic Mission agenda and initiatives such as ‘Be the Spark’.
To me, Wales’ higher education seems to have a different feeling and some of its ‘rasion d’être’ is different to English universities, and yet we are competing in the same marketplace for the same students. Can we collectively recognise the values at the heart of Welsh universities? Would a more compelling articulation of Welsh higher education values add anything in differentiating and attracting more students to Wales? Would making these values more visible strengthen the attraction to those of a certain mindset to come to Wales to be a part of the Welsh sector, and retain the people who are already committed to it.
My second question to explore was ‘does the Welsh higher education sector have distinct values and is there any benefit to promoting this to attract students to study in Wales, and to attract the best staff?’.
To provide input to this discussion, Huw Morris, Director of Skills, Higher Education and Life Long Learning, Welsh Government will share his perspective on the underpinning values of education and higher education in Wales before creative exploration of the subject.
Come and join me on Tuesday 20 March 2018 at the Clayton Hotel in Cardiff and contribute to the Values Based Leadership debate.
Croeso cynnes i bawb / A warm welcome to everyone
To book a place at the Wales Annual Conference: Values based leadership, click here.
Gary Reed is assistant director, membership (Wales), his role involves liaising with all higher education institutions in Wales, developing relationships with Leadership Foundation members, and coordinating and developing events and leadership development initiatives that support and complement individual institutions’ strategies and needs and the national Welsh higher education agenda. The role also involves undertaking consultancy and facilitating leadership training.