Dynamics Matters Podcast Ep 85: Nadira Hussain: How to nurture a leadership culture

With special guest Nadira Hussain, CEO, SOCITM 

✔ The difference between good leaders and good managers

✔ Why women make great leaders

✔ How to help women fulfil their leadership ambition

Transcript

Welcome to episode 85 of the HSO Dynamics matters podcast.

Your regular sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology related matters and much more besides.

And I’m your host, Michael Lonnon.

Just for a second, I want you to think about the leaders who inspired you.
What was it that stood them out from others?

In this episode, I had a chat with SOCITM CEO Nadira Hussain about what makes a great leader, and how to encourage more women to realise their leadership aspirations.

So, grab a brew, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Michael Lonnon
Lead or follow?

Nadira Hussain
Lead

Michael Lonnon
Which is kind of rolls us in nicely into our topic of conversation. I'm going to start this off with a nice question, one I ask fairly often to senior people like yourself and that's what do you think makes a good leader?

Nadira Hussain
For me, this is pretty easy, Michael, because when you've done the rounds as I have,
you've experienced both good and bad leaders and often there is a conflating of leadership and management and I think they're two very separate, but intrinsically linked aspects. Leadership is about creating a vision, the direction of travel, and it's having the appropriate qualities, personalities, behaviours, attitudes, mindset, that enable you to articulate that vision effectively and well and therefore create an opportunity for people to follow, or to endorse the approach. there is other aspects Michael, so it's about visibility, it's about being a role model. It's action oriented, it's advocacy and championing. So, it's creating a whole aura around why you should be deemed to be an effective leader. It's demonstrating and ensuring that you are making it easy for other people to understand how to do things effectively and well, the things that you are advocating or championing.

Michael Lonnon
You mentioned at the beginning, leadership is slightly different to management, they although they are intrinsically linked, do you think managers can become good leaders, or do you think it's a completely different skill set?

Nadira Hussain
They can, but there is a whole series of qualities and behaviours that I think are linked to either or. Typically, even management is a is a well-defined discipline in its own right. Management of deliverables, management of people and that, too, requires expertise, we often once again, assume people have inherent management responsibilities and qualities. So, if you take, for example, a technical person, who through seniority, ends up being a manager, but hasn't developed those management skills and has to manage people. I've heard so many examples of that working poorly, because they haven't had the appropriate training, investment, quality, guidance to become managers. So, they're all discreet pots. But I think you all, you know, all of them deserve their own time attention and developing those skills appropriately to enhance them to the point where you are an effective manager or an effective leader. So, managers can become effective leaders, but it's not an assumption.

Michael Lonnon
Now, I read somewhere recently, and I actually even wrote it down, that within the public sector, local authorities that only 17% of senior roles of leadership roles are held by women. Why do you think that is?

Nadira Hussain
So, this is the kind of ongoing discussion and debate we've seen over numerous years, certainly through my career, and I've been in the public sector for 25 years plus and I can talk more in an informed way from a technology digital perspective, but I think the same applies generically across local government, public sector roles. There are numerous perceived issues and challenges for women. Women are the main carers within the household however advanced we become within western culture. Even though male colleagues, men contribute to household chores and duties, the women are the main homemakers and carers. That's a given. So, when you decide to have a family, when you are then considering how you return back to work, there are obvious issues and challenges that are presented there if you need to find that balance, and often women lose their confidence through taking these career breaks for caring responsibilities to have children, and need to have appropriate structures and mechanisms in place to enable them to come back to work in a confident way to resume a career pathway that enables some greater seniority. So, there are all of those issues and aspects, women generally tend to shy away from pushing themselves to a position of seniority because of stereotypical norms in which they have evolved and grown. Career Pathways and especially those technical career pathways aren't mapped out as clearly for women as men, there is a whole host of stuff then around recruitment, the way in which job descriptions are written the type of language used, often unattractive to women. So, I've done some work with the organisations that I've worked with and certainly with the work that I do with SOCITM team, we are working across the board to look at how we can improve those aspects and issues, especially within technical roles. Women prefer softer language, less command and control. They have natural abilities to collaborate, to nurture, to empower, and it's those kinds of things that make roles and responsibilities attractive to them. So, there's a whole host of stuff there as well.

Michael Lonnon
I think that all the leaders I've ever worked under those that have been ladies, women have always been miles ahead in their quality of leadership and ability of leadership that any of the men that I've ever worked under. I think there's an innate requirement as a leader that women have more inbuilt within them than men do and that's why they're able to lead better and support better and be better leaders. So, how can we change that 17%? How can we increase, and you started to talk about some of the things there. How do you how do you think we can actually improve the numbers?

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Nadira Hussain
I think you make a really valid point around women leaders. So, it's that empathy isn't it is the empathy, it's the nurturing outlook, it is about inherent behaviours and I think women have it in spades. So certainly, the best people that I've worked with are like minded women who see the point that you make, Michael, so it's about how can we increase visibility, we need more role models. We need people in front of other women that they can signpost I want to be like her. So, there's an element of that we absolutely need to offer more mentoring, coaching and support networks that give comfortable environments where women can talk about their perceived issues and challenges. We have progression and things like internal mechanisms within organisations that do that talent management, identify rising stars or women that have demonstrated they are going over and above the call of duty to improve themselves their personal development, volunteering for next opportunities, and most importantly, Michael and its ally ship because unless we get our male colleagues to understand how they can be champions and advocates of women and support this type of investment opportunity, talking about it openly supporting creating those opportunities within organisations. We're almost always going to be preaching to the converted women know this, we need more men to know this and be on board to help support.

Michael Lonnon
It's great advice for a anybody listening to this. Think about how you can improve the culture within your own organisation, that's great piece of advice. Now, obviously, you're in a senior role and so from your own perspective, I'd like to ask you if you offer an advice to any women out there who aspire to be leaders within the organisation, so their work in public sector primarily, but it doesn't just have to be just those that want that aspire to be leaders, what advice would you give them?

Nadira Hussain
I think, first and foremost, it's about keeping true to yourself, being authentic, understand your vulnerabilities, but keep going, because if, you know, you're you have aspirations and ambitions. It is it is difficult, it's a difficult world to seek progression in, but it's about being steadfast and, and true to those ambitions and objectives that you've set yourself and sometimes it becomes so, so difficult. My personal experience in life is that you really create those supportive networks, seek mentors, and people who can absolutely help on your journey, and who have experience that they can share with you seek coaches, it's great to have that outside endorsement, scrutiny and challenge and for you to think and reflect about your own personal objectives or your behaviours and how you keep going. So I think there are a number of things we can do to help seek that intervention, but it's about being proactive, and continuing to review your progression, look back, how do I move forwards?

Michael Lonnon
From SOCITM teams’ perspective, then for those women who are aspiring to be leaders, is there anything you guys are doing to support those ambitions?

Nadira Hussain
Absolutely. So given this was a real passion of mine, when I took up the reins of the presidency in 15/16, we created a women 90 initiative, out of which was born the Leadership Academy. We have a number of flagship programmes and courses that we'd run through the academy itself, one of which specifically, Michael relates to the question that you've asked. So, it's empowering women and, actually, Michael, you'll know that HSO supported and sponsored the empowering women last end of last year, hugely successful Keegan attended as did another one of your colleagues. So, it's delivering results, tangible results, we can see women who have been through the programme, boosting their confidence, creating those supportive networks, continuing to talk about their issues and challenges. So that's one key thing and people, the women who've been through the programme remain connected. So, checking 121 interventions and meeting regularly to ensure that that two-way dialogue takes place and that we are aware of requirements going forwards.

Summary
The best leaders I’ve ever worked for have all been women.
Personally, I’m drawn to their generally more empathetic way of managing people. It gets the best from me.

And Nadira believes this isn’t a co-incidence. Women in fact if an innate leadership style that gets the best from people. But with just 17% of women holding senior roles, what is needed is for organisations to tweak their approach to recruitment in order to encourage more women into senior roles.

Tweak things like words used, and the focus point of roles. Using less command-and-control type of language. Combining this with greater visibility of role models will see more women applying for senior roles, and will see more organisations fly as a result.

And on that note, thanks for listening, until next time, take care of yourselves.

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