Why we need modern leadership

The deadline for gender pay gap reporting for private sector firms with over 250 employees is approaching, with companies being required to submit their data by 4th April, 2018.

However, I believe that gender reporting on its own will not solve the pay gap. Not even if it comes with a narrative. Why? Because the sectors with the widest gaps are largely male-dominated environments: Construction, IT and Financial Services.

Leaders within these sectors often recruit in their likeness and hold entrenched ways of working. But why should they change? If the old traits such as drive, ability to hit targets, and ego masked as confidence have led to their own promotion, why would they perceive a need to do anything differently?

Because.The.Old.Ways.Are.Not.Working. According to the World Economic Forum, gender parity is 200 years away. Yet women’s voices are becoming stronger. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress and there’s a growing movement of lobbying and advocacy, including support for women who want to speak up from organisations such as mine.

To achieve genuine culture change and tackle this challenge, we need modern leaders who are able to engage and connect, motivate and inspire. Having looked at high-profile, inspirational figures who fit this mould, I believe there are certain character traits and attitudes displayed by highly effective modern leaders.

These include Transparency, Emotional Connection and Humility, Plain Speaking, Broad World View, Self-Awareness and Emotional Correctness. Below I give some examples of leaders in their respective fields who model these valuable traits.



In a Financial Times article from earlier this year, Fujitsu’s EMEA Diversity and Inclusion lead, Sarah Kaiser, said the company’s initial concerns about women being put off from joining the sector due to the pay gap had largely been unfounded. Women stated they were aware of the gap and as long as the company was taking action to address this issue, it would not deter them from applying.

Emotional Connection

The higher up you go in an organisation, the less important your technical skills become and the more your interpersonal skills matter. Diane Cheesebrough is a close friend as well as someone I look up to professionally. She has worked at Board level internationally and is a great example of a modern, empathetic leader.

Her approach is to draw people in and listen to their views, no matter what their level within the organisation. It’s helped her maintain employee loyalty and trust, even during difficult business times, and through periods of major growth. One of her previous reports says

“Diane has a real focus on developing people, building, empowering and motivating talented leaders and teams whilst providing coherence and focus to stay on track in fast-paced demanding environments.

Emotional Connection and Humility

Modern leaders drop the ego. They’re humble and caring. As a result, staff will often go the extra mile for them. Another business friend, Justine Osmotherley, is the sole female Equity Partner at law firm, Clarion Solicitors. Her team rally around her because they genuinely care. They even nominated her for the Heart of Gold Award in last year’s Igniting Inspiration awards, saying:

“While Justine has enjoyed great professional successes, she understands what it means to hold a powerful and dominant position to those looking up to her. She’s humble, truly caring and highly intelligent. She’s is an inspiration to all – male, female, young and old.”

Plain Speaking

Gary Hibberd, MD of Agenci, an international cyber security agency, is an advocate of plain English. In his field, it could be tempting for him to revert to jargon, but he explains complex technical and legal topics in clear, simple terms. I have no doubt that’s why he’s frequently booked as an industry speaker on top of his consultancy work. One of his clients said:

“Gary recently spoke at our seminar…which was attended by business customers and senior management across the organisation. He spoke for an hour and made the content informative, interactive and relevant to the audience. Everyone was intrigued to what he was going to say next!”

Broad world view

My Associate, Todd Hannula, an American, has a broad world view, displaying fresh ideas and a creativity rarely seen. He moved to the UK over ten years ago and co-founded Shine, an inspirational conference space in Leeds, which was selected as the inaugural and ongoing host of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 UK Small Businesses Programme.

More recently, he co-founded daCunha, a storytelling platform based on a subscription model. Colleagues and storytellers within the daCuhna family come from all around the world, offering a rich blend of diverse ideas and perspectives.

This global outlook is why one client glowingly said: “Todd has the same ability as the sun insofar as he illuminates people and projects. He’s got the rare quality of being able to enhance what’s already there or hiding in the shadows… He’s a powerful writer and storyteller, not to mention bright, passionate, questioning, honest, reflective and direct.”

Self- and Social Awareness

I had to include one not-so-great example. A former boss of mine was promoted way above his ability. His lack of both self- and social awareness was astounding. During formal business meetings, he would often come out with clangers that resulted in the rest of the room going silent, often (unintentionally – let’s give him the benefit of the doubt) insulting people about their appearance, race, gender… or anything else that popped into his mind at the time.

He genuinely believed he was liked but unfortunately the Schadenfreude that people expressed when he voluntarily left the organisation showed otherwise.

Emotional Correctness

Finally, a theme close to my heart – emotional correctness. As the Founder of a changemaker movement, I often have to discuss very challenging subjects in the media and across my social channels.

However, I rarely experience internet trolls and those who have attempted to troll me have soon stopped. I believe it’s down to emotional correctness and diplomacy. I aim to hear people out – communication from a place of ego simply leads to aggression and separation – so I was thrilled to receive this unsolicited testimonial from a stranger:

“In a digital age with ease of access to information and protest, where so many causes, so many voices and so much noise dilutes rather than engages, I have found Anj to be a model of information who cares about people and their rights. She is a modernday protester – she speaks from a place of positivity and the belief that she can create change. She has been a consistent force for changing attitudes.”

My mission is to develop people as courageous, modern leaders and we must start developing these skills in people as early as possible. That’s why I’ve created Inspiring Global Citizens, a modular programme based on research-backed models to help develop these traits. It can be delivered in classrooms right through to Boardrooms. We’re also looking for organisations to sponsor young people from disadvantaged backgrounds through the programme. Get in touch to learn more.


Inspiring Women Changemakers is a dynamic movement of people working to make the world a fairer, safer place for women. We give changemakers the communication skills, platform and connections to amplify change.

Bring your heart, your brainpower and your connections – join us!