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Let the expert be the expert

Let the expert be the expert

Naked Leader Week 861 – 24 February 2020

Time To Read: 2 minutes



For this month’s Leader Feature Clive Barrett has interviewed Sean Leahy, an experienced HR Director, in the public sector. Read on for some fantastic tips:

AS an Executive Director of People and Culture, engaging leader Sean Leahy is well placed to give his thoughts on how to create a business focused HR agenda.

Now with the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Sean has 20 years’ experience as an HR director, specialising in employee engagement, learning and development, compensation, talent management, recruitment and employee relations.

Hugely successful in his field, Sean is the very definition of a people person and prefers to be a kind-hearted boss who leads by example – a strategy that has obviously paid dividends.

His aim is to allow and encourage every person he interacts with to fulfil the potential they already have and to flourish in their roles for the benefit of the company.

How has he achieved this? Well, in his own words, by ‘being true to myself – and by letting others be true to themselves.’

Asked to give three values which have held him in good stead during his career, Sean’s first example shows that he is happy letting individual flair come to the fore while honing it into an effective team unit.

‘I am naturally quite a polite person who resists conflict,’ he says. ‘That in turn has helped me hugely in stakeholder management. Operating at board level with accountability for people, you must understand everyone’s individual needs while supporting them to be part of a united vision.’

Secondly he adds: ‘Let the expert be the expert. Know them and trust them even though that may need a level of bravery. I have always believed that individuals are called experts for a reason. They normally have more experience and knowledge than you so don’t waste time trying to ask them to deliver your version of their expertise.’

While some bosses lead by throwing their weight around, Sean’s third tip is to do the exact opposite. ‘Set an expectation that Leadership and Management is not a competition,’ he says. ‘Great people managers make great employees and they create fantastic businesses.

‘Kind, compassionate leadership, and that does not mean being a pushover, is the only way your organisation will achieve its objectives.’

Sean has previously been HR director of the Post Office, International HR director at Key Criteria Group, group HR director and chief people officer at Netstore and head of global recruitment at Fidelity International Investments.

He champions the importance of collaboration and partnership and team working, saying, ‘a one man mission is normally his demise’.

One such fruitful partnership is with Naked Leader. He has worked closely with Naked Leader founder David Taylor and adds: ‘David and Naked Leader effectively articulate the most important rule of leadership, which is to be yourself and true to your ambition. David supports me to excite my organisation about what they are capable of as individuals and collectively.

‘I trust David to deliver, so I rarely give him a brief. We experience the journey of enablement together.’

David adds: We love partnering with Sean, his Board and The Trust. Sean is totally focused on and dedicated not to HR, but to patient care. Every day he asks the question – ‘how does what we are doing help our patients?’ He and his Board are the very example of why the NHS is such an amazing organisation.

Thank you Clive and Sean for an insightful intervew.

With my love and best wishes




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