I thought about the song Following the Leader from Peter Pan ‘we’re following the leader wherever he may go’ - with dancing it is about following the leader and with that comes a responsibility. I think what differentiates a good leader from a really great leader is having the faith and courage in your own knowledge as well as having inspirational qualities to help others lead off on their own path. Being down to earth and having a good sense of humour are good qualities to have - it’a important to remain true to myself and where I’ve come from - I’ve never lost my accent! - it’s good to be a people person and be genuinely interested in people and their stories. And to be adaptable and to behave responsively to others, to a group dynamic or situation - to respond to other people and get the best out of them. These values have been with me since my early career and when I was training and still hold true for me now.
With both dance and drama I’ve been in lots of situations with different ages and different abilities. For example, my work in Care Homes trying to get people to engage can be very hard. I’ve worked with adults with mental health issues where there have been challenging group dynamics and it’s about having the knowledge and the tools as a practitioner to do those things to bring individuals out and allow them to engage. It takes a lot of practice!
What’s helped me a lot is to have a mentor - both at University and also during my apprenticeship with a Dance Company and Art Development Department at the local Council. Having those people who were there as support, not to judge or watch me, but their style of leadership inspired me and I felt that I could talk to them and question. They would give me constructive criticism or they could help me develop ideas of how to do things. I think in the Arts there is opportunity for lots of trial and error - with any type of drama or arts then you can’t be afraid to do wrong because you learn from your mistakes - sometimes it’s OK not to do something right - you experiment and refine and experiment and refine and practice makes perfect. Then when you work with a group you should be ready to take on any challenges with all the tools in your tool box.
My mentors have been strong women - I’ve been interested in their approach and they’ve been interested in mine - there has been common ground between us. They have seen my ambition and my passion and my focus and encouraged me to ask questions. They have been more collaborative relationships rather than student teacher relationships. I’ve always shown passion and enthusiasm in what I do and I think others can see that. So as much as they cared about me I gave back to them and so the relationships were nurtured in that way.
It’s important for me to make connections with people and places, and build relationships - I’m genuinely interested in others. Some people don’t get what I do but I have a belief that what I do is good and is making a difference - whether that’s working with someone in a Care Home or working in business to help with team building, or working in a school or doing a community class - I believe in what I’m doing. So I respect that others’ views may be different but I carry on. I wouldn’t force them to my view. It’s rewarding to me to make a difference to people - that might be making them smile when they haven’t for a while or finding a way for them to experience a sense of achievement.
I get my energy back through sleep! There are days when don’t get enough sleep but I’ve always been quite driven - and my kids keep me going!
I didn’t always know what I was going to do - I knew what I could do but it wasn’t quite clear how I might go about it and then my kids came along and I want to set a good example for them. I grew up with my Mum who was a role model for me - she is strong and passionate and wants people to feel good. She is a powerful and strong woman with a good job - she was a teacher - and I grew up watching her teach - me and others. And my dad has compassion and a great sense of humour and I had a positive and happy childhood with these great influences around me. They have helped me look for the best in things and I’m able to put a positive spin on most things.
You don’t always have to be the type of leader that people expect you to be or follow an authoritative or hierarchical structure. Even down to what I wear - I’m not in a business suit - and that is a bit different for some people - I wouldn’t go to a dance meeting all dressed up in a suit - it’s important that I am who I am.
It’s taken me a while to get to this point - it’s only in the last couple of years that I feel much more confident in myself. This is a combination of maturing, going through my Masters and PhD, having kids, setting up my business and not being afraid to ask questions. And realising that things work better often in partnerships or in collaboration with others to achieve something together. And realising that things take time - I always wanted everything done immediately and now I realise that this can’t always be the case! Time and finance always have impact.
My time is so valuable to me - people often want me to be the leader - and I only have so much to give so now I’m at the point where I need to be the mentor and support someone else to take on the role - to encourage them and be there for them. So now I’m working with students in the South Wales Universities - some of them have come to shadow me too and now it’s just about finding the person with the right qualities that would suit that type of role. The leadership characteristics that I think are important are passion, authenticity, adaptability, focus, having a sense of humour, the ability to inspire, encourage and engage with others.
Take a look at the work that Beth is doing by watching this short film: