Leadership3Sixty

More from this series

Pamela Permalloo-Bass

Meet Pamela Permallo-Bass Head of Equality & Diversity at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

In Conversation With…

Fiach O’Broin-Molloy

Fiach O'Broin Molloy is a diversity hero, He says "I'm passionate about the 'sweet spot' between diversity & efficiency". He is Diversity & Policy lead at the Department for International Development. Be Inspired.

Do you believe in role models?

Yes. What I don’t believe in though is holding people up to be perfect and not allowing them the space to have any flaws or get things wrong. I am surrounded by role models, by this I mean people that I can learn from and enable me to grow and get better.  

What did you dream of becoming when you were little?

For a while I wanted to be a farmer. Fairly soon after that I knew that I wanted a job where I got to fix or improve things. This has been the golden thread flowing through my career. I do still think that I would like to live on a farm though!

What has the power to really annoy you? Upset you?

I can get frustrated by inertia, especially when things really need to change.

If you had to change something that you did or didn’t do in your life or career, what would it be?

I’m happy with the way things are going. I don’t think that I have started down a path to an inevitable destination. I feel like each of the career experiences I have had has shaped the way I work today. Even when it hasn’t felt like it, every role I have held has thought me something unique.

What is your leadership style?

In the department we are moving toward a more agile and matrix management approach. This in turn shapes the way we get stuff done. I tend to work toward building consensus.

What particular qualities do you have that you believe make you an effective leader?

Being able to influence without authority. As I said, we are increasingly working in a matrix style. People from across the organisation come together to deliver projects in cross functional teams. So it’s important to be able to quickly build rapport and influence the direction of travel, by building consensus and listening.

Are you more of a' thinker' or a 'doer'? Or an intriguing mix of both?

This is a tough question. I am action orientated. I like to know what the plan is and how we are going to get there. To borrow some words from Bill and Melinda Gates, I’m an impatient optimist. For me, it’s important to take action. You may make a mistake or two along the way, which is fine, so long as you learn from them.

With all of the dramatic global upheaval in every sector over the last few years, What in your view is the biggest challenge facing leader’s today?

Validating their mandate. In the context of increasing change, the challenge to leaders is to stay connected to the people they lead. To understand their organisations from the bottom up.

What would you say is your most marked characteristic ?

Enthusiasm…bucket loads of it. I’m really passionate about my work and I hope it shines through. I’ve been told it’s contagious. The compound effect which you get when surrounded by people who are really engaged and eager to learn and grow is amazing.

We hear a lot about Authenticity in leadership ...in your opinion how important is authenticity in leadership?

Authenticity is everything. Our ability to deliver when we are our authentic selves is limitless. It’s something I have been doing a lot of thinking on recently. I used to think there was a tension between being authentic and delivering difficult messages, but I’m getting better. People are more receptive to an authentic voice, even when you are telling them something they don’t want to hear.

Do you think that quotas for diversity on boards are a good way of getting better representation?

This is a controversial one and one which has many cultural angles. I do though. Quotas and the spectrum of activity which falls between positive action and positive discrimination have their place and have been shown to have worked remarkably well in Sweden, Norway and Iceland when operated on a voluntary basis by political parties under facilitative legal frameworks. However I think that they should be time limited. Quotas are a catalyst for change.

Apart from quotas etc..how else can we effect a culture change in companies/ business's towards more diversity and less tokenism ( in some)

You have to know what change you want to create for a start. You need a clear vision and need to inspire people to get on board. Those people who get on board with your idea first will be your change agents and will play a role in co-creating your vision. I am strong believer in an approach grounded in authenticity, transparency and agency. If people understand the reasons for change and you can manage to enable them to feel empowered by it then you’re half way there.

Do you support networks that are geared towards supporting/empowering people who are often marginalised in the workplace and in business based on: gender, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability etc... Do you think that they promote/encourage inclusion and diversity OR separation?

I do and have done for a number of years now. I strongly belive that networks like this need to be driven by employees themselves and need to deliver tangible benefits to both their members and the business in which they operate. I have been particularly impressed when I have seen collaboration between networks.

Fiach  on your LinkedIn page you have a lovely statement ...”I am passionate about the sweet spot between diversity and efficiency”.  Please share an example of this.

For me this sweet spot is about two things. Firstly its showing people the real evidence that delivering on diversity pays back for businesses.  Not just in terms of attracting new talent, with the millennials entering the workforce with ever greater expectations of flexibility and work-life balance, but also in terms of creating sustainable and agile business which can adapt to today’s rapidly changing environment. The world of work is categorised by change. It is no longer something which happens every three or five years. Change is a constant and iterative process. If you do what you’ve always done you will get what you always got…diversity is an enabler for innovation. It helps us to keep our edge.

Fiach if you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

I’m really happy where I am right now. I get to work with people who inspire me every day. I really enjoy the international dimension to my work and so getting to continue in that vein is all I ask for at the moment.