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Eleanor Ower: Becoming an Inclusive Leader

I am so proud to be coordinating and shaping our brand-new leadership programme: Becoming an Inclusive Leader.

At Sport Wales, we’ve invested in leadership programmes for our partners for many years to help people be the best they can be and to bring out the best in others. 

But, this year, we have decided to do things differently. The focus of this programme will be on inclusive leadership.

We did of course consider that inclusive leadership skills be just part of a wider programme but, in the end, decided that a shift in thinking and understanding around equality, diversity and inclusion could be a gamechanger in Welsh sport. So let’s go for it.

It won’t be a walk in the park for the 15 candidates. Drawn from partners such as National Governing Bodies, Local Authorities and wider national partners, candidates will be challenged around:

  • How do they view equality, diversity and inclusion?
  • How have they behaved previously to others?
  • Have they made decisions with a conscious or an unconscious bias? Would they make a different decision now?

The process is likely to be demanding and it will require candidates to be completely honest with themselves but in a space that is safe. Led by AKD Solutions, we’ll be bringing in experts for in-depth discussions.

 

I feel really passionate about the programme because I myself have often wondered whether I could have done more throughout my career to ensure sport was available to everyone.

I remember my first job out of university as a Community Sports Officer. It was in Maindee, Newport – a deprived area with a high percentage of people from an ethnic diverse background. I was from Newbridge – an area that you’d describe as mainly white, with very little diversity in the population. It was very different to where I was working, and yet there I was, making decisions that affected a community that I knew very little about. 

Looking back, I do wonder if I approached it in the right way. Did I ask enough questions and take the time to learn? We use the term “hard to reach” when talking about a range of communities that don’t get involved in our programmes. But is it us, the organisations, that are hard to reach and inaccessible?

This programme certainly won’t be about having all the answers. But it will encourage leaders within Welsh sport to press pause, stop and think. How do I learn more? Do I need to change the way I am behaving?

The aim is to start influencing leaders within the sector. In turn, we hope that it will have a knock-on effect in terms of recruitment. Because to make Welsh sport truly great, from grassroots to elite, we need a richness of different cultures, different backgrounds, different perspectives and ideas. And that means we need people to be running sport from all sorts of different viewpoints with different lived experience.

We also hope that leaders will start to think differently, looking through a diversity lens, to help them make decisions that will encourage more people, whatever their background, to take part in sport.

I can’t wait to meet the next cohort of leaders and no doubt we’ll learn a lot from one another. There are just 15 spaces on the course and the application window closes on 12 November so if you think you are up to the challenge, please do apply.

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