Inspiring Leaders: Lesley Saunders

Lesley Saunders

In our latest leadership blog, Lesley Saunders shares her thoughts on what makes a great leader, her challenges with setting a work-life balance and her take on the requirements of the workplace of tomorrow.

What was your first job?

I was a secretary for a freight agency.

What are you working on at the moment?

Sooo much, it’s not true…

I mediate (in separation/divorce), supervise family mediators, and publish an e-journal for legal, welfare benefit, tax, pensions and any other knowledge mediators need to have. I work on researching and writing that, as well as marketing, developing the website, etc.

I train family mediators and parents (court ordered four-hour programme). I also do CPD courses when I have time to develop them – which is not often at the moment though my ideas list is growing…

And then I assess mediator competence, and I’m the chair of our member organisation professional practice committee, and on the sub-group of our national standards body that’s developing the supervisors’ code of practice. Oh, and I’m helping a local mediation organisation spread its wings and extend into family work and mentoring a couple of other trainees. And I think that’s it.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The alarm. I am really not a morning person. The thought of getting under water before I’ve been up at least half an hour is enough to give me the heeby jeebies. So I drink my fruit juice and coffee and sometimes do words with friends whilst I come to.

What keeps you up at night?

Work! I get a real energy boost in the late afternoon and can work quite happily till the wee hours although I do that a lot less now than I used to. I think I might be sorting out that work-life balance thing…

What makes a great leader?

Someone who listens to the message as well as the words, patience, congruence, warmth, openness, boundaries, willing and able to do the difficult as well as the feel good stuff, humility, curiosity, clear communicator…

What has been your biggest challenge?

Work-life balance. Sometimes I bore myself when it comes up AGAIN. Feels like I’m finally getting there but it’s definitely three steps forward and two back. And just thinking about that a little bit more, the underlying challenge is saying no… So much to do, so little time, so much that is interesting, absorbing, fun…

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Nothing comes to mind as an abiding passion – I progressed from author, through lawyer, to bookseller (bookshop/café/training centre/research centre). I think artist might have been in there somewhere too. I’ve bounced back to the bookselling a number of times and I suppose mediation is lawyering through the back door and without the responsibility. I guess I am who, what, where I am because of moments, opportunities, interests along the way rather than planning.

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

It’s OK to be OK at lots of things rather than brilliant at one. I spent a lot of life looking for that ‘one thing’ that I excelled at.

What do you think is the most important requirement for the workplace of tomorrow?

Ensuring connectedness. Technology, home and flexible working are all fabulous and freeing and (potentially) inclusive with an inherent danger of isolation.

What is your favourite word?

Smile.

What do you do to relax?

Tennis – watching and playing, read, Sudoku, TV dramas & Corrie, time with friends and family, chocolate (until I get the guilts).

Who would play you in the film of your life?

Goldie Hawn or Emma Chambers (blonde in The Vicar of Dibley) – do you detect a pattern?