Leadership 2025: Why it Matters

I’m proud to work for a brilliant sector. I’m grateful for the perspective I gain from leading a large landlord and now chairing the g15 group of large London housing associations.


I work with some incredible colleagues, board members and residents.

But the one thing that strikes me as odd about this fantastic, can-do, community minded sector is the lack of diversity at senior levels.

For example last year just 4% of senior leadership roles were occupied by BME leaders.

In addition, BME CEOs tend not exclusively, but disproportionately, to lead smaller organisations. And yet, we know diversity at Board level brings a better approach to risk and decision making.

My own newly merged organisation, Optivo, has already set aspirational targets for Board and Committee recruitment which we’ll review regularly to make sure we’re a diverse organisation which reflects our communities.

And we’ll establish a diversity development programme in-house to bring forward talent where progression is disproportionate.

We need to build succession and talent management capability over the longer term. But as a sector we need to urgently address gaps in diversity at a leadership level amongst BME professionals.

For me, diversity is a strategic issue and not something which should be delegated down or out to the margins.

Gaps in diversity are a failure on our part as the current leaders to address something which has been staring us in the face for years. It’s time to find solutions.

Leadership 2025 is a highly credible development programme delivered by Roffey Park, one of the UK’s leading business schools.

Year one will focus on Chief Executive or Executive ready leaders who want to take the next step. I know the talent is out there and this type of high octane, high bar accreditation will provide valuable CV ‘gold dust’.

I’m excited that Optivo, along with L&Q and the BME London housing associations have worked together to develop Leadership 2025.

We’ve got a stellar cast of mentors from around the country, poised and waiting for candidates. The g15 housing associations recently conducted their own research on diversity.

The progression of BME colleagues in particular backed up the Inside Housing data and g15 colleagues, amongst others, are ready to tap into this compelling programme.

But finally, let’s address one last but important point. Haven’t we been here before? Haven’t we taken positive action in the past to no avail? I think this could be different but only if we’re prepared to accept some uncomfortable truths.

As current leaders we must take responsibility for our watch. We must make it OK for people to put themselves forward for this much needed programme and expect and urge change to happen.

We must not allow participants to shoulder the burden or any flak for positive action. Lamentable progression rates of my brilliantly talented BME sector colleagues will hold back this amazing sector unless I’m prepared to do something.

I’m going to take this challenge on the chin. This is my problem. I hope my fellow leaders will do the same.

We have a strategic problem and, like any leader, it’s our responsibility to take ownership and sort it out.