Lessons in leadership: Get out the way!

Our next guest is Angharad Planells, Head of Business Development and Culture at Gloucester titan Radioactive. Former journalist Angharad found her way into PR after spells at the BBC, national media and commercial radio stations. Now with more than a decade in public relations, Angharad brings a wealth of experience, thanks to her work with a huge range of B2C and B2B organisations, including Lloyds Pharmacy, LateRooms.com, and Bath Rugby, plus exciting start-ups in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, tech, ecommerce, and food & hospitality. A keen writer (and talker!), over the years she has contributed to industry publications including PRStack 1 and 2, and the first edition of FuturePRoof, spoken at various conferences and webinars, volunteered for the CIPR, and was on the admissions panel for the first Socially Mobile cohort at the end of 2021. In her spare time she’s a Trustee for Home-Start North & West Gloucestershire, a Mentor Mum supporting mums coming back to the industry, when she’s not running around after her three year old daughter, six month old puppy, and occasionally her husband!

Moving from years of strategic comms roles into a leadership role is a bigger shift than many people anticipate. Many people, and it’s not unique to the comms industry, learn and hone the skills they need to be an effective leader while on the job, more often than not making mistakes along the way.

In this episode, Angharad Planells talks about the most valuable leadership lessons she’s learned (some the hard way!) during the last 18 months, why taking time to work on herself makes her a better leader, and why the best thing every leader can do is to get out of the way.

Angharad Planells

Head of PR & Culture

Key Topics:

Angharad assures us that despite the assumptions, she was shy at school. She says: “I kept my head down, did alright academically, but if someone had a great idea, I’d want to be part of it, but I wouldn’t put myself forward and say even if I had an idea. I would partner with someone. I wouldn’t just go for it.

“I think that’s still partly the case now. I’ve always known about myself. I’ve never wanted to run my own business, for example, that’s just not something that’s ever interested me.

“I’m older now and I think as a parent you’re thrust into having to make decisions really quickly, but that I have a history of indecisiveness.”

We’re living in a crisis era where great leaders have been forged, but we also have plenty of examples of how not to lead. What are the quintessential leader qualities? Says Angharad: “I think a leader is somebody who might not always make the right decisions and you certainly can’t please everybody with your decisions.

“When you’re in a position of leadership, but you have that courage of conviction, you follow it through.

“That was something up until maybe a few years ago that I really struggled with because it’s knowing that you’re making a choice that impacts a lot of people. It’s knowing that you’re making the right decision because there’s not always a right decision.

“It’s that having that courage to make a decision that might be the wrong one and it might backfire.

“I’ve been under bad leaders and I’ve always assumed that being a bad leader was the negative things that they brought to the table, someone who belittles your efforts or doesn’t praise quickly. Those kinds of things that can really have an impact on someone’s mental health and someone’s feeling of worth at work.”

I actually held a different role at the agency, which was head of client success, so more on the client services side.”

“We all know clients right? You’re spinning a plate over on one side and that client’s super happy, but the one over on the other side is dropping it. You can’t be all things to all people. I really struggled in that role and so Rich [CEO of Radioactive and all around dreamboat] and I sat down and I moved into the role that I am now and it is such a better fit because I look after the team a bit more.

“So what did I do to get to that point and not see that as a kind of failure? I’ve done a lot of work on my self confidence. And what I want to get out of my career again is really kind of reframing, taking stock I guess. That’s why we’re seeing people quit to retrain into things they’re really passionate about, or just move to a different company because the one that they’re in doesn’t value them as an individual, let alone as a worker.

“But what really really helped me is having the confidence to know that it’s not all on me, there’s a team and being able to step back and not be such a control freak. It is quite hard though for a lot of leaders to do that, to get out of the way. I’ve seen lots of people on social talking about bringing on the best people, the best talent and letting them get on with it and get out of the way.

“But as you progress through your career, I suppose that you’ve gained that experience and

you want to impart some of that experience and that knowledge and some things that might be obvious to you. It wasn’t obvious to you when you first experienced it, but it is quite hard because you naturally want to be helpful and you want to help people to get to the end point quicker, but they’ve got to go on that journey as well.”

Who makes AP’s huge list? She says: “It really boiled down to people that are doers and creators of things.

“I’m always in awe of people that have an idea and just have a go because I’m very much one of those people that if I’m not going to be good at it then I’m a bit scared to start it.

“But you know you’ve got Advita Patel and Priya Bates with the A Leader Like Me community and the new podcast they’ve launched.

“Sarah and Steven Waddington because over the years I’ve been part of communities and groups of people they’ve brought together and their tireless commitment to our industry is commendable.” Shoutout to Socially Mobile.

“Jamie Klingler for the work she’s done with Reclaim These Streets in the last year – just taking something that she had no previous knowledge or experience in –  in the way that you would assume you might need to have – and just ran with it because it was important.

“Outside of our industry it’s people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama. RuPaul, even, you know pioneers in industries and spaces that they’re in who said no, I just wanna do this.

“I think people forget that being a leader is a privilege, not a right.”

A final thought

What’s the draw for CommsHero? Says Angharad: “As much as we’re a global society now we’re all still looking for a place to belong, right?

“So it’s nice when you find a group of like-minded people who are all striving towards the same goal but having some fun with it. CommsHero has got some great swag. But there’s some great tips in there as well, insight, and it’s just not being afraid to ask stupid questions.

“I think in the early days of my career I was like: I must look like I know everything on Twitter because there’s some very smart people on Twitter!”

The show notes were written by #CommsHero legend, Teela Clayton.

This episode is sponsored by Blink. The world’s first enterprise app designed exclusively for frontline workers.