Blog: Chief Executive Sarah Jane Williamson on Being an Inspirational Leader

Blog: Chief Executive Sarah Jane Williamson on Being an Inspirational Leader

Being inspirational is not something we usually set out to be.

As our careers progress, we might want to support others’ development through mentoring or coaching. Our intention to serve others and contribute to our community usually increases with the growing experience we have to share.

But being inspirational is something only other people can say you are. You can’t claim it for yourself. Being inspirational is, at its best, subtle. You don’t know you’ve done it. You don’t know your impact. You don’t know who you’ve inspired. That’s the point of it.

Yet, included in my job description as a Chief Executive is the requirement to be an inspirational leader and role model to our staff and volunteers. I must also have the ability to inspire the public to support our cause as an equine welfare charity which also makes a positive difference to the lives of people.

This is why I love to share inspirational stories about the work of my incredible team at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, the tireless passion, skills and energy they have for specialist care for horses in sanctuary and transforming the lives of ponies and people through welfare outreach and equine assisted learning. We have an endless supply of heart warming stories which I’ll keep sharing with you.

Inspiration is one of those gifts that pays forward. Someone who truly influenced me from an early age is in the spotlight – literally – every weekend now and is inspiring me all over again.

BBC Strictly Come Dancing star Angela Rippon is a patron of The Mare and Foal Sanctuary. She’s billed by the show as ‘an award-winning journalist, TV presenter, news reader, and author who’s proving anything’s possible in your 70s’. Angela’s television career began in the same year that I was born. I watched her presenting the news throughout my childhood and remember hearing my uncles marvelling at her high kicks during her famous guest appearance on the 1976 Morecombe and Wise Christmas Show.

There were very few other women on television at that time in roles that showcased their intelligence and gravitas. As a child with a visible difference and speech disability I didn’t want to be a news reader, but Angela’s pioneering spirit helped me believe that I could become a journalist or researcher.

Angela fought to prove that strong women deserve to be taken seriously and given opportunities in high profile careers. She remains an inspiration to me to keep going. Her example to us all, as an older woman who remains at the top of her game, reminds me it’s OK to stay visible doing serious work and to show dignity, professionalism and good humour while doing it.

Angela’s career began in the West Country and earlier this week I attended the West Country Women Awards Finalists Announcement, in a room absolutely packed with inspirational businesswomen. They were award category sponsors or had made it through a very competitive nomination process to reach the final in this most friendly and supportive awards competition. I’m delighted to share that I was announced as a finalist in the Inspirational Leader category, having previously won in the Devon Women in Business Awards.

Without pioneering female role models like Angela Rippon putting their best feet forward in such fiercely competitive industries, would women like me have had the confidence and ambition to step up and take the lead?

As much as I would love to see her, I hope that Angela won’t be able to make the West Country Women Awards ceremony on December the 1st. I hope instead she’ll be limbering up in dress rehearsals for the glittering semi-finals of Strictly. But as I step out in my own sparkly evening gown on the night, I’ll look forward to channelling my inner Angela and celebrating the wonderful achievements of all inspirational West Country Women.

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