IoD East of England leadership series Leona Barr-Jones

Effective leadership is critical to the success of every endeavour. Yet leaders often do not find the head space to develop their own leadership knowledge, skills and experience to give them the confidence to fully lead.

A study by Forbes found that a staggering 98% of Managers felt that Managers need more training and they felt unprepared for management roles. The same could be said for when we find ourselves in leadership roles.

This is one of the reasons why together with fellow Institute of Director’s ambassador, Judeline Nicholas, we set up the IoD 90 Minute Leadership Series.  We wanted to give our fellow Directors and business leaders an opportunity to spend 90 minutes a month refreshing, re-evaluating and discussing leadership topics with their peers. We set out a 6-month plan and covered some varied topics to make them think and we have just finished the last session on planning and I wanted to share some of the insights from the last few sessions.

Leading in Troubling Times

As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the loss of loved ones, the impact of BREXIT, civil unrest and political extremism, it is not surprising that our teams are feeling unsettled and anxious.  Businesses have been severely impacted and individuals have struggled either on furlough or working twice as hard.  It has been tough for over a year for us all.  As a leader, you need to set the tone, as your team will look to you, how will you react. It is vital to stay positive and turn challenges into opportunities.  Equally we should acknowledge that it has been a difficult time and empathise with our team.  Listen to them and work together to find solutions.  Communication is key and has been the biggest frustration during lockdown, so communicate more than usual and be aware that many of your team may be feeling isolated and also anxious about returning to the office.  Encourage flexibility and actively support the transition to the “new normal”.  Demonstrate gratitude and don’t forget to say THANK YOU.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognise and influence the emotions of those around you. The term was first coined in 1990 by researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey but was later popularised by psychologist Daniel Goleman. It is no surprise that 90% of top performers have a high Emotional Quotient (EQ).  The five key elements of EI are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

When leaders have a high Emotional Intelligence they show increased leadership ability, and develop increased team performance, improved and more confident decision-making, decreased occupational stress, reduced staff turnover and increased personal well-being.  The great thing about EQ is that unlike IQ (Intelligence Quotient), it can be developed and you can build on your natural EQ.


We have certainly all had our mental resilience tested over the last 12 months.  In the British Army we believe that Mental Resilience can be built through learned skills, previous experience, combined with personality. It is therefore closely linked to Emotional Intelligence and you can build your resilience through mental control and emotional regulation, which will come with developing your Emotional Intelligence.  Here are the seven pillars of Mental Resilience that the British Army teaches:

  • Self-Belief
  • Positive Affect
  • Emotional Control
  • Mental Control
  • Sense of Purpose
  • Coping
  • Social Support

Inclusive Leadership

Inclusive Leadership allows you to tap into your authentic self and to be a role model and mentor.  Encourage your staff to speak up and give them all a voice by creating a safe environment for open and respectful communications.  Openly discuss the value of diversity and diversity of thought in achieving team goals and stay conscious of your own bias.  Inclusive leadership has shown to have a positive impact on the operational effectiveness, innovation and creativity of an organisation.  You will be able to attract and retain the best talent and mirror a diverse market share and consumer base.


As leaders, we all know we should have a business plans, budget and marketing plan, but many businesses do not.  So, if you haven’t already, I would recommend you develop these with your team.  The key however for a leader is to concentrate on finding the space to do the stargazing and blue sky thinking that sets our vision and our mission should fall out of this and sets out how we will achieve that vision.  The key elements of your vision are your core values, your purpose and your key goals.  Identifying your values and your why to become purpose-led is critical to setting the direction of your business and then you can turn your goals into SMART Objectives to help drive you forward to achieve more.

SMART Objectives:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Relevant
  • T – Time-bound

If you are interested in learning more about leadership and the topics we have discussed here, I would be happy to help, please get in touch [email protected]

Leona Barr-Jones has over 30 years’ experience in leadership roles within the British Army and is currently Colonel Commandant of Essex Army Cadet Force and has recently been selected to be the next Colonel Cadets in 7th Infantry Brigade.  As well as being a Fellow of IoD, she is also a Fellow of CMI and InsLM and is the current IoD Director of The Year for Inclusivity.

Better directors for a better world

The IoD supports directors and business leaders across the UK and beyond to learn, network and build successful, responsible businesses.
Internet Explorer
Your web browser is out of date and is not supported by the IoD website. It is important to update your browser for increased security and a better web experience.