Monday, March 5, 2012


The marvellous and hard-fought win by Wales at the home of English rugby to capture the Triple Crown a week ago is not only the culmination of the development of a squad of talented young players, it is the living embodiment of successful leadership and what it can achieve.

Clearly, the extensive coaching ability and in-depth knowledge of Warren Gatland and his backroom staff has been critically important. However, I think that everyone in the rugby World and beyond acknowledges the simple fact that without the on-field leadership of Sam Warburton, this team would only be a collection of talented individuals.

Sam, even at the tender age of 23, has shown himself to be a leader who has brought together a group of rugby players, many of them from regional sides that are playing well below their potential and has, by example, helped to mould them into a team of champions. Unfortunately, outside the rugby pitch, this culture of individual leadership is an alien concept across most of Wales.

For those of you who have been reading my column for the last eight years, you will know my views on this subject. It remains my strongly held belief that many of the problems we currently face can be placed firmly on the doorstep of those who maintain their status at the top of Welsh civic society not through leadership qualities such as trust and respect but by old fashioned methods such as promotion, perks, patronage and protection.

Such individuals are not leaders in their own right but are only powerful because of their job or position. As a result, they remain rigid enforcers of the status quo that benefits them and their acolytes rather than being agents for change.

They remain staunch followers of the religion of who you know, rather than what you know, which is the last thing a new democracy such as Wales needs, especially as it has had serious consequences for the development of this nation for such a long time. Worse of all, these transactional leaders breed the next generation of acolytes who blindly follow their masters in the belief that to get ahead, they have to copy similar attributes. And so the vicious spiral of decline continues with dire consequences for the organisations they lead.

Are these really the people we need or deserve? Of course not and it is not only on the rugby pitch that we require strong and enlightened leadership. In business, politics, education and civic life, we need individuals with a vision that inspires others and releases their abilities to help Wales move onwards and upwards.

Unlike those who have been running the ‘old’ Wales, we need leaders who will empower people in order to create and maintain a new vision, think strategically and work with others to initiate changes. We need leaders who, rather than throwing their employees on the scrapheap when the going gets tough, care deeply about the people who work for them and refuse to impose their solutions or suppress potential.

Sadly, such leaders are very few and far between in Wales today. In fact, those "troublesome priests" or angry young men and women who dare to think differently are ostracised, ridiculed and, in many cases, sidelined by those who fear that anyone with anything new to say will challenge their position. And the irony of a new Wales is that the ‘establishment’, with very few exceptions, has embedded itself even more within Welsh public life since devolution.

Unfortunately, the results are clear for everyone to see not only in terms of our economy, but also the effect on our declining health service, our cherished educational system and the governance of many other parts of public life. Indeed, the worry for many of us who care passionately about Wales is that the scandal at Awema is not an isolated incident but merely the tip of a very large iceberg.

Therefore, whilst the Silk Commission follows other august bodies such as the Richard Commission in considering the future of further powers for Wales, its conclusions will be largely pointless unless there is a revolution in the way Welsh organisations are managed and governed. Indeed, in a week where we celebrate, yet again, our patron saint and our special national qualities, there seems to be no drive or impetus by our current leaders across Welsh civic society to take us to the next level.

Certainly, if Wales is to punch above its weight, as our fantastic rugby team did last Saturday, then we need a call to arms for a national culture where ability and vision, rather than patronage and fear, are the key attributes for choosing our leaders in Welsh life. If this happens, then the sky is the limit for what we can achieve as a nation.