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Leadership Insights with Judy Wagner

Finding the right people for the right job is one of the basic skillsets for true leaders, writes Dominic Ryan.

Judy Wagner, Co-Founder and Director of FWB Park Brown

Progressing from a successful career as a Chartered Accountant, Judy Wagner co-founded FWB-later rebranded FWB Park Brown - with Willie Finlayson and Scott Black in 1993. Ever since, their mission has been to bring top talent to the boards of predominantly Scottish companies.

As she and her team celebrate 30 years in executive recruitment, Wagner is well placed to consider what constitutes exemplary leadership.

"It's about getting the basics right but also thinking about even better ways of doing things," she says. "This means being focused on the key business offering but remaining innovative and nimble of foot so you're a leader as opposed to a follower. "It's important, too, you can adapt quickly to changing environments. "Sometimes having that very British attitude towards strong financial stewardship can be helpful: thinking about the rainy day, keeping a close eye on costs and building in a contingency.

"Of course, leadership also means hiring the best people you can - while embracing complete diversification - then developing them, motivating them, and inspiring them to become leaders themselves and natural successors in the business.

"Finally, and perhaps one of the most important elements of leadership, is actually thinking about your customer or your clients in our case clients and candidates - or whoever your stakeholders are. Are you delighting them? Do they leave a conversation or interaction with you thinking what a great experience it was? Do they want to work with you not only because they know you'll do a first class job but also because they really like you and actually want to work with you.

"If you can say yes to all of these things, you're certainly on the right track to successful leadership. It's certainly what I've observed over the past 30 years."

Throughout those three decades FWB's business management has not only proved to be incredibly agile but heavily invested in people and skills. "One of the key things about leadership, and what we focus on doing, is attracting the best talent for our clients, but also making sure we, too, have the right talent on board. Importantly, diversity is built into this."

Wagner believes excellent leaders are those who are able to create, lead and inspire completely diverse teams of people, with the most diverse often building the greatest success in organisations.

"Businesses have to invest in the skills and knowledge required," she notes, "and that's why we talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion so much these days, including neurodiversity. I'm privileged to sit on the board of Salvesen Mindroom Centre, which is a leading neurodiversity charity in the UK, and part of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences. We have a contract with the Scottish government which is helping companies with their policies around neurodiversity and the language they use and really enabling them to nurture neurodiverse employees."

From a personal perspective, Wagner admits one of the best things about reaching the company's 30-year milestone has been the people she and her team have worked with. "Many of our working relationships have been going for all of those 30 years with people we've worked with from the beginning. Some of them might have started out as candidates then become clients and now we recruit talent for their organisations. It's a reflection of the fact that, from great leadership, comes great rewards.

"When you do a job like this, it's full-on at times and you really do want to make sure you're enjoying it and getting a lot of satisfaction from it," says Wagner.

"So it's lovely to watch your clients grow and develop and be successful. It's a real privilege to work with so many clients in so many different sectors and feel that, hopefully, we've even played a hand in helping the Scottish economy as well."

This article was written by Dominic Ryan for the Autumn 2023 Edition of The Herald Business HQ Magazine. Click here to read the full edition.