Looking Ahead with Livingston James – Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive, SCVO

In this next instalment of our Looking Ahead with Livingston James series as part of our 10th anniversary celebrations, we hear from Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of SCVO, on her journey through the last decade, and where her focus is for the next.

2010 felt like a difficult time. We were still in the throes of the impact of the 2008 financial crash and had a fractious coalition government at Westminster. Social media was in its infancy. I was in my first year as a chief executive, at the Scottish Social Services Council. My daughters were teenagers and passionate about JLS and Harry Potter.

Today, we’ve had a decade of austerity, welfare reform, a rise in populism, a climate emergency, prolific online abuse and now the coronavirus pandemic. I’m a year and a half into being chief executive of SCVO, the daughters are adults, passionate about the environment and social justice (and a wee bit, Justin Beiber!)

What on earth happened?

To be fair, lots of good stuff has happened. Great books have been written, great music made, science and medicine have made great leaps forward. The digital revolution has mainly made our lives so much better.  The job is great, and the daughters are happy.

From my own perspective as a leader, I have learned about the technical aspects and will always continue to learn about the people aspects. I’ve learned to “own the role”, I continue to endlessly fascinated by people, I’ve learned to love a strategic risk register. I’ve never been one to view leadership as myopic; a good leader must see the bigger picture, beyond money and tasks, and must see relationships between people as the key to pretty much everything.  So I’m glad that collaboration is in vogue, as is the need to nurture relationships and personal well being and we are talking in terms of outcomes rather than outputs.

I’ve been a member of the Scottish Leaders’ Forum for the whole decade. At the start, we were often confronted with the upside down triangle of doom, which showed it would take until at least 2017 to return to 2008 levels of prosperity. We were urged to “do more with less” and maximise income generation. Now we are grappling with delivering the outcomes in the National Performance Framework through collective leadership. One of those outcomes includes the word “love”.

Surely, we need that sense of joint endeavour, mutual respect and belief in people more than ever. In the workplace, and in our communities.

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