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7 Questions on Leadership with Dr Hayley Matthews

Name: Dr Hayley Matthews

Title: Archdeacon of Wrexham

Organisation: Church in Wales

Dr Matthews is an Anglican priest who has spent the majority of her ministry in the Church of England and is now serving in the Church in Wales, in the birthplace of her Grandfather.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Hayley's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

The most challenging aspect of leadership is slowing things down enough to ensure deep wisdom is accessed and good decisions made rather than expedient, superficial ones, whilst not missing zeitgeist moments and keeping the energy, motivation and vision high.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Leadership is a combination of six things: character; courage; encouragement; lifelong learning, opportunity and sheer hard work. I would need to write a book to tell my story, but it features taking leaps of faith, growing into roles, and continually reflecting deeply on how to be and do leadership better. It also entails being willing to fail well - ‘falling upwards’ I call it. Whether pushed or having tripped, let each failure teach you something about the people, the context, how you need to grow and develop, and where best you might flourish next, so that others can. I guess that’s a seventh attribute - always takes responsibility. And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

My days start at bedtime. Twenty mins learning a language (seems to sink in whilst I sleep!) A good fiction book to take me out of my thinking head and away from the day. I sleep really well for 6-7 hours. Awaken, exercise-bike (a good cycle around New Zealand for half an hour - great start to the day) also good for praying about everyone and everything on my mind then I’m ready for the day.

I refuse to look at the phone until the morning routines are done unless there’s a live safeguarding/pastoral issue. Family first. Next up, Morning Prayer then check the diary, emails, and messages to prioritise the day and schedule pieces of work around set meetings/activities. Crack on! Allow flex for the unexpected. Don’t sweat the small stuff if you can’t get done all that you wanted to.

Always talk to people you bump into unexpectedly and get extra bits of work or relational connections improved whenever the opportunity arises. Carry my laptop/iPad so that if I catch a break anywhere I can get some work done between meetings. Nothing worse than a spare remains 45minds and no access to documents! Home for dinner always unless working away. Cooking to ground myself and break from full-tilt mode.

Full break with the family, focussing on them and their day around the dinner table. Walk the dogs in a country park where time allows or play a game with the children/watch TV. Possibly an evening meeting, or paperwork and emails/planning/writing ensuring I have three evenings clear per week to spend with friends, family or simply relax and do my own thing. This could be anything from theatre to gardening to swimming to reading.

Prayer and worship are woven throughout either formal or informal depending upon my commitments to communal acts of worship. Not every day is the same - ensure one long slot per week for ‘deep work’ (writing, strategising, larger pieces of work). I prefer to set one day aside for no distractions/meetings etc. and another for all bits of admin or ‘fast work’ to fit around necessary meetings.

Once a month half a day to clear the desk, filing, shredding, creating a ta-dah list of outstanding items and then a day/half-day allocated to clearing those tasks. Once a month a half day to walk and think to ensure deep thinking and slow decisions and to reset my brain.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

The importance of good facilitation skills leading to consensus - giving people time and space to express their views in a non-confrontational manner, so that even if their preferred motion isn’t carried, they know they’ve been heard, valued and can feel able to participate in whatever ensues. Diffusing/resolving conflict is everything.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

The Poisionwood Bible. Brilliant (epic) story of two missionaries. One kills himself, his family and the faith of all around him with his dogmatic self-righteousness, and a belief in a vengeful, judgmental God; the other is God’s love embodied, lived out in such a way as to break all the boundaries that divide, drawing people together mercifully rather than tearing them apart. Whether or not you are religious, you can see the character flaws of the dogmatic, unrelenting and dis-compassionate leadership that mistakes mercilessness for self-sacrifice and cannot see how it is hurting those around him, rather than bringing them the life he claims to offer. Wonderfully framed in a superb piece of writing.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Don’t be afraid to grow into a role. Sometimes the role helps to shape your leadership as well as you shaping the role. Waiting until you feel ‘big enough’ for those roles might mean you miss the opportunity for deep development. You might even find that you’ve outgrown the space and feel constrained/disappointed by it. Always find a place to expand, develop, be challenged, and learn something new. You should feel really nervous and out of your depth, otherwise you’ve played it too safe. Be willing to ask others to support you in these moves either by their own wisdom and experience or by enabling developmental opportunities on projects or teams within a current role to give you some skills and an idea of what you’d be letting yourself in for. Most importantly, enjoy the ride, even when its tough going.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

A person who came into my team very under-confident (yet eminently qualified), shy, hesitant, nervous. Often saying, ‘Oh no, that’s not me, I couldn’t do that.’ Deciding that I had a choice; was it more important to be popular as I played to their tune, or should I risk being slightly uncomfortable as I pushed them beyond their comfort zone, challenged their self-imposed barriers, and supported their development into the leader that I saw they had the potential to be? Yes of course I chose the later - gives me joy to see them flying high now, surpassing all their original expectations.

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