We had the pleasure to meet with the CEO of SEGRO David Sleath who led the SEGRO cohort’s most recent masterclass. The title of the masterclass was Leadership in Business but the title does not summarise the wealth of advice and reflections David Sleath imparted upon us.
Within SEGRO’s London offices we started the evening with a networking session before sitting down with David. He opened the session explaining his journey to becoming a CEO which included his early life and upbringing, his formative years through education and the start of his career in Finance. Following 17 years at Arthur Anderson, his first graduate role, and having successfully made Partner, David took what to some was a risk and left his job to work for Wagon as a Finance Director. He has now been the CEO of SEGRO for the last eight years.
We had the opportunity to question David about his experience as a CEO, his thoughts on what makes an effective CEO and the advice he would give to us as young people as we develop our skills and our careers. The masterclass highlighted the importance of opportunities and putting yourself forward. Reflecting on what he would say to his younger self David said ‘…put yourself forward and take a chance’. Saying yes to varying opportunities does not have to be negative but in fact will provide you with the broad experience and skills that are needed in senior leadership roles.
The second point centred around creating opportunities for others. It was great to hear that SEGRO and David committed to ensuring diversity and inclusion within the organisation. This ranged from looking at pay levels closely to ensure there is no bias in the pay levels between men and women, to practising blind recruitment and ensuring diverse candidate lists. One thing I particularly admired was David’s commitment to lead by example on the diversity and inclusion agenda by personally not speaking on a panel if it is not diverse and gender balanced.
It was incredible to see a senior leader such as David take such a firm stance towards breaking down barriers. For me, what underpinned the entire masterclass was David’s advice to us all around being true to your value set. In essence this is staying true to what you believe. Once you have clarity around that, it becomes a part of your personal brand and how you put yourself forward to others. This message for me really opened my eyes to the importance of not feeling the pressure to conform to the status quo and to not hide all that you stand for.
Finally, three key pieces of advice I have taken from David’s masterclass that I believe anyone can put into practice to help them achieve their goals are:
- To take advantage of the different perspectives you can bring to the table. In senior roles you need broad experience and insights across different areas. It is not always necessary to be the expert.
- -Life is too short to be doing something you don’t believe in! Be sure to try several different things and find what you want to do.
- Have a positive disposition to saying yes. If you hear the words “would you like to try” put yourself forward!
David Sleath spoke very honestly, openly and genuinely about his experiences in a way that has enabled us as Patchworkers to learn about the realities of being a CEO and how we too can build ourselves as leaders in our own fields. This masterclass took us on the journey of an experienced leader and sparked a fire for the start of our own exciting journeys.
Written by Rabi Wilson