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Leaders Like You


On the basis of the evidence collated through this research, the West Midlands Leadership Commission is making a number of recommendations for the WMCA and its partner organisations under five themes:
  • Inclusive leadership to drive inclusive growth

  • Working in partnership with business to develop inclusive leadership

  • A step change in recruitment and human resource development

  • Combatting the evaluation and learning deficit

  • A route map for the next generation.


Theme One:
Inclusive leadership to drive inclusive growth
Recommendation 1a:

The WMCA must lead by example and will act on an ambitious plan to bring more diverse leaders into its own organisation, networks and governance, drawing on lessons from this research. It will commit to:

  • track and report publicly on progress on this action plan by publishing an annual review;
  • taking responsibility for updating the information on leadership diversity across the WMCA area, including seeking to fill data gaps;
  • evaluating the impact of this Leadership Commission after 12 months
  • holding a repeat West Midlands Leadership Commission enquiry every 5 years.
Recommendation 1b:
  • Embed Leadership Commission outcomes within the strategic goals of the WMCA, measuring the inclusiveness of the area’s growth on an ongoing basis through our Inclusive Growth Unit.
Recommendation 1c:
  • Transport is a major enabler of access to employment especially for people with disabilities, and the lack of this can limit skills, training, job and leadership opportunities, which will affect the long- term leadership pipeline. The WMCA, TfWM and partners will propose interventions to address the barriers.
Recommendation 1d:
  • The WMCA will work with its regional partners and national experts to explore what leadership skills our future economy will require, and how we can bring best practice to bear in the region.
Recommendation 1e:
  • Major events in the region including the Commonwealth Games and City of Culture provide a platform to showcase this vision of inclusive leadership and to act as a catalyst for practical progress. The WMCA will work with partners to ensure that promoting diversity and inclusive leadership are embedded in the ethos and delivery of these and other major events.


Theme Two:
Working in partnership with business to develop inclusive leadership
Recommendation 2a:
  • The West Midlands Leadership Commission is calling for a generational change in the diversity of leadership within the region. Success will depend on ownership right at the top of organisations, aligning inclusive leadership to the core values and goals of future business. Without this ownership at the top and throughout an organisation, it will be far harder to break down the barriers faced by those from underrepresented groups seeking leadership positions. The Mayor wishes to convene a ‘Inclusive Leadership Meetings’ for leaders of organisations to meet, commit to action and share successes and difficulties.
Recommendation 2b:
  • Evidence suggests that many organisations in particular sectors struggle to diversify their leadership and workforce. The WMCA will work with those struggling the most and encourage the development of capabilities in other organisations to do the same.
Recommendation 2c:
  • To celebrate the best and encourage progress across the board, future inclusive leadership targets should be transparent. The WMCA will work with organisations to work out how a more inclusive leadership can be achieved, and help organisations set realistic targets.
Recommendation 2d:
  • We don’t accept that diverse role models are too difficult to find. The WMCA will create a live list of female, BAME, disabled and LGBT panellists and speakers so that event organisers in business and across the sectors can more easily access a more inclusive list of speakers. Success will be celebrated with a showcase publication and event, developed in partnership with the region’s major media outlets.
Recommendation 2e:
  • Mentoring is a powerful tool for building bridges into leadership. We recommend an expansion of the Mayor’s Mentors scheme, including encouraging today’s CEOs and whole boards to sign up and help young people connect with today’s leaders within the region.
Recommendation 2f:
  • We recommend the championing of other support mechanisms including ‘affinity groups’ within organisations and work shadowing.
Recommendation 2g:
  • The WMCA will play a leading role embedding diversity within its investment and delivery portfolio and its inward investment strategy, incentivising it within its supply chain through its social value policy, it should also expect its partners to commit to inclusive leadership and measure the impact of these policies over a ten year period.


Theme Three:
A step change in recruitment and human resource development
Recommendation 3a:

There is a need for effective HR practice that continually works on the barriers to progression for groups under-represented in leadership. The WMCA will work with employers to share the evidence of effective practice, and to strengthen networks which can bring under-represented groups into leadership roles.

Recommendation 3b:

There is a need to fill the gap between often good recruitment policy, and everyday practice that has
yet to catch up. Pro-diversity recruitment and promotion will be encouraged by the WMCA. The WMCA will host a roundtable of HR managers in the region to explore ways in which we can create a fairer regional system.

Recommendation 3c:

The bar must be raised on HR and recruitment policy. Where there is evidence that interventions have
made a difference, as with blind recruitment and the NHS practice in the region of ensuring representative interview panels, it should be disseminated to allow these initiatives to be adapted by other sectors.

Recommendation 3d:

Potential leadership candidates in the focus groups often spoke about the lack of useful advice on progression. This generates scepticism about whether commitments to inclusive leadership are genuine. If they are to convince potential candidates that they do have a fair chance to take up leadership roles, employers need to address this perception, and to change practices where necessary.


Theme Four:
Combatting the evaluation and learning deficit
Recommendation 4a:
  • The lack of robust evaluation of leadership interventions means we don’t always know what works. We recommend collaboration with our Universities, funding and research partners to establish an Inclusive Leadership Institute including research centres such as the Centre for Women’s Enterprise and Leadership at the University of Birmingham. The Institute will evaluate the impact of leadership initiatives and facilitates networks to co-design effective future interventions.
Recommendation 4b:
  • The evidence highlights the value and power of peer- to-peer learning networks, where leaders from different organisations can learn from each other. We recommend that the WMCA works with its partners to design peer-to- peer mentoring initiatives to strengthen these networks, building initially on the University of Birmingham’s 21st Century leadership breakfast sessions.
Recommendation 4c:
  • We recommend sharing with the national government the Commission’s analysis of the key gaps in how national and regional data on key dimensions is currently recorded and gathered. Addressing these gaps would enable more robust strategies in our region. This would also be a platform for mutual learning across regions on how to encourage inclusive leadership.
Recommendation 4d:
  • Our commission highlighted clear areas where a lack of research into particular cohorts undermines our ability to develop good leadership interventions. We recommend working with regional universities to facilitate further research into the least studied groups.


Theme Five:
A route map for the next generation
Recommendation 5a:
  • It is critical that more is done to raise levels of aspiration for young people in our marginalised communities.
  • We recommend the creation of a Youth Combined Authority, working in partnership with relevant youth organisations, to bring young people from all parts of our region together to build future political leadership capability and help us see the world through their eyes. We will promote the LGA’s Be a Councillor campaign and work with councils to deliver information events for people who wouldn’t normally see themselves becoming an elected representative.
Recommendation 5b:
  • We also recommend that the WMCA and its partners work more closely with schools to encourage young people from underrepresented groups to aspire to leadership positions. The WMCA supports Professional Services Week in Birmingham and will work with partners to broaden the scope of that week, encouraging young people from all across the region to access the many and growing opportunities in the region.
Recommendation 5c:
  • Our deliberative research told us that fragmented access to information hinders potential. We therefore recommend the creation of an opportunities portal which puts leadership opportunities in the region into a single, accessible platform.
Recommendation 5d:
  • The WMCA will work with West Midlands universities to create a leadership programme for young and emerging leaders from the faith communities, the Young Changemakers Academy, with a summit event to kick off this work.


Next steps

Following the publication of this report, the West Midlands Leadership Commission will mobilise commitments from a range of organisations from the public, private and social sectors to play leading roles in taking the Commission’s ideas forward. It will stress that increasing leadership diversity and inclusivity is not just a challenge for the WMCA, but also a particular challenge for Local Economic Partnerships and individual local authorities.

The WMCA is interested in hearing from you on current/future initiatives that fit in with the recommendations outlined above.

Mobilising commitments will start with a a phased launch of the research outcomes that will involve the publication of key research findings, sector specific recommendations and support mechanisms. Discussions will take place with the WMCA on the future role of members of the Leadership Commission and the universities supporting its work. The Commission will also work closely with the WMCA’s Inclusive Growth Unit to develop its forward agenda.