What Inclusive Leadership Means to Nationwide

Tony Prestedge






Tony Prestedge, Chief Operating Officer, Nationwide


What does Inclusive Leadership mean to you?

The best leaders understand that the success of their business is directly related to the strength of the people within it.  The strongest businesses recognise that their leaders, talent and pipeline for the next generation of leaders must come from a broad, diverse community.  A community where everyone has a voice, and which truly reflects the markets in which it operates.  Inclusive leaders recognise this and then go one step further.  For them diversity is broader than age, ethnicity or gender.  Inclusive leaders also consciously promote diversity in innovation, approach and decision-making. For me, all leaders should inspire others to have confidence in them, but great leaders imbue their people with confidence in themselves through inclusive leadership.


What is the biggest challenge to eliminating bias within your business?

Ensuring we operate inclusively always needs to be front of mind and that takes work in Nationwide just as it does in any business.  Leaders in Nationwide are expected to take personal accountability for the quality of their respective teams and we judge leaders performance on this dimension – can they attract, grow and retain the best people they can afford. Making sure they are aware of the risk of recruiting, and promoting, in their own likeness is the thing I worry about most.  We could end up white, male and stale without challenge in the system.  At Nationwide we genuinely believe in creating an environment where different approaches can flourish, even if we don’t always succeed. We promote this through a combination of Board level support, role-modelling, governance and developing employee networks to name just a few.  And within this is a programme of unconscious bias learning and development.


How does this relate to inclusive leadership/how can inclusive leadership help?

Our programme explores the issue of unconscious bias to help individuals understand their own, perfectly normal biases.  It provides a safe learning environment, along with practical tools and approaches, to help individuals explore how their unconscious bias may affect their decisions. This understanding and awareness is the cornerstone of ensuring that we create a diverse community. Having been through it myself it certainly raised my awareness!


What is your advice to all leaders on how to be more inclusive?

Don’t just say the right thing, do it. Actively create a diverse community, stuff it full of the most talented people you can find and consciously hire people who will bring a different point of view and challenge to the table. Also make sure that members of that community can be heard.  Engage, collaborate and role model from the top, provide a safe learning environment where leaders can understand more about themselves and their teams, and celebrate the differences. The best teams of which I have been a part, and which I have led, have been diverse by gender, background and beliefs – as a result decision-making was better and strategy focussed on the right outcomes for multiple stakeholders.


Can you give us some examples of how inclusive leadership has changed your business / added value? 

In the last five years we have recruited a more diverse executive team, focused on experience and knowledge as well as personal characteristics.  For example, I am really pleased to say that we have two female Board members and two female Executive Committee members.  Beyond that we have a leadership population which brings a real mix of gender, experience from different industries, entrepreneurial spirits and corporate stalwarts.  Already the debates in the boardroom and committees across the Society have changed and these new perspectives are filtering through Nationwide. It feels like a very different place and is a better business as a result.