Core 10: The Change Makers' Manual



C laire Horton is a appearance on Desert Island Discs , she revealed that, as a teen, she spent a dark and stormy night dancing barefoot to Kate Bush on a hillside in her best twirly skirt. Three decades later, she is no longer running up that hill, having reached the peak of her profession. The WBS alum was responsible heart-on-sleeve sort of woman. During a recent for a spectacular revamp of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home before taking the helm of another internationally renowned institution – the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – where she aims to bring about a similar transformation. Her achievements at multiple charities have won her numerous

How Claire Horton became a leading charity CEO Hounds of Love

awards and a CBE for services to animal welfare. Not bad for someone who left school at 16. Claire has two secret weapons she credits for her sustained success: honesty and a fine pair of listening ears. When she joins an organisation, one of the first things she does is speak to her staff individually. “I go in with a very open mind. I try to meet absolutely everybody I can,” she says. “In order to trust me, people need a sense that I am genuinely open to hearing what they say, though I have to manage the expectation that I am going to change everything first up.” Joining Battersea as Chief Executive in 2010, three years after her MBA, she propelled the iconic but then-struggling charity into years of growth. Against a backdrop of sector-wide decline in charitable donations, annual turnover at Battersea grew from £12 million to £57 million during her decade in charge. By then she was a charity veteran, but her first paid charity role in 1990 at the NSPCC came as a happy surprise. “Until then I had no idea that charities paid their staff,” she admits. Claire’s rise up the managerial ladder saw her named as UK Director of the Year by the Institute of Directors. And though she has since left Battersea, she continues to work on wider animal welfare issues. In both her paid and voluntary roles, there is a common thread of gently rattling cages. “The more you allow people to talk and share, the more confident they get, and the more they open up. That has to come from authentic leadership. “Over time – weeks rather than months or years – people get a sure sense that you are invested in them and committed

to excellence, finding out and fixing whatever is wrong.” She’s keen to talk about her MBA at Warwick, which she graduated from in 2007. But it was in her early career that she learned her toughest lesson after encountering shockingly bad management. “It was a masterclass in what not to do. A number of us were bullied by a new manager lacking any kind of empathy, who came in like a bull in a china shop and caused a great deal of hurt and pain to a lot of people. But I learned a lot.” She credits her parents with her work ethic and empathy – her mother, Mildred, was a trailblazer who worked as one of Lancashire’s first woman police officers to support sex workers and victims of abuse, and who went on to work in occupational therapy; her civil

Police as a cadet, but failed the eye test. “I didn’t even know then I needed glasses.” Two years later, after some volunteering and time studying business and management at technical college, she became a ‘special constable’ – a volunteer police constable – working alongside regular officers on the streets of Dudley for eight years. On the night Margaret Thatcher was elected, she met her future husband while on duty. After her son was born, her husband was injured at work and forced to retire from a job he loved – that’s when she left the police for paid work in the charity sector, jumping at the chance to fundraise for the NSPCC. “Recently, I wondered, ‘Should I have joined the Met, maybe I’d be taking a shot at the Commissioner role by now!’ But I don’t think I was that brave then. I’m not really one for looking back.” It was only much later in her 30s, as Chief Executive of the University of Warwick Students’ Union, that she began to wonder what she may have missed by never going to university. “I loved working with the students, seeing their ambitions and values, and being part of helping to shape their lives. At that point, I thought I might have lost out. But there I was running an organisation with a multi- million-pound turnover and a sizeable staff – I was doing all right without having done a degree.” Keen to formally learn the theory behind the practice, she began to see the appeal of a business education and, in particular, an Executive MBA – although she never dreamed WBS might accept her. “I thought I wouldn’t be

engineer father was her mentor. “My mother always said ‘Do as you would be done by,’ and I believe and live by that. Don’t be mean to people when you’re managing them – lead by example, with clarity, strength and decency. “Support and empower people and teams as, if organisations are to thrive, you need supportive and inspirational leaders at every level – and I’ve had some of those, too.” As a 16-year-old, she was desperate to join West Midlands

credible without A levels or a degree. But I asked their

Warwick Business School | | Warwick Business School



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