Full Text Sharing

We have the pleasure to publish a two series interview with Léa Cléret that is leading in her capacity of Chief Executive Office, the Leadership Trust, one of the most distinguished leadership focused organization in UK and around the world. The interview is part of ENGAGE's commitment to promote responsible and inclusive leadership.

In this 1st part, Léa speaks about her journey towards leadership at Leadership Trust, her understanding of the links between leadership and social innovation and how leadership can help vulnerable youths and much more....

About Léa:

Léa has a Ph.D in philosophy specializing in ethics in sport, with a special focus on the use of performance enhancing substances. This led her to spend close to decade working with athletes on large scale behaviour change programmes with the World Anti-Doping Agency. Léa was then asked to expand her mandate into the field of conducts which breach sport integrity, in particular match-fixing. During this mandate, she had to upskill and studied criminology in order to understand the specifics of the criminal mind. This Continual Professional Development reinforced her passionate belief in the power of personal development and brought Léa’s attention to the Leadership Trust in October 2016.


or you can check her likedin page at:

1.The warm up: Could you tell us about your career? You have a very interesting professional journey: a PhD philosophy specializing in ethics in sport, becoming a recognized expert on doping and now leading the Leadership Trust. Congratulations, how would you describe all this?


The thread which weaves all my career together is my interest in how humans make decisions, and how they decide, when faced with a dilemma, what the right action is. When I was a teenager, I was a keen athlete, and I was faced with a lot of questions with regards to the use of drugs in sport. In the context of my studies in ethics, my big question was “who decides what is good and bad in sport?”


I was offered a position at the World Anti-Doping Agency where I spent the best part of a decade trying to understand how athletes engage with doping through a social science research grant programme. With the evidence uncovered from this research and other sources, my role was to design prevention programmes and have an advocacy role with international sport governing bodies to implement these programmes.


I was then offered the opportunity to extend these large scale behavior change programmes to the realm of match-fixing, which in turn got me interested in issues such as corruption, bribery and financial integrity in sport. I realized that we would never be able to get athletes to change their behaviors if the leadership and governance of sport did not change.


I therefore wanted to experiment on what it would take to have an impact on the governance of sport, and generally the culture within sport organizations. I came across the Leadership Trust while I was working on these topics as I wanted to create a training programme which would help the fight against corruption in sport.


I was very interested in the methodology used by The Leadership Trust. It uses emotions to get people to learn: The Leadership Trust’s specialty is to create situations where individuals will live certain situations and therefore feel certain emotions – which a person will never forget. I wanted to get people to feel what cheating, corruption, bribery could be like. It worked really well!


The position of Chief Executive Officer became available and I was offered the job. It wasn’t anything I had done before, so I jumped in at the deep end. I had to learn very fast, and I can’t say it was easy. I have done a lot of personal development on the side too, to support me in becoming a better leader, by understanding myself better. I need to know where my insecurities and my fears are in order to manage or overcome them, for them not to impede my performance. I am so glad I took this job, because I have learnt so much and I work with great people on very interesting projects.


2.The Classic questions: what is Leadership? there are so many definitions and the latest trends, all backed by a mounting evidence, focus less on "exceptional qualities" of a few but rather on Leadership as something that involves multiple persons and evolving over the time. What is your take?


Thank you for asking this very important question. Like a lot of great concepts, you will probably get as many answers as the number of people you have asked. The Leadership Trust defines leadership as “using personal power to win hearts and minds to achieve a common purpose”.


This means that leadership is a set of skills that anyone can learn. We often confuse a leader and a hero. When I ask an audience to give me examples of leaders, I get the usual “Winston Churchill” or “Nelson Mandela”. While I do not doubt for a single second that these individuals had great leadership skills, my favourite examples are mothers who lead a household or Anne-Marie.

Anne-Marie was a receptionist who took upon herself to get a lawyer’s office to stop using plastic water bottles. The lawyers were not ready at all to change their habits, yet she managed through using her personal power to get people excited about contributing to saving the environment by using a water fountain and reusable cups.

In itself, this is a small, everyday action, however the leadership skills required were huge. What is important here is to note that it is the principles of leadership which are important, not the context. Whether it is Anne-Marie stopping the use of water bottles or Winston Churchill stopping World War II, the same principles are being followed, it is simply the context and the scale that changes.


The great danger of confusing “heroes” and “leaders” is that most people will think that they are not made to be leaders, because they don’t see themselves as Winston Churchill. It means that most people just wait to be led, rather than take action themselves a

nd make changes. It is very important for everyone to know that they can lead, and achieve what they want to achieve, whatever the scale of the endeavor. Getting children off to school on time requires leadership!


3.Leadership and Social Innovation: How do you see the contributions of leadership field to solve the most pressing problems faced by the society?


Leadership first and foremost requires for people to know themselves. The founder of the Leadership Trust, David Gilbert-Smith, said: “All leadership starts with oneself, with learning to know and control oneself first, so that then and only then can one control and lead others”.


The word “control” in that sentence has to be interpreted carefully. It is not so much about constraints as it is about creating conditions for people to behave in a certain way that will be conducive to the “common purpose” we talked about earlier.


But what is more important in that sentence is the beginning of it: “all leadership starts with oneself”. That journey of self-discovery is so important. I personally believe that the lack of it is often part of the root of many social issues. It is not always clear whether it is the cause of the issues or the consequence of them, but in any case, trying to find solutions for people to know themselves, to become aware of who they are, of what they really want, of what their emotions mean, of the reasons they behave the way they do is a step to help solve these problems.


This of course is an extremely long-term vision of improving society, but sadly, there is no quick fix for any of the big social issues.


I therefore believe that creating conditions for people to know themselves better and therefore be able to be fulfilled and better citizens, is one of the contributions that the leadership development field can provide.


4. Again on social contribution of Leadership: what is the role that leadership practices and researches can have to support the   personal development of vulnerable, marginalized youths in the so called developed world


Vulnerable and marginalized youths have not become vulnerable and marginalized by choice. They are the product of a system which has made them so. From a macro point of view, good leadership can help build better societies through supporting well run countries, organisations, businesses, who all contribute to fairer and healthier societies, and therefore minimize the risk factors for youth to become vulnerable and marginalized.

From a micro point of view, providing opportunities to vulnerable and marginalized youths to learn to know and control themselves, will help them individually, and contribute to breaking the cycle.


5. In the south of the world: ENGAGE believes in the power of self-empowerment of disadvantaged, in our particular case, living with disabilities youths. It basically says that even a marginalized youth should be helped but also must herself work very hard and undertake a process of self-discovery, finding out her interests and work very hard on clear goals. What do you think? Do you have any case studies close to our approach?


I absolutely agree. Self-discovery is a very difficult, long and painful process. I am sorry that there isn’t an easy and painless way to do this. Growing hurts and that is all there is to it.

It is completely counterproductive to try to ease personal development for others, or worse even, attempt to do their personal development job for them. The only thing we can do is provide opportunity as well as safe and empathetic spaces for people to grow. It is sometimes very difficult for facilitators or coaches to watch people go through phases of unpleasant emotions or struggle to understand what is happening. But that is up to the individual to digest and grow from.

However, being accompanied during that process can help with the pace. Having a “critical friend” who asks the questions we might want to avoid or holds us to our words can accelerate the process. We still need to do the job ourselves, but we don’t have to be alone!

We have now had more than 70 000 delegates come through our courses. These people were not marginalized youth so I don’t have specific case studies which would apply to this context, but the key is to provide care and compassion whilst they allow themselves to grow.


                The next part will be posted next Monday, September 24th

Position: intern

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

About Us

The idea is simple: creating an open “Portal” where engaged and committed citizens who feel to share their ideas and offer their opinions on development related issues have the opportunity to do...


Please fell free to contact us. We appreciate your feedback and look forward to hearing from you.

Empowered by ENGAGE,
Toward the Volunteering Inspired Society.