‘Bring your authentic self to work,’ says the Inclusivity Director of the Year 2019

Director of the Year Leona Barr-Jones

Every day in the approach to Christmas, we’ll speak to winners from the recent finals of IoD Director of the Year Awards. Today it’s Leona Barr-Jones, COO of Focus7 International, who won the Inclusivity – in partnership with Jaguar – category

In 2015, after a long career as a British Army officer, Barr-Jones co-founded Focus7, a brand-led digital marketing agency and provider of diversity and inclusion training. She remains a reservist and is the colonel commandant of Essex Army Cadet Force, leading more than 1,000 cadets and nearly 200 adult volunteers across the county.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received? “My nan used to say: ‘Always be true to yourself,’ and she was right. You need to bring your authentic self to work.”

What’s the secret of great leadership? “It’s about always striving to be inclusive. Inclusive leaders listen before they lead. They build diverse teams, with diversity of thought, and ensure that every member feels listened to, respected and valued.”

Which person in business do you most admire? “Oprah Winfrey, who overcame her own trials and tribulations stemming from child abuse to become the first female African-American billionaire. Her success can be attributed to her passion for helping others. Everything she says and does is values-based, authentic and inclusive.”

Where do you get your best ideas? “I read widely and attend IoD and other leadership events. I speak regularly to others about what they’re working on. You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So, if you want to be successful in business, spend more time with successful business leaders.”



Davy Price-Stephens, HR director and transformation programme leader, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR): “We need a diverse and engaged workforce at JLR that reflects both the communities we work in and our global customer base. Inclusion is about harnessing potential and working much harder to build an organisation that’s capable of unleashing this huge pool of talent, without constraints, on its brands and products.”

Entries are now open for the 2020 IoD Director of the Year Awards – click here for more info and to nominate


About author

Director magazine

Director magazine

Director is the magazine for business leaders. Free to IoD members and available to purchase through subscription, each edition is full of insightful interviews with entrepreneurs and company directors.

No comments

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.