West Midlands Regional Leader: Maria O’Neill

Leadership Biography:

Name: Maria O’Neill

Phase: Secondary

Role: Head of PSHE/eCadets co-ordinator

Sector: Independent

Region: West Midlands

Years Served in Education: 16

Leadership Journey: complicated

Leadership Coach/Mentor/Inspiration: Jill Berry

Twitter Handle: @DaringOptimist

Blog: daringoptimist.com

Leadership Reflections:

Why do you lead?

It is in me to lead. From an early age, I would naturally take responsibility or control and volunteer for various roles gaining support from others. I would be the one who would sit at the front of the class or an auditorium without ever thinking of hiding at the back. Poor leadership could ruin lives and destroy organisations; I want to be the one who builds, nurtures and empowers.

Why do you coach?

I coach, because it’s a great way to develop personally and professionally through reflecting and taking responsibility for your thoughts and your actions. It empowers people to take back control of their lives, re-focus and re-create themselves.

How do you lead?

My leadership style is transparent and inclusive; it is based on trust, nurture and empowerment.

How do you challenge the stereotype female leaders?

If you want change, you need to be that change. Act, live and lead in alignment with your values, not stereotypical expectations.

What are the values that your shape you as a leader?

Integrity, humility, empathy, creativity, boldness.

What has helped you progress in your leadership career?

Sheer determination and persistence underpinned by hard work. 

Leadership Advice:

Your career is the one you create, you should never put yourself in a box or allow anyone else to.

Leadership Inspiration:

My reading list for PhD is quite extensive; many books/articles on values/ethical leadership.

Leadership Mantra:

Be authentic, be genuine, be you.


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