Katie Lloyd is the Global Head of Culture at LEGO Group. She previously worked in the non-profit and public sector (at the BBC and Media Trust), and has been instrumental in bringing about change in all her roles, whether within an organisation or impacting society nationwide. Storytelling is at the heart of her work.
What does purpose mean to you?
My purpose is my ‘why’. What drives me? What gets me out of bed in the morning? How can I make a unique contribution to whatever I’m doing? I’ve had a number of jobs over the years in three different sectors – the non-profit, public and now retail private sector – but purpose has been a thread throughout all of those and driven my decisions of where I’ve gone to work, where I would go to make that contribution.
The idea of ‘purposeful work’ has always been part of my life. My mum worked in health and social care as an occupational therapist. She started out doing play therapy with children. My dad taught politics. We had very lively conversations at the dinner table, talking about social issues. What can we do to change things? What would be the best way of making society fairer or better?
My purpose is my ‘why’. What drives me? What gets me out of bed in the morning? How can I make a unique contribution to whatever I’m doing?
When do you feel the most purposeful?
I feel most purposeful when I’m using creativity, community and storytelling to bring about meaningful change. I believe they are some of the best tools we have to create a more equitable, fair, transparent and accountable world.
Throughout my career, whether it’s been working directly with marginalised young people at Media Trust, sharing their stories through the BBC, or now inspiring the builders of tomorrow with the LEGO Group, creativity and storytelling has always been key.
Why is storytelling so important to you?
One of the things that I really get excited is that there are so many stories out there. A lack of stories will never be a problem. It’s about enabling them to be told and then seen and heard by as many people as possible. At Media Trust and the BBC I was particularly tapping into some of those young voices that we just don’t hear from, giving exposure to what different communities are experiencing across the country. It could be around disability, people’s living standards, how creativity has changed somebody’s life, or something incredible a young person has done around social action.
It’s not about giving people a voice; they already have a voice, but it’s getting those voices heard.
It’s not about giving people a voice; they already have a voice, but it’s getting those voices heard. And the impact of that on the individuals is that it validates people’s experiences. It has this incredible knock-on effect of opening up our minds and horizons, and bringing us closer together as a society.
What do you think is the hardest thing about being purpose-driven?
I’ve actually never found it hard to be purpose-driven because I have always tried to make decisions about the work I do, and the organisations I worked for, threaded to my purpose. If I found myself somewhere that didn’t meet that, where my values didn’t align with the purpose of the organisation, I know that would be a challenge.
I’ve been really privileged throughout my career in that I’ve always been working somewhere where I really believe in the overall vision and the overarching purpose and ambition of the organisation. I haven’t had that challenge because I’ve always made sure that alignment is there.
What qualities do you admire in a leader?
Previously we might have all grown up thinking that the sign of a good leader was somebody who would show no emotion, was resilient, tough, and was a sort of superhuman that didn’t give away anything of themself. Now when we talk about leadership, we hear about the importance of empathy, emotional intelligence, listening and coaching skills – years ago that would have been called ‘soft’.
I admire leaders that are both strong and humble. It’s not a case of ‘soft or hard’ leadership skills, it’s an ‘and’ – it’s about putting an equal amount, if not more, focus on people skills as you do on results, as one drives the other.
I also admire leaders that don’t fit the mould.
There was a project with young people where they said, “draw a leader”, and they all drew a man with a bowler hat and a suitcase. Then they were taken through a process of talking about and seeing different leaders and different leadership styles. And then by the end of the project, they said, “draw a leader” and they drew themselves.
Which leaders have inspired you?
The person that I think about a lot who’s sadly no longer with us is Dame Tessa Jowell, who I was very lucky to meet in my twenties when I was working at Media Trust. I remember going to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport when she was Secretary of State to pitch a big national youth mentoring program, and being absolutely terrified. Tessa immediately put me at ease and her realness and authenticity, while she was in this huge job in the government at the time, was something I was very grateful for in that moment.
Many years later, I had the privilege of working with her and she became a bit of a mentor to me. She was relentless in her passion for social change, justice and doing the right thing. I wasn’t one of the few; I was one of the many people that she supported, sponsored or mentored, or just advised over coffee. The way she raised up new leaders is something that we can all take from the way she lived her life and the way that she did her job.
I think for anyone in this culture – change space or change in general – you’ve got to keep topping yourself up.
When did you feel like giving up?
When working to make change happen, which has been a part of all of the roles I’ve done, whether it’s change in wider society or change within an organisation, it takes an immense amount of energy and optimism – which I have buckets of – but there are definitely moments where work isn’t just work; we also have life. My role as a leader is also to motivate the team around me and keep everyone else topped up.
If I’ve ever had a giving-up moment, it’s more because of the eternal juggle of being a working mother in a dual career family. My husband runs his own business, we’re both working full time. It’s full-on. There are days where my very delicate house of cards I’ve built is shaky or all crashes down – and that’s the day you’ve got to bring the 110% to that transformation initiative!
What keeps you motivated on tough days?
I’ve got a great network around me of incredible women and my supportive husband who says, “you’ve got to just keep going“. I think for anyone in this culture-change space or change in general – you’ve got to keep topping yourself up, looking after yourself and making sure you have enough time for your family and your life because it’s the blend that’s so important.