CEO Carla Jones: "You Can't Teach Bravery."
Carla Jones is the CEO of Allergy UK, the leading national charity dedicated to supporting the estimated 21 million people in the UK affected by an allergic disease. We met up with her at the 2017 Global Skins Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
Margareta Barchan: As I was addressing the delegates here today and sharing stories of Brave Leaders, it struck me that you are all brave. Many people in the room have a visible skin disease and are representing various patient organizations—for eczema, vitiligo, food allergies, to name a few. What does it mean to you to be a brave leader?
Carla Jones: To be brave and stand up for something is to take risks. A brave leader is often very lonely and needs to be independent. You have to have the ability to see the whole picture; to understand that an action affects more things than those directly involved. It is to have a 360-degree awareness. As one-third of the population in the UK has some sort of allergy, the subsequent decisions we make in a patient organization have to consider the impact of those decisions in relation to everyone living with an allergic disease. My hope is that not too long from now, allergy research will be treated as seriously as cancer research. Sadly, allergic disease is not recognized as the serious condition that it is and often medical practitioners treat symptoms and not the underlying cause, which is often an allergic reaction. There should be more focus in healthcare education on allergies to ensure those living with allergy receive the right care and treatment.
Barchan: What are you standing up for right now?
Jones: I am a social scientist and have always had an interest in how society impacts quality of life. My interest in allergy research and defending the rights of people who suffer from skin conditions and other allergic reactions comes from a personal place. Many of my own family live with allergy, including atopic eczema, and anaphylaxis where eating certain foods can be fatal. Everyone affected needs to take his or her own responsibility for managing the disease, however, it’s also important that they receive the right treatment and have the same chance for a positive quality of life. It is so important that the attitudes change in this domain.
Barchan: Where do you find the courage to do this work?
Jones: Working together with your team—the people around you! I am always prepared to change my opinion and I am always prepared to apologize if I am wrong. I think you have to believe in what you are doing – the cause has to be clear to you. I don’t think I have ever had a job without it. You have to be tenacious! You can’t teach anyone to be brave but you can inspire others by your actions.
Barchan: Do you have any recommendations for becoming a Brave Leader?
Jones: Yes. First, accept that things don’t happen immediately. You often have to work your way through the system to gain the right knowledge and experience you need. Second, remember that things take time. Take small steps to achieve what you want to achieve - be tenacious! And, third, think carefully about how to communicate your mission. Be informed. Sharpen your communication skills and take a 360-degree position by looking at other points of view.