IWD 2024 - Sarah Pittaway

A little about your career journey leading to where you are now.

I started my career as an Army Officer, serving nine years, including an operational tour in Afghanistan.  I moved into hospitality in 2014, working for CH&CO and am now using a blend of my hospitality skills and military experience as Deputy Chief Executive of the Union Jack Club, which is a private members club for serving and veteran non-commissioned personnel.  Based in Waterloo, we have 75,000 members who enjoy our 241 bedroom club with bar, restaurant and event spaces.

What is or are your biggest career achievements?

I think many will share this: getting through Covid, it was a devastating epidemic that saw the demise of many excellent businesses within our sector. At the Club, we stayed open and we are grateful to our members for their support, coming back so promptly once restrictions were lifted made all the difference. 

How did you develop your leadership skills?

I was lucky enough to be trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst which is an intensive one year course that focusses on leadership development. I am very open to learning and developing, as leaders, our skills must change as those whom we have privilege to lead evolve.

How do you define your leadership style?

Values based.  Fair, but firm.  I also have an outstanding sense of humour!

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?

You have to take your team with you, if they have been left behind, you may have achieved your objective but as a leader you will have failed.

Have you achieved everything you wanted in your career so far? 

Not yet, there is more to come.

How important is personal development to your success, and how do you approach it?

Personal development is important to all levels.  I seek to keep up to date on all aspects of my role as well as wider issues.  That is not necessarily through formal learning but reading and networking, you can always learn from others.

How do you prioritise tasks when everything feels like a priority?

If I cannot do 100% of tasks to 100% I will look to do 100% to 80% as opposed to leaving things untouched.

What was the hardest decision you have taken as a leader? 

As a leader, you make difficult decisions every day; the hardest ones are those that adversely impact others.  As long as decisions are made based on values, they will be fair.

What steps do you take to measure your own performance?

I analyse my actions but also feedback is essential, happily my team are not shy in letting me know how I am performing.

What does success mean for you as a business leader?

It is very important to innovate and evolve.  Bottom line is not everything but if you do not look after your business, you are risking your team's jobs.

What advice would you give to someone starting off their career as a future business leader?

Make opportunities and take them.


Date Published: 5th February 2024