Photo of Michelle Mitchell CEO of the MS Society

I believe you can change the world in many ways

We sat down with our Chief Executive, Michelle Mitchell OBE, to talk about what inspires her, leadership and what the future holds. This is what she told us.

What I’ve tended to do is really follow the things I’m passionate about, purposeful about and interested in and have generally worked very hard to achieve the most I possibly can with great people. I’m certainly not someone who had a plan to be CEO.

Being CEO isn't 9-5

I think it can be a very lonely role. I wake up and the second thing I think about after having fed my kids is the income we have to raise to make a positive change for people with MS. It doesn’t leave you. You’ve got to choose this kind of lifestyle and role with care and a true understanding of what you want from your own life, and the kind of trade-offs that come with giving such a huge part of yourself. Not just in terms of your time, but your energy and your focus.

I think one of the reasons people join the charity sector is because they’re driven by a very clear sense of purpose and wanting to change the world for the better.

To have the privilege to serve at this level is one you do wholeheartedly. You’ve got to be sure about who you are and take care of your own health: eating well, exercising, sleeping well, making time for family and friends. Taking care of your own wellbeing is really important.

Leading and learning

For me, being a leader is a combination of being very clear on how you want to go about changing the world, working really hard and inspiring and collaborating with people to make that vision a reality. It’s crucial we move away from hierarchy and status and lead through collaboration. I believe leadership exists at every level. I consistently learn from people of all ages and all experiences.

I know 95-year-olds who want to change the world. My six-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter have views about how they want to change the world. I’m inspired by that. 

People energise me

The renewable energy you can get from people is incredible. It’s through the potential of people you achieve massive social change and create things that you thought weren’t possible before.

I value people who have a purpose, have an opinion, who are willing to take risks, who are open to learning and ultimately, who work very, very hard. Usually these qualities are stronger indicators than people’s education, qualifications or years of working. In many instances, it’s people with that attitude that really go on to excel in organisations.

Looking forward

In terms of the future, I have a huge job to do now. I’ve got a contribution to make which is valuable and I’m really interested in what I’m doing. 

I very much live in the day to day, I don’t plan my life. I follow things which interest me, I regularly keep my skills up to date.

There isn’t an ultimate destination. Ask yourself, what’s the social change you want to affect? You can do that by going to your local school and helping kids read, running a football team, setting up a community café. How you change the world doesn’t always come through position. I believe you can change the world in many ways, big or small.

Will you help us change the world?

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