1 March 2021 13:09

Achieving Full Potential

In a world of self-care and committing to being our authentic selves for our own sense of fulfilment, the most recent Passion to Perform event – Achieving Full Potential – paid great testament to that. This was the third event in a series sponsored by London Women’s Forum, presented by the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD). Opening remarks by Jane Karczewski (Head of Strategy and Partnerships, London Women’s Forum) highlighted the launch of a Women in Business syndicate to support the RAD’s Capital Campaign.

For the Achieving Full Potential event, dancers and financial services professionals came together to discuss what drives people to perform at their best, and how authenticity is key to realising our potential and creating an inclusive culture.


  • Mlindi Kulashe, Leading Soloist, Northern Ballet
  • Lucinda Wakefield, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, EMEA, BNY Mellon
  • Precious Adams, Junior Soloist, English National Ballet
  • Tristan Davies, Senior Business Analyst and Co-Chair LGBTQ+ and CG Pride, Capital Group, Capital Group.

Dame Fiona Woolf (Formerly the 686th Lord Mayor and the second female Lord Mayor of the City of London) chaired the discussion, with a focus on how we empower people to perform at their very best in an environment that is inclusive, where difference is valued, creativity is developed, and everyone is encouraged to be themselves.

Nurturing and supporting

It is something prevalent at all stages of careers and in every sector, and a recurring theme throughout the discussion was the support of managers, leaders and teams to help individuals reach their full potential, in a way that is reflective of their skills, mindset and personality. Be it from the world of dance or the financial world, it is clear we must retain and nurture talent in order for people to achieve their full potential, in a world where they can simply be themselves. Great team players come from building relationships of respect and trust, developing self- confidence and self -esteem to bring out creativity and personality, which, attests Dame Fiona, “can only be done if they are encouraged to be their true authentic selves”.

As diversity and inclusivity experts from the world of finance, Lucinda Wakefield and Tristan Davies champion many of the same attributes as the professional dancers of the evening, Mlindi Kulashe and Precious Adams. Technical brilliance, an engaging personality and creativity cross over from the artistic to the corporate world and back again, encouraging the empowerment required to develop to our full potential in the workplace, to be creative, confident and engaging.

A matter of confidence

For Mlindi, standing out from the crowd has always been ingrained in him. For Precious, developing creativity and skills is about setting challenges, along with the confidence to be herself. “I always had a goal in mind…I wanted to break away from the corps de ballet so took every opportunity as a moment to shine.” Precious joined English National Ballet in 2014, and her job was to be one of many and act as a team. “You learn lots of skills and I needed that experience regardless of where I went with my career. You have to work with many different personalities, and I wanted to be ready for my opportunities”, learning principal roles in preparation for that moment she could be called upon to step up to the mark – “if you want something, go and get it!”

In transferring this mindset from dance into the corporate world, it is clear there are parallels at all levels. “Talking about the measure of an inclusive organisation is how managers support the members of their team so everyone can flourish,” says Lucinda. “I take a combination of an intense interest in the team’s welfare and its strengths and weaknesses” in order to develop skills and take them to the next level. “Actionable and targeted feedback is the best thing a manager can give you, so you can reach your potential.” And Tristan agrees. “You want the best from everyone to deliver meaning to an audience or client. Empower yourselves. Find a way to make the best of everyone: it’s what the best managers do.”


At the opposite end of the scale is demotivation, which is present in every facet of our lives. Mlindi described his upbringing in a township in South Africa as his driving force: “I come from humble beginnings. The opportunity to be a dancer is amazing…it’s not a common story to see a leading dancer emerge. It’s a big deal.” For Mlindi home was tough but doing what he loves and helping his family is more than enough motivation. Lucinda touched upon imposter syndrome but expressing her aspirations to a manager early on was a powerful support and a catalyst in her career to build her potential. “You need to recognise that everyone feels imposter syndrome”, agrees Precious. “There’s no turning back and editing in performance, you just have to push forward…there are more opportunities in life when you’re truly being yourself.” Our personal constraints are so often internal rather than external, and it is important to remember you are valued in every environment.


This can be difficult to manifest in the rat race of the corporate world, or the cutthroat dance industry. “We are all in a pressured environment right now”, Tristan comments, in terms of managing pressure, staying true to ourselves and remaining self-confident. “Resilience comes from a place of psychological safety. We all experience pressure but your will in yourself gets you back up, and the will from the organisation you’re part of.” Precious loves that word; “I’ve had two major injuries and I have truly learned the definition of ‘resilience’. The stronger your inner dialogue, the quicker you can bounce back. Moments of injury are huge learning moments in what I can do better across the board…to gear up and be better and stronger.” Resilience does not just pop up in times of crisis however, but in the everyday too, requiring us to continue to be ‘present’ and in the moment. “Glitches are human, and I love seeing people respond to those”, she says.

Unconscious bias

Another part of our everyday, although huge steps are being taken to counter it, is unconscious bias. It is something we all suffer from and we all have, and for Mlindi the answer is having an open dialogue to creative an inclusive space, so everyone feels represented. Although it is striving to change the opinion, the ballet world as a whole can be viewed as not being inclusive, or a welcoming place. Lucinda maintains we must give people what they need in order to flourish and understand their potential, not shoehorn them in to suit our structures and processes – “we won’t get the best outcome that way”.

The RAD believes passionately in empowering people, particularly young people, through dance, with teaching influences being so important. We can see how dance has a transformational effect, through access to and experience of dance. There is no doubt that ballet can be seen as elitist, but concurrently dance is a huge connector. As with all good relationships, between teacher and student, employee and mentor and so on, it is the ability to connect on a human level, says Tristan. “Strip away the veneer of the elite and it’s so communicable,” and listen and be transparent in order to truly express how you feel.