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Sophie Lewis on Taking a Lesson in Leadership from Happy Valley's Catherine Cawood


M&C Saatchi London's chief strategy officer on ‘why you should watch Happy Valley right now, if you haven’t already’

Sophie Lewis on Taking a Lesson in Leadership from Happy Valley's Catherine Cawood

Sophie Lewis, chief strategy officer at M&C Saatchi London, reveals why Happy Valley's Catherine Cawood is the kind of leader she'd like to be.

I’ve never been much of a one for fictional heroes. Always seemed a bit pointless to me.

That is, until Sunday night at 10pm.

If you weren’t watching the last ever episode of ‘Happy Valley’, then I feel thrilled for you because you have one of the best TV drama experiences of all time, still to come. The combination of Sally Wainwright’s extraordinary writing and Sarah Lancashire’s perfect acting is like nothing I have ever seen before.

I went to bed thinking about it and I woke up thinking about it.

These are the qualities she exhibits that have made her not only my hero, but also the living, breathing (albeit fictional) incarnation of what I think a leader should be.

1)    A total lack of regard for authority figures who show themselves to be unworthy of regard (series one)

2)    Absolutely unwilling to indulge in any politics or red-tape-based nonsense in relation to her job (all three series)

3)    Compassionate, fiercely loving, protective of her ‘team’. In fact, as we discover, she is the only person willing to take on the child of her deceased daughter and the psychopathic Tommy Lee Royce (series three)

4)    Relentless, selfless - taking the beatings, always carrying on to fight the good fight. A bit of blood on her face, who cares?

5)    Always in pursuit of justice. Even in the face of an obvious answer, like, say an abusive husband killing his drug addicted wife - refusing to just assume this is automatically correct.

6)    Mostly accepting of a cup of tea from any source, at any time.

7)    Uninterested in the conventions society might place upon her. Her best friend is an ex-con, restarting her life after doing time for shooting her own son when she discovered he was a serial rapist and murderer.

8)    Always keeping to just the right number of words.

“Are you stopping?”


“Can do.”

This, if you haven’t seen the episode, constitutes a reconciliation with her beloved sister who has betrayed her trust to, in her mind, an almost unforgiveable level.

9)    Finding humour in the darkness

“I think I might have singed one of your crochet blankets” - after using it to extinguish the fire caused by Tommy Lee Royce setting fire to himself in her kitchen.

10) Always true to herself

She knows what she is. She has experienced the deepest of tragedies, seen the darkness that can exist in the human soul and she has survived. She knows herself and her core values and she never forgets these.

And as she walks towards her very old Land Rover, with no doubt all her (treasured) belongings on the roof (a now blackened photo album of Becky, her daughter and Ryan, her grandson) we know she is going somewhere to attempt to be at peace, as much as one ever can, with the events of her life.

11) Completely uninterested in ‘taking the credit’

As she is leaving the building after 30 years of doing all of the above, she passes on, without fanfare, the information which will lead to a (correct) conviction.

She doesn’t care about the cake or the party, which her long-suffering desk sergeant is trying to arrange, to mark the end of her career. She doesn’t need it. That’s not why she’s been doing the job.

12) Totally consistent

She does the right thing, she does what she says she’s going to do. We know her. And whilst we cannot predict, exactly, the words which may come from her mouth, we always know the nature of her response any given situation.

(“You’re just a pissed-up, empty headed noo noo” to her ex-husband’s new wife upon discovering she has failed to keep Ryan in the house).

Forget everything you’ve learned from business books and seminars. She is the kind of leader I would like to be.

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M&C Saatchi London, Tue, 07 Feb 2023 12:30:03 GMT