Workplace Leaders
Tai Tarian Housing
Chief Executive Officer

Linda Whittaker

In an era where corporate responsibility is no longer a choice but a necessity, the profound impact of placing social conscience at the heart of workplace culture cannot be overstated. As Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Tai Tarian Housing, one of the leading housing associations in Wales, Linda Whittaker has put social responsibility at the heart of her organisation’s mission. 

In today’s conversation, Linda sat down with Luke James, Co-Host of The Interview, to discuss everything from the key attributes needed to succeed in people management to the importance of a culture of continuous growth and development. 

Linda's Journey

Luke: Let’s kick off with a brief intro to yourself and your organisation. 

I’m Linda Whittaker, and I’m the CEO of Tai Tarian Housing. We’re a non-profit organisation and the biggest provider of homes across Neath Port Talbot, Wales. We’re a relatively new institution, founded in 2010, and we were established as a large-scale voluntary transfer organisation to take on all of the council housing from the local authority. I helped to set up the organisation, and I’ve been here ever since.

Luke: I’d like to hear more about your journey. How did you arrive in your current role?

I actually trained as an accountant, and some of my most interesting clients were housing associations. That was my first introduction to the sector, and it encouraged me to try working for a housing association. I’ve worked across many roles over the years, from business development to finance. I was involved in the first Private Finance Initiatives done by housing associations in Wales, building doctors’ and nurses’ accommodation for the NHS. From a financial perspective, it was very exciting, but it was also a project with social conscience. From there, I went on to work for the Welsh government in a Head of Finance role, before serving as the Director of Housing for Wales for a three-year term. In that role, I learned a lot about stock transfers, and it became my dream to lead one myself; thankfully, Tai Tarian made that come true.

Luke: What are the most important things to remember when trying to embed a sense of inclusion and belonging across a large organisation?

As a leader, it’s about being open and visible. You need to really walk the walk. Whether you’re thinking about developing people or including people with diverse characteristics, you need to demonstrate your commitment. One way to make sure people are being included is to go out there and talk to them. For example, in our business, we’ve been doing a lot of work around mental health. We’ve held talks and seminars and made it very clear that it’s nothing to be ashamed about. We had some very senior people who went up on stage and shared their experiences: now, nobody has to feel they need to hide it. We also have some colleagues who are transitioning, and they have received a high level of support. They have told me that everybody treats them exactly the same — it feels like nothing has changed. Our ambition is to be an open and inclusive organisation and to be an Employer of Choice in Wales. 

Luke: What’s your approach to creating an environment of psychological safety where people feel free to be themselves? 

It’s important to lead by example. We have some amazing employees who are open about the challenges they have faced: that shows others that they don’t have to hide who they are and that nothing will hold them back. It’s also crucial to be vigilant in calling out unacceptable behaviour that we spot within the organisation. Finally, we’re dedicated to developing our values from the bottom up. Our three core values — Be Bold, Be Fair, Be Kind — were thought up and voted on by our staff. 

Luke: What traits and habits are needed to become an effective people leader?

When you work in a sector like ours, you really need to have passion for what you do. I see that reflected in all members of our senior team, from our directors to our managers. Our aim as an organisation is to make a real difference in people’s lives, and that’s another value which has come from our staff. You don’t need to be a senior manager to have a voice in the organisation. Everything we do is based on trust, but if you lose that, it’s not something you can get back. 

Luke: We live in a time of fast-paced change. What’s the best way to foster a culture of learning and growth so we can keep pace with the rate of change?

In the thirteen years I have been here, we have never stood still. There are some people who find that challenging but, as a leader, you need to bring them with you.  We try to develop our own talent and make this a place where people want to stay, so we offer our employees whatever training they need to advance their careers. It’s very easy to get pigeonholed, so we’ve worked hard to break down silos so employees can cross over between teams. More than thirty percent of our organisations are working in a different role from the one they were hired for, and that includes a lot of our senior managers. We’ve put people through university and sponsored their qualifications, and we’re even supporting someone through their PhD at the moment. It’s about helping people to grow and helping them reach their full potential.

Luke: Change doesn’t happen overnight, and progress takes a lot of hard work. How do you make sure people stay motivated and engaged on a long-term basis? 

Every day needs to be a learning day. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you stand in the organisation. Beyond this, communication is key: for the last year, we’ve been doing monthly briefings with our heads of teams, but we recently discovered that people further down the organisation had no idea what was being discussed! So we had to go back to the drawing board and think about new ways to get those messages across. Ultimately, you need to deliver on your promises and make sure not to give people unrealistic expectations. 

Luke: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received in your career?

Be yourself. People who work here talk about it like it’s a family. So you need to treat people with the kindness, respect, and trust that a family deserves.

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Luke James
Luke works hand-in-hand with leaders and changemakers in our professional services markets. If you want to join the next series of The Interview, or just learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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