Gary Headland: Building great teams

Being deployed after 9/11 to establish an airbase for two RAF squadrons was a huge undertaking for Gary Headland, but now that he is CEO of The Lincoln College Group, he is taking on a whole different kind of challenge to create a business savvy, global educational facility.

Gary, ironically, left school at 16 with no intention of continuing his education. Instead he took an alternative path to find his way to the top. At the age of 17 he joined the Air Force as a RAF Police Junior Non-Commissioned officer, aspiring to then make it to a commissioned role.

“I went to the RAF college at Cranwell here in Lincolnshire and began a career as an officer, which lasted 23 years,” Gary explained. He worked his way up the ranks until eventually he didn’t see how he could progress to a better job. “I turned down a promotion to the rank of Group Captain at the age of 39 because I had just completed, to that point, the best job I’d ever had.”

This feature interview was first published in issue 35 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine, now available to read at Subscribe to the email newsletter to receive the latest edition in your inbox this Friday.


With no idea what other job would be able to compete, he joined the civilian police as Director of Transformation and Performance. “A role I did for about two and a half years leading a wide range of different transformation processes, including a collaboration programme across two police forces: Norfolk Constabulary and Suffolk Constabulary.

“I really had a taste for change, for transformation and collaboration throughout my Air Force career and then I deployed my leadership skills into that sector.” His career, to this point, provided him with a set of skills that made him the ideal candidate for the position of CEO of the Lincoln College Group in August 2014, when the organisation was just starting a huge change in the way that they do business.

Gary Headland, CEO of Lincoln College Group

Gary Headland, CEO of Lincoln College Group

Building up a business

With the Lincoln College Group being a registered charity and government funding becoming harder to obtain, Gary is utilising the options that are available to them. By constructing a new business model, they have been able to gain additional finances, meaning that students are not affected by the funding issues, but instead benefit from new opportunities.

“We have an internal transformation programme that’s been running for nine months called Strategic Transformation of Education Provision (STEP). The purpose of STEP is to make us more efficient, more effective and more economic and to drive out waste.

“The business model that we’ve put in is not as appealing as opening a new building or a new facility, but it’s about putting in place sustainability for the future. We are not going to cut our way out of the financial challenges that we face, we are going to grow our way through this difficult time because there are plenty of opportunities for us to add social value, but also to behave in a business-like way.”

The full cover interview with Gary Headland is available to read in full here. Look out for the next edition of Lincolnshire Business magazine, which is published every Friday.