Alumni Leadership Journeys: Transition to Leadership

by Matthew Bellringer, Head of Platform Development, IT Services,
University of Sussex

As I write this I have just completed the Transition to Leadership programme, a new course which aims to give people taking on a leadership role a wide range of skills to effect positive change. Its focus is very much on leadership as opposed to management – relatively rare at this level – and which I found very valuable. It started by developing self-knowledge, putting that in the context of leading a team, and then using that to deliver change. The course took place both in-person and online, making good use of a newly-developed Virtual Learning Environment.

When I started the course I was not entirely sure what to expect as this was my first management-level training. Other attendees were from a wide range of Higher Education backgrounds though all at a similar level in their organisations and many facing similar challenges. The course started by developing an understanding our own leadership styles and how to lead with authenticity. It then moved on to the different preferences in working style possible within a team and strategies for effectively dealing with that. The course ended with how to use that information to deliver and manage change, and an investigation of personal and organisational resilience.

Throughout the in-person and online sessions there were opportunities to develop practical skills in support of the main topics. I was particularly interested in the idea of a coaching management style and we had the chance to put this into practice with peers throughout the course. My group got on really well, providing genuine insight into current issues, and I hope we will stay in touch in future. It was particularly valuable to be on both sides of the coaching sessions and I will use the approach with my team regularly.

Another of the practical aspects of the course was a collaborative project to deliver support materials for managers who need to implement change. This took place both in person and online and made use of asynchronous communication tools provided in the virtual learning environment. It was very valuable to me to see these technologies used in the real world and have some experience of working with a geographically disparate team.

The course facilitators, Jean Chandler and Stuart Hunt, were both knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Their areas of expertise and teaching styles complemented each other well. We had some really fascinating classroom discussions and the whole thing very much felt like a collaborative learning experience. This was the very first time the course had been run and it’s testament to their expertise that it went so well. Based on the conversations about our feedback I expect future sessions to be even better.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this course to someone starting out in leadership in their higher education institution. It’s given me some useful theoretical background and forward-looking practical skills with which I feel well placed to contribute to positive change within my institution.

This article is also published in the Engage, the Leadership Foundation’s online magazine.

For more information about Transition to Leadership go to http://www.lfhe.ac.uk/ttl