Diversifying Leadership alumnus: ‘I realised I’m a strong asset’

Lawrence Lartey, student employability and progression practitioner at University of the Arts London, took part in Diversifying Leadership in 2016. Diversifying Leadership is the Leadership Foundation’s programme for BME early career academic and professional services staff. Two years after finishing the programme, Lawrence reflects on his experience.

What made you apply to be a participant on the Diversifying Leadership programme?
Initially I applied because I felt I was stagnant at my place of work, and I could not see ways that I could further my career. I applied as I knew I would be around other academics in similar situations. I wanted to pause, learn and explore ways to help myself develop as a person, and also look at strategies to develop my career.

What were your key leadership takeaways?
There were so many takeaways. One that was key for me was learning that the way I lead is authentic and credible in an academic setting. I embody everything I do naturally and channel it through my work. I completed the course feeling empowered and more confident than when I started.

One of the unique elements of the programme is that participants work with a sponsor. How did this relationship help you increase your influence in your institution?
My sponsor was incredible, he really invested in me. He took a real interest in my progression and coached me into demonstrating my value to my employers. What I mean by this is that I was doing such important and innovative work, he helped me see how the work had tangible research potential and how I could publicise the project in order to make the right people aware.

Many participants speak about a “lightbulb moment” on the programme when they have a real sense of clarity about their strategy for progression. What was yours?
There were two really. The first was when I decided a PhD was not my priority, even though 70% of the participants on the course with me had or were studying for one. Deciding against a PhD really freed-up my thinking. My second lightbulb moment was realising that I’m a qualified academic, engaged in the creative industries with a thesis of mine having been turned into a BBC documentary. I realised I’m a strong asset, the right people at the institution need to know this.  

How would you respond to those who criticise programmes like Diversifying Leadership because they are based on a deficit model?
How you measure the impact of any programme is dependent on one’s definition of success. How do you quantify success? There is a real issue around representation and leadership in higher education. As a result of the programme I’m now in a contracted position in my establishment. There has been significant distance travelled, and I’ve been leading high profile projects. My response to those who criticise the programme is that, there are representation issues in higher education (gender race etc) and Diversifying Leadership is making attempts to address the issues, and sometimes focussing on the issue and unpicking it provides a resolution.

Tell us about your current role
My role at University of the Arts London as a student employability and progression practitioner really allows me to use my industry contacts to ensure our students are equipped to progress into the creative sector. I also explore ways to open up exchange opportunities for students to study in other countries via projects such as the NYLON exchange project (in partnership with entrepreneur and music producer Jay Z’s Shawn Carter Foundation).

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working with Jay Z and his Shawn Carter Foundation on another international exchange taking place in summer 2018. The project is going from strength to strength with some of his scholars spending part of their semester at University of Arts London colleges. I’m also working on a great initiative with global creative agency Exposure, looking at how we prepare the next generation of creative leaders. For the last year and a half, I’ve also been developing a cultural leadership programme with the Obama Foundation, we’re looking to enrol the first cohort of students in 2018, on a bespoke creative sector leadership programme. The programme will take place in Boston and London.

Diversifying Leadership

The Diversifying Leadership programme is designed to support early career academics and professional services staff  from black and minority ethnic backgrounds who are about to take their first steps into a leadership role.

Limited spaces remain on Diversifying Leadership 7 which runs from April-June 2018. Find out more.

Equality and Diversity

Diversifying Leadership is part of our Equality and Diversity programme. Join us at our BME Summit on May 16find out more hereLearn more about our other diversity programmes by following this link. 

The Longitudinal Study 

The Diversifying Leadership programme is the subject of a longitudinal study, “Cracking the ‘concrete ceiling'”, which is due for publication later this year. Find out more. 


Lessons from Higher Education Insights

On her second day at the Leadership Foundation, Alice Hargreaves, senior marketing and communications coordinator attended our Higher Education Insights programme for leaders new to the sector. In the run up to the April 2018 cohort of the programme, she reflects on the impact the programme had on her as a participant. 

When I joined the Leadership Foundation last May I had only worked in a university briefly while overseas, so had little understanding of the context in which higher education sat here in the UK. As well as meeting new colleagues who I would be working alongside, Higher Education Insights provided me with the opportunity to better understand the complexities, nuances, and politics in the UK.

Start with why

In order to understand where the sector is now and where it is going it is of course vital to know where we have come from. One of the first sessions of the day summarised the history of higher education and how this history has shaped it in a way that is different in other parts of the world.

I like the analogy that Christine Abbott recently used in her blog post about this sector being much like a tube system where sometimes it is hard to know how we got to where we are and feel that this session really went some way towards answering this.

Learning from others

I’m a natural networker so found the opportunity to sit and work with a small table of new faces really exciting. I learnt about roles in the sector I didn’t even know existed and also learnt about private universities which I must admit I had been unaware of previously. I was sat with someone from Regent’s University and found the opportunity to ask direct questions about the differences in their student body and how they operated fascinating.

Having the opportunity to get to know the challenges colleagues are also new to the sector faced was a fantastic way of better understanding how a range of universities worked (including pre and post 1992 as well as private universities), and how different the experiences were for professional services staff vs academic staff. It struck me how open my table were to discussion and it spurred me on to apply to take part in Aurora.

The shape of the sector, right here, right now

I found the talk hosted by Nicky Old, director of communications and external relations at Universities UK a fantastic way to understand policy changes. Nicky explained who Universities UK were, who the sector is, and who the key decision makers are. In May 2017, we were just a month away from a general election, and the big issue facing UK universities was the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) as well as the ongoing repercussions following Brexit. Gaining information so relevant and of the time was invaluable. When the TEF results were released some six weeks later I could much better understand the context and how this might impact universities.

Now, having worked in the sector a bit longer I am able to see how things develop over time but this really put me into the here and now, or rather the then and there.

The many faces of higher education

Knowing much more about the Leadership Foundation and our programmes and events now than I did last May, Higher Education Insights truly is a unique opportunity to meet the many faces of the sector. As well as the range of participants it attracts the speakers had a huge range of perspectives and experiences. As well as voices from the Leadership Foundation and Universities UK I was lucky enough to hear from; a futurist from JISC, a dean from Canterbury Christchurch, a student engagement consultant from The Student Engagement Partnership and an ex NUS president.

The day really buoyed up my enthusiasm for my new role and it was reassuring to know I was not the only person so new to the sector. The day I think is equally as valuable for someone brand new to the sector, as someone who has simply been stuck underground in the tube system of higher education for two long and needs to reconnect and get up to date with the ever changing environment that we are faced with.

Higher Education Insights will take place on Tuesday 17 April 2018 in London. Nicky Old, director of communications and external relations, Universities UK and Ellie Russell, student engagement consultant, National Union of Students will return as contributors to this year’s programme. Find out more: www.lfhe.ac.uk/heinsights

Alice Hargreaves is a senior marketing and communications coordinator specialising in promoting our programmes for senior leaders and equality and diversity, including our acclaimed Aurora programme. 

Why Values based Leadership?

Gary Reed, assistant director membership, Wales, discusses the two drivers for developing this years Wales conference topic: Values based leadership. The Annual Wales conference will be taking place on Tuesday 20 March 2018 in Cardiff.

People and values
The first driver was a very emotive one. Whilst facilitating the final day of the six-day Welsh Crucible programme developing the future research leaders for Wales, we did the usual around the room feedback on what Welsh Crucible programmes had meant to people. Pleasingly many said insight, clarity of direction and purpose in their research, and confidence to name a few. One delegate started to feedback and suddenly became very teary and said ‘this is the first time I’ve felt valued and I’ve felt that my research is valued’. This was a very emotional response and other delegates agreed. Whilst this is very pleasing that our work as facilitators had been done in building the confidence of the delegates (we only tell them that they are the future research leaders of Wales a maximum of seven times a day!), it saddened me that I work in a sector in Wales where every university has a set of values that usually include a statement like ‘our people are our most valued asset’ and yet some employees don’t feel ‘it’. While there are many good leaders and managers in Welsh universities who do value their team, there are obviously some individuals who don’t. They probably don’t come to work each day with the intention of not valuing people, but somehow those high level values have not penetrated into the modus operandi of these individuals.

So, my first question to explore as part of the conference was ‘how can we make these behaviours and values in the strategic plan feel real for people of all levels in the organisation?’

To answer this question, I arranged for Leadership Foundation, key associate, Mark Trezona to develop and inspirational session which would explore what we mean, both individually and organisationally by ‘Values Based Leadership’.  James Moore from the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust will also join the conference and share their journey in making their organisational values and behaviours real.

Distinctiveness of Welsh universities
The second driver influencing the conference theme was the uniqueness of Welsh universities and how they differ to their competition across the border and further afield. Many Welsh universities were founded from local communities collecting and donating funds to establish a university. This creates a real sense of community ‘ownership’ and consequently drives the Civic Mission and Leadership of Place in a more profound manner than some universities. Wales as a devolved nation is politically slightly ‘left of centre’ and this socialist essence can be felt in some of the education values such as equality of opportunity for everyone. This was one of the drivers for the Diamond Review’s restructuring of student funding from covering course fees to providing a means-tested maintenance grant of various levels. It’s pointless having your course fees paid if you cannot afford to live! Another example is the expectation of Welsh universities are a driver for local and national economic development. Both these requirements are highlighted by the Education Secretary’s commitment to a Civic Mission agenda and initiatives such as ‘Be the Spark’.

To me, Wales’ higher education seems to have a different feeling and some of its ‘rasion d’être’ is different to English universities, and yet we are competing in the same marketplace for the same students. Can we collectively recognise the values at the heart of Welsh universities? Would a more compelling articulation of Welsh higher education values add anything in differentiating and attracting more students to Wales? Would making these values more visible strengthen the attraction to those of a certain mindset to come to Wales to be a part of the Welsh sector, and retain the people who are already committed to it.

My second question to explore was ‘does the Welsh higher education sector have distinct values and is there any benefit to promoting this to attract students to study in Wales, and to attract the best staff?’.

To provide input to this discussion, Huw Morris, Director of Skills, Higher Education and Life Long Learning, Welsh Government will share his perspective on the underpinning values of education and higher education in Wales before creative exploration of the subject.

Come and join me on Tuesday 20 March 2018 at the Clayton Hotel in Cardiff and contribute to the Values Based Leadership debate.

Croeso cynnes i bawb / A warm welcome to everyone

To book a place at the Wales Annual Conference: Values based leadership, click here.

Gary Reed is assistant director, membership (Wales), his role involves liaising with all higher education institutions in Wales, developing relationships with Leadership Foundation members, and coordinating and developing events and leadership development initiatives that support and complement individual institutions’ strategies and needs and the national Welsh higher education agenda. The role also involves undertaking consultancy and facilitating leadership training.

Why explore Integrated Thinking and Reporting?

Ten universities are participating in a year-long project to explore Integrated Thinking and Reporting. Kim Ansell, managing consultant, Leadership Foundation asks Richard Dale, executive director of finance, Newcastle University, why they are taking part, what they have already learned and what they expect to gain from it.

What was the main driver which prompted you to explore integrated thinking and reporting?
Participation in a BUFDG review in early 2016 of a sample of financial statements for 2014/15 stimulated an internal discussion about the opportunities that Integrated Reporting could bring in providing a more holistic view of the University’s performance and plans. Our journey towards Integrated Thinking and Reporting has continued since then and has informed our approach to developing a new vision and strategy for the University. This will place increased emphasis on inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary work and the importance of joined up thinking both across the campus and between academic and professional services teams. We see an Integrated Thinking and Reporting approach to how we work as adding value in taking forward the vision and strategy.

Selected as one of the pilot universities for external review by the IIRC we wanted to understand how well our 2015/16 report met the International Integrated Reporting Framework and to understand how far we had to go.

What impact has your journey so far had at the University?
The IIRC review was, rightly, a challenging review and pointed to a number of areas where the University needed to do more, including the articulation of our business model and clearer identification of how we create value for a diverse range of stakeholders. With that in mind, our annual report for 2017 has been designed as an Integrated Report.

Although we recognise, as others outside the sector have advised, that this is a three year journey, we believe the report is a significant step forward from the approach in previous years. It has been particularly well received by our Finance and Audit Committees as well as Executive Board for its holistic approach.

What has been the most valuable part of the integrated thinking and reporting journey so far?
Engagement with the IIRC has enabled us to take advice from a number of successful UK and non-UK organisations who are further ahead in adopting Integrated Reporting.
We have been able to learn from their experience of how Integrated Reporting has facilitated discussion among their leadership teams on key strategic issues in a new and more innovative way. For us, the development of a value creation model in 2016-17 was a significant step forward for the University on the journey to adopting Integrated Reporting. It brought together a number of different perspectives on the relevance of Integrated Reporting to the higher education sector and shaped our approach to developing a new vision and strategy.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Within our Business School we have a particular link between practitioner and academic interests which helped us to articulate a single business model for the University – or rather a value creation model. This was a challenge partly due to the multi-faceted nature of university operations, but also because we view students and external partners as co-creators in the process of generating and transmitting new knowledge. The development of a value creation model in 2016-17 was therefore a significant step forward for the University on the journey to adopting Integrated Reporting. We believe, however that the model can be refined in future iterations to reflect value creation over different time horizons to promote a long-term sustainable approach to strategic decision making.

What advice would you have for anyone starting the integrated thinking and reporting journey?
It is important to recognise that integrated thinking and reporting is a journey that will take minimum of three years to complete. The advice we received from others outside the sector was to engage the leadership team very early in the process and to seek an explicit statement from the governing body on their commitment to complying with the Integrated Reporting reporting principles. The measures of success here at Newcastle are the feedback from internal stakeholders on the usefulness of our reporting and also from external peer review exercises which provide a more objective evaluation.

How do you plan to include colleagues across your institution in the use of Integrated Thinking and Reporting?
As we take forward our new vision and strategy, we are hoping to embed some of the principles of integrated thinking and reporting – for example to elicit better understanding of how value is created and potentially diminished over different time horizons. This will help us in our strategic planning to identify how we invest for the future in terms of our human capital, and also our infrastructure and natural environment. A first step will be to encourage key budget holders to think more holistically about all the resources available to them – not just the financial envelope available to them in the short-term. This, we hope, will help us to develop a deeper understanding of the factors that drive long-term sustainability and build value for all stakeholders.

The 10 universities who are taking part in the Integrated thinking and reporting project are; City, University of London; Leeds Beckett University; Abertay University; University of West London; Newcastle University; University of Winchester; SOAS; Sheffield Hallam University; University of Exeter and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

The next workshop of the Integrated Thinking and Reporting project will be on 8 March in Sheffield. You can find out more about the Leadership Foundation project here: Integrated thinking and reporting project

Olympic medalist Cath Bishop: Support networks are vital

Cath Bishop will join us in July 2018 as a guest speaker at the Aurora Adaptive Leadership Skills day in London. Ahead of her talk in London, we asked Cath some questions about her career and progression into leadership.

Firstly, tell us a little about yourself
I am curious and a keen continual student, which is probably why I’ve had some different and interesting career experiences, from Olympic rower, to diplomat, to motherhood, to speaker and leadership consultant, with a few more ambitions still in the wings!

What does good leadership mean to you?
Bringing people with you, inspiring others to do things they didn’t realise they were capable of, reaching others to make a positive difference in whatever world they are engaged.  And I believe in ‘sweating the small stuff’ – small things matter in my opinion, being kind to others, speaking to the waiter as you do to your most valuable client, valuing others’ opinions and taking time to help when you can.

What would be some of the milestones that you think “that’s a point where my leadership changed”?
The moments of biggest failure and biggest success – when I got things badly wrong, I usually learnt a huge amount in the process and grew personally and professionally through the experience, as well as realising that the world didn’t come to an end.  And when things went well, I realised I was capable of so much more than I realised.

What would you say if someone were to ask you, what makes you most resilient
My ability to look failure in the face and find a way to keep going and keep learning.  I think I am also really self-reflective and probably too self-critical, but the upside of that is that I am always willing and proactive in finding ways to improve and develop myself.

How important do you think mentors, role models and networks are in supporting women’s leadership?
Support networks are vital.  And it’s best for those networks to be as diverse as possible, with people who know you well and are on side, to those who have something to offer that’s new and different, across personal and professional worlds.  I didn’t have one specific mentor or role model, I took lots of things from lots of different people, some I met up close and knew well, some I observed and learnt from, others I read about in books and adapted what I read to work for me.

How can initiatives like Aurora help women and their organisation achieve their potential?
Initiatives like Aurora are so valuable for providing additional networks with all sorts of people with hidden powers you might never have come across. Offering new ways of learning from each other and learning together, different perspectives of looking at the world, and more people who are ‘on your side’ beyond your immediate circle.

Thinking about your career and experiences, what advice would you give your younger self?
To stop worrying about failing – I have always faced failure with courage and found ways to pick myself up and move on, but I wish I had wasted less time beating myself up within that process, and just held my head up high and moved on more quickly.  I would also advise myself to be bolder, to aim even higher and believe in myself, rather than waiting for there to be lots of evidence and lots of people believing I could do it – I needn’t have waited for that.

Finally, do you have an inspiring woman leader, and if so, who?
I had the privilege of rowing and training and developing a lifelong friendship with Dame Katherine Grainger who is one of the best sporting role models I have ever come across, who showed grace, positivity and perseverance in unbelievable amounts time and time again.

Cath Bishop is a former Olympic Rower and diplomat. While working at the Foreign Office she lived and worked in Bosnia and Iraq. After 10 years as a rower and 11 years at the Foreign Office, Cath set up her own leadership and team performance consulting business.

Aurora is the Leadership Foundation’s women-only leadership development programme. Aurora was created in 2013 in response to our own research which highlighted women’s under-representation in senior leadership positions and identified actions that could be taken to address this.

Dates, locations and booking for Aurora 2018-19 will be available soon. 

Wisdom, grit and compassion

Doug Parkin, programme director, Leadership Foundation explores what it means to be a leader with wisdom, grit and compassion within the context of the current higher education environment. Wisdom, grit and compassion are the stimulus for this year’s Leadership Summit 2018.

In a complex and rapidly evolving environment it takes wisdom for leaders to see that the answers lie in freedom rather than control, in engagement at least as much as direction, and in openness as an antidote to closed management.  It takes the strength of wisdom to see beyond the difficulties of today into the vast potential of tomorrow.  It takes both wisdom and grit to hold fast to a vision that makes a difference in the world; a purpose, cause or belief that transcends the turbulence of change.  And it takes wisdom and compassion to appreciate the impact of positive emotions on individual, team and organisational performance and the importance of creating organisations that people enjoy.

The Leadership Summit has been designed as an opportunity to strip away some of the complexity and get back to a small number of simple and powerful messages that lie at the heart of great, authentic leadership.  It is also an opportunity to engage with some of the most significant developments in leadership and governance that are taking place within and around the Higher Education sector at the current time.

We begin with three wisdoms:

Wisdom of self – “Knowing one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and goals – and their impact on others” Daniel Goleman,

Wisdom of others – In his book Flourish,  Martin Seligman  tells us that “… very little that is positive is solitary” and experience shows time and again that it takes collective commitment for organisations to succeed;

Wisdom of context – leadership always takes place in a context and needs to be attuned to the unique needs, challenges and cultural dimensions that make that context wonderfully special.

But wisdom can easily ebb away if it is not cherished and maintained by grit and personal resilience.  The fickle needs of transient agendas can take over, and before we know it we are focused more on structures than people, and more on crude outputs than transformational goals.  No one has written more powerfully and persuasively about the idea of grit than Angela Duckworth in her amazing book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  She makes it clear that “Enthusiasm is common; endurance is rare” and describes how “…. grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time,” whether at an individual or organisational level, and making it so interesting and clear that “most mid-level and low-level goals are, in some way or another, related to that ultimate goal”.  Her central, very focused message in Grit is that “the most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary”.

And with regard to compassion, our starting point is that engagement is a feeling.  It is a feeling that is fundamentally influenced by the emotional tone of the environment in which we find ourselves – the environment in which we either thrive or stagnate.  A key message for teachers is that very often ‘people won’t care what you know until they know that you care’.  In many ways the same rule applies to leadership.  Showing genuine concern is the cornerstone of collaborative leadership, whether in one-to-one supervision or as the head of a large prestigious institution.  Do you have the humility and the compassion to care for those you lead, and the courage to display this authentically?  If so, that can create the kind of trust and engagement that releases high levels of potential, personal energy and performance: compassion and passion are two sides of the same coin.  It also underpins a positive environment, and is part of a leader’s core responsibility to create an organisation that people enjoy.  It is part of their life, after all, whether they are staff, student, visitor, collaborator, community member or anyone else.

To hate is always foolish, and to love is always wise.  And perhaps the greatest wisdom of all is captured in what we could presumptuously call “Leadership value number one: love others and be kind to yourselfDoug Parkin.

Booking is now open for the Leadership Summit 2018 Wisdom, Grit and Compassion, which is taking place on Friday 29 June 2018 in London. Find out more here: www.lfhe.ac.uk/Summit2018

We are delighted to announce that David Taylor best-selling author of the Naked Leader, will be closing the conference with his work on the importance of authenticity with leaders.

Doug Parkin’s book Leading Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: The Key Guide to designing and delivering courses was published by Routledge in 2017.

Know thyself!

After three years and six iterations of the Leadership Foundation’s innovative blended learning programme, Transition to Leadership (TTL), programme director Stuart Hunt reflects on what he has learned and why he believes the programme is so well received by participants.

When we were working on the design of the TTL programme, we were very keen to make sure that it included two elements that are not often seen in open, introductory level programmes of this kind. We have three days face-to-face and about the same amount of time for online and on-the-job learning activities, and we wanted to make the most of this time. We did not want to lecture too much (and we don’t!), nor did we want the programme to involve a lot of reading (there’s plenty, but only limited to Must Read material), but we did want some clear structure with a real chance of participants holding onto some key ideas and actually putting these into practice.  The two elements described below are what emerged from our extended development phase to help achieve these ambitions.

The first approach was that we wanted the process to be one of co-creation. Sure, we provide theoretical grounding and effective models for participants to review and build on, but we also take advantage of the blended and extended nature of the programme to task participants with co-designing and co-presenting their own understandings and applications of leadership based around their own experiences.

This concept of the ‘flipped’ classroom, with participants leading presentations and fielding questions from colleagues lends itself well to the culture of learning in higher education, with typically independent-minded colleagues having the opportunity to explore, challenge, and occasionally provoke, as well as to provide mutual support and personal reflection. It also provides ample opportunity for colleagues to explore the second key theme, that is self-knowledge and with it the great boon of flexibility.

Throughout the programme, we ask participants to reflect on their own styles, their own preferences, what they admire in others, what they bring to leadership that is helpful and where they may need the support of colleagues. We do not encourage participants to aim to become that which they are not. We want them to know what they are really good at and what motivates them, and to consciously seek to demonstrate these attributes to colleagues with whom they work. It is only when we know ourselves that we are in any position to deliberately choose to modify our behaviour and to become really skilful leaders. And thus the programme is filled with diagnostics, self-assessments and structured self-reflection activities, plus face-to-face and online discussions to help people understand that others may have very different perspectives.

Enhanced understanding of self
So, the content of TTL is great and I think well balanced, and this is supported by good design, but the real benefit of our programme for participants is the co-creation of understanding based on the perspective of our lived realities, together with a genuinely enhanced understanding of ourselves. Together these approaches combine to enable participants to make choices, so that they can sometimes ‘flex’ from their places of strength in order to be better able to support the needs of others with whom they work.

The programme continues to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of higher education leaders, however the core of the programme remains tried and tested as a foundation for new leaders. I am genuinely proud of this programme.

The next run of Transition to Leadership will being on Monday 19 March 2018 and run through until Tuesday 26 June 2018. Click here to find out more about what the programme has to offer. 

Stuart Hunt is an independent consultant and has been a key associate of the Leadership Foundation since its inception. He is currently co-director for the Transition to Leadership programme. Stuart is also currently supporting a major cultural change initiative across Ukrainian Higher Education.