Leadership scholarships: a first-hand experience

10 June 2015

For the second year the Council of Deans of Health is working with the Florence Nightingale Foundation to offer a Leadership Scholarship Partnership Programme for Aspiring Deans. Here, one of our first cohort of scholars, Dr Sally Hayes, previously Head of School and then Associate Dean at Leeds Beckett University, reflects on her experience of the programme.

When I first saw the advert to join the first cohort of the Florence Nightingale Foundation and Council of Deans of Health: Leadership Scholarship Partnership Programme for Aspiring Deans I was tempted by the description of this as a ‘unique opportunity’ that brings together both the health and higher education aspects of a Dean’s role.  Having previously worked at board level in a Primary Care Trust and now in my role as Head of School at Leeds Beckett University, I have experienced a plethora of leadership ‘training’ (some ‘good’ some ‘not so’!) and indeed teach leadership and management to undergraduate and postgrad students, so questioned what could be unique about this?

Six months into the scholarship however I already recognise this as one of the most impactful development programmes I have ever undertaken and will try to articulate why that is in this blog!

The scholarships have three broad aims:

  • to develop and enhance the individual’s leadership skills across a health and higher education setting
  • to help define long term career objectives and maximise professional impact
  • to work on an individual improvement project within their institution

The very aims therefore go far in acknowledging the complexity of the challenge of working at senior leadership level in a Health Faculty, which is perhaps not so across all academic subjects. As Head of School for example I balance ‘departmental management’ with the need to meet and work in senior, decision making fora with members of; the Local Authority; Hospital and Community trusts; CCG’s; other universities and Third Sector organisations. I also lead international collaborations – in Africa, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and recently led the development of a partnership with the Military of Defense college of Health Education and Training

This ‘smorgasbord’ of projects, collaborations, levels of responsibility (operational and strategic) and cultures (organisational and professional) therefore leads to one very hefty leadership challenge! How does one move the strategic agenda and be both ‘present’ and effective in the operational realms of the ‘day job’ of a head of school, managing staff and enhancing the students experience, research quality etc.

Now I love that complexity … but it is recognising that level of leadership challenge that has made this programme so impactful. It is partly because it is individually tailored and delivered over a prolonged duration that has been key. It has enabled me to reflect, learn, try out, recognise further strengths and needs and reconsider/redevelop the program of courses or learning opportunities to hone and action improvements in my leadership competencies. It is also the quality of the courses that one can access through the networks the FNF has developed and simply through the money and space the scholarship gives.

So what have I done?

Following a series of ‘diagnostic assessments’ including 360°, Myers Briggs, Political Intelligence, emotional intelligence, (and the list went on) scholars meet with the excellent Sue Machell, organisatonal/leadership consultant, to discuss the outcomes and also start to plan the personalized program of development.

We each have a mentor to ‘oversee’ the program and whilst mine is a now Chair of a University he previously worked for Mobil Oil Corporation as a lawyer, economist and chief executive and offers therefore a very different perspective and ways of thinking about the work I do.

For leadership development all the scholars attended the Stamford Course – Leading Change through organisational renewal and a co-consulting day. I have been to Westminster (the Westminster Experience) to look at political contexts, and attended RADA to look at communications skills where I spent an incredible 3 days revisiting some of what we all know about the use of verbal and non-verbal skills, but overlaying this with new tools and techniques and being individually coached through scenarios by highly skilled actors.

My individual improvement project is looking at how universities, as assets of their communities, can further develop our contribution to the health and wellbeing agenda by going beyond our traditional role of research and education (workforce development). This is about moving more towards being key and active partners in the local community working with Third Sector and other public and private sector partners. This has given me space to attend a course at the University of Brighton (CUPP) and the nationally renowned ‘Leaders for Empowered and Healthy Communities’ programme and really evaluate and improve Leeds Beckett’s work in this area (see www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/community)

I am also accessing a coach who is enabling me to look at future career aspirations and my next step is to decide which of the plethora of leadership programs (at Harvard or Cranfield or Ashridge etc.) really meets my specific needs and aspirations -guided by the Foundation!

Finally I have found the network of scholars to be an incredible resource and now have such a better understanding of, and connection with, the issues and challenges facing organisations (HEI and NHS) across the sector.

Would I recommend the scholarship? Without hesitation!

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