Leadership Scholarship Programme for Aspiring Deans – Am I still ASPIRING? Thoughts two years + later!

1 March 2018

I was fortunate to be among the first cohort of scholars, commencing January 2015 and ‘completing’ in May 2016. I first wrote about this experience in a blog for the Council membership that will give you the background and some detail just in case you don’t know what the scholarship is.

BUT first a confession…….. I am not a Dean! And not sure If I should insert a YET into that sentence, but I’ll get on to that in a moment.

Briefly, the scholarship gave me the opportunity to undertake an intensive period of leadership development starting with a number of assessments followed by the creation of a bespoke programme of development that took me to Cranfield, RADA, Westminster and Stormont; and experience both mentorship and coaching that challenged and supported me on a personal and professional level to development that I would, and often do when asked, describe as transformational.

Personally I challenged the feeling of being an imposter, a perspective that many of my scholarship peers have since shared and replaced that with a level of curiosity and courage in knowing and owning my ability, ambition and yes, recognising and acting on those areas where I still need to develop. That helped me to take some quite challenging professional choices including leaving HE for a brief period and working in the voluntary sector before joining the Open University as the Director of Strategy, Planning and Resources in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education  and Language Studies. For the eagle eyed among you that is not the Deans post and surprisingly it is an academic related contract something that before the Scholarship I would have never imagined I would do. BUT in that role I find myself, doing what I love, and what I am good at – sitting right in the middle of the strategic context and intent of an organisation and the operational delivery of that during a time of intense transformational change. What I gained through the scholarship enabled me to find the ‘courage, and confidence to own my strategic understanding and influence; and contribute that to the direction of the Open University. Now I’d love to tell you more of that story, about my time in the voluntary sector for example which built on the project I undertook as part of the scholarship and led me to work now for an organisation with Social Mission at its core; but much more important is my reflection on where the Council finds itself now – with a new strategy and pausing to really consider the future of the Scholarships.

I am of course delighted that Leadership is one of the three key aims of the Council’s strategy and contribute the following thoughts as the Council decides on how to prioritise investment in leadership;

  1. Partnership with the Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF) works! As a nurse the credibility of wearing the badge of being a CoDH and FNF scholar enabled me to knock on doors and shove them open. Under new leadership the foundation is refocusing its contribution and leadership capacity and capability is front and centre, so let’s work with them to strengthen our joint endeavour together, recognising of course that we must not focus the Councils efforts only on nursing colleagues.The bespoke nature of the journey forced me to really think about and seek incremental development opportunities that helped me to grow through the challenges. The intensity of it and the longevity really distinguishes it from any other leadership development I have experienced …..so please don’t let that go
  2. It is important to remember the ‘direction’ of influence this type of development can build and the impact therefore across clinical, educational and importantly  the strategic leadership ask. Let’s keep the opportunities broad for senior leaders in HE.
  3. You invested a deal in us so ask us to give back. I believe as scholars we have a debt to the Council and its membership so hold us close and enable us to work with you, whether that is working on the Council, on specific projects or supporting leadership scholars, we have much to offer and indeed much to carry on learning from our relationship with the Council

There is of course, much more to say so please do look at the well-crafted notes of the meeting which took place on 9 February between our FNF colleagues, CoDH and a number of ex and current scholars; and please as the membership do support the continued investment in the Scholarships as they are reconsidered in the coming months

Dr Sally Hayes

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