3rd September 2019

Swansea’s Leadership Leadership Academy (Part One)

My journey across the stepping stones to the Student Leadership Academy

A reflection of new experiences, skills and opportunities in creating and shaping Swansea University Student Leadership Academy. By Beryl Mansel
@SWANSLA

In 2016 I applied and was accepted to join the Advisory Group for the Council of Deans of Health (CoDH) Student Leadership Programme. This was initially a 2-year project, in partnership with the Burdett Trust, to support 150 healthcare students from across the UK to develop their leadership potential. Due to its outstanding success, further funding was assured to support 150 student leaders for a further three years.

My first project was Advisory Group meeting in June 2017. On my journey towards London I recall thinking: ‘what do I have to offer? Do I know enough?’

I arrived an hour late due to train delays and a navigation service sending me in the wrong direction. This added to my feeling of being a fraud, which was further compounded by the anxieties of walking into a room of exceptionally talented strangers! I put a lot of pressure on myself within the meeting ‘to perform’ and contribute something of value- this added to the impostor syndrome experience. The meeting went by with what I thought were no productive words uttered from my mouth.

How do I deal with imposter syndrome? I recognise and acknowledge the feelings and reframe my thoughts, thus focusing on my goals for that day.

At the end of the meeting I approached Katerina Kolyva, Executive Director of the CoDH and expressed my wish to be involved in the July Welcome Events in Birmingham, and that is when my journey began! Since the first day I met Katerina, I recognised a truly inspirational role model. Katerina has provided me with confidence in my abilities, and helped me to take the next steps towards my development as a leader, stretching me beyond my comfort zone and nurturing my creativity and innovation.

I shared my thoughts of my immersion with cohort 2 in Birmingham July 2017 here.

The next step in my journey was with the cohort 2 final day in London, November 2017. My role was to introduce the speakers and presenters as well as chairing a Leadership Panel Q&A session. I felt humbled by the inspiring speakers and their personal stories. I have learned from the Student Leadership Programme the power and importance of story-telling. When people offer stories of their authentic self, connections are made in the narratives we share with one another.

February 2018 was a key stepping stone on my leadership journey. Meeting in London, the Advisory Group was presented with both cohort 1 and 2 student reflections and feedback of their experiences with the student leadership programme. Key themes that emerged were:

  • A better understanding of leadership
  • Strengthened confidence and self-awareness
  • Power of networking and social media
  • What university programmes are lacking

They elaborated on what universities are lacking as ‘theory as opposed to interactive’ learning, a ‘lack of networking and mentoring opportunities’ and ‘limited leadership modules. In my experience as a mental health student nurse and as a lecturer, learning about leadership (and management) typically occurs at the end of the programme. It is often overlooked and I found that learning about my own self-awareness, awareness of others and building self-confidence took place during my time as a qualified nurse. I hear this often from others who narrate their leadership story.  In order to consolidate the idea of leadership, students must gain an understanding of what leadership means and learn leadership skills from the beginning of their undergraduate programme.

Having observed and immersed myself in the student Leadership Programme a vision started to formulate in my mind to address this important feedback.  A definition of a vision provided by the ACT Academy, NHS Improvement is:
a picture that brings to life an attractive future state for the organisation or the outcome of a change’.

This is the picture I painted

The aim of the Academy is to develop leadership skills of pre-registration first year students across health and social care at Swansea University. The Student Leadership Academy (SLA) will reflect the ethos of the Council of Deans of Health:
‘to develop and promote student leadership capacity in support of delivering the best possible care to patients and service users’

 A BIG dream! How do I achieve this? Is it possible to transpose a national leadership programme into a local context with a successful outcome?

I was ready for the challenge.