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My Journey to a Leadership Role

29 Jan 2019 | Michelle Breen Michelle Breen shares her journey to a leadership role and her thoughts on Advance HE’s Transition to Leadership programme.

Michelle Breen - Head of Information Services at the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick – shares her journey to a leadership role and her thoughts on Advance HE’s Transition to Leadership programme.

I completed the Advance HE Transition to Leadership programme early in 2017. At that time I had been working as a professional librarian for 17 years and aspired to a leadership role in a university library. Having interviewed a few times for different posts and been unsuccessful, I sought feedback from my manager and we agreed that a leadership programme would be a good way for me to develop. 

I undertook the Transition to Leadership programme in Birmingham with a diverse group of professionals from across higher education. We shared a common goal to develop ourselves and our leadership skills. Participating in a programme outside of my own institution and discipline was a very positive experience for me; the perspectives brought by each member of the group helped us all to learn and allowed us to see that common themes and problems can be addressed using a very sound set of approaches. 

The TTL programme includes a Leadership skills self-assessment (the Leadership Wheel) but I opted to complete, in addition, a full 360 assessment - the Higher Education Transformational Leadership Questionnaire (HETLQ) designed specifically for use in higher education.

"This was one of the most impactful pieces of self-reflection that I have ever engaged in."

It asked peers, managers and subordinates to assess many aspects of my work style and while feedback like this can be challenging; it formed a really good basis for me in beginning to understand the areas where I lacked strengths and needed to work on my approach to, in particular, dealing with people. 

Leading and managing involves influencing and it is not an easy skill to develop. Even for people with natural leadership tendencies and strengths there is always room for improvement.  I work in an environment that is very supportive of individual CPD and a great understanding exists, at least within the management team, of the qualities of leadership. Conversations with my manager following the programme were grounded in the language of leadership and I used the coming year to ‘flex’ all of the different leadership styles covered in the programme in a range of work settings. 

In the summer of 2018, a promotional opportunity arose in my place of work; I prepared for the interview, more introspective and better emotionally prepared than I had been for previous interviews. I was successful and was appointed to a one-year position as head of a department. The workload is heavy and the interpersonal relationships challenging - as it often is in a management role - but I am confident that with frequent recourse to the techniques I learned, including in particular my personal resilience, I am giving the job my best shot. The insightful discussions I had with other participants on the Transition To Leadership programme often come back to me when I need to have a difficult conversation or make a hard decision. It’s a case of ‘never stop learning’ but the Transition to Leadership programme was the springboard to success for me. 

TTL is a programme that allows you to explore your personal, team and change leadership styles to influence and inspire others. Find out more about the programme and the next available dates here: Transition to Leadership.


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