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Preparing for Strategic Senior Leadership: my experience

15 Jan 2020 | Dr Alison Purvis Dr Alison Purvis, Head of Learning Enhancement, Faculty of Health and Wellbeing at Sheffield Hallam University took part in the 31st cohort of Preparing for Senior Strategic Leadership. In this blog she reflects on the experience of the four-day residential course in June 2019.

In late spring of 2019, I received an email about Preparing for Senior Strategic Leadership (PSSL). It seemed to be exactly what I was looking for, as I had recently started a secondment role which had been arranged by the Dean of the faculty and I was beginning to revaluate what my next career steps might be.

The last five years had been a difficult time for me personally following bereavements and a serious road accident which had left me with a permanent injury. I had lost a lot of confidence which had taken time to rebuild, but I was now ready to challenge myself. The PSSL programme promised to give me an opportunity to develop and reflect on my leadership identity. At this point in my career the offer to attend PSSL 31 was perfect timing.

I travelled to the venue on the morning of the first day of the four-day residential course, feeling excited but a little nervous. I would be amongst senior leaders, many of whom would surely be more senior than I was and many with much more experience. Despite a feeling somewhat of trepidation, I made a promise to myself to push beyond the introversion that I can sometimes feel around new people, to try new things, to move outside of my comfort zone, and really to “feel the fear and do it anyway”. I wanted to get the maximum I could out of the opportunity.

There were many moments when I did feel apprehensive as we were challenged in different ways to think about ourselves and our leadership. I will not spoil the surprise of some of the activities for future attendees but there were many unexpected activities that we engaged with!

I learnt a lot about myself over the course, much more than I thought possible during a four-day period. There were things that I described myself as ‘not being very good at’ and yet the feedback from my peers in the cohort made me realise that not only was I better than I gave myself credit for, but that in many instances I actually had real strengths that I didn’t recognise. Strengths that once recognised I have been able to take confidence from and use further in my work since I returned from PSSL.

On day one of the course we were split into Leadership Development Groups. In these groups we practiced our active listening and open questioning skills. A theme that we came back to repeatedly was that of imposter syndrome. It was very revealing for me in how we all identified that as a personal challenge, even those individuals that I had perceived as being very experienced and senior in their roles. We are not alone with our doubts - we all feel like that at times!

The course was a pivot-point in my journey and one that has provided me with new-found confidence to look to my own leadership identity and approach my day-to-day work and my thinking for my next career steps with renewed assertion and bravery.

If you are considering this course, I recommend that you sign up as soon as possible and to throw yourself into it completely. I am sure that you will find that it becomes a milestone in your own career that propels you to your own next step and success.


Could you benefit from our Preparing for Senior Strategic Leadership Programme too? Find out more about PSSL 

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