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Diversifying Leadership - The Time is Now

17 Dec 2018 | Leyla Okhai Leyla Okhai, co-facilitator on Advance HE’s Diversifying Leadership programme, shares her thoughts on why you should consider being a participant.

The Diversifying Leadership Programme 

The Diversifying Leadership (DL) development programme for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff will be running its eighth and ninth cohorts from February 2019. Along with Jannett Morgan I have been privileged to work with such talented individuals over the last three years as a facilitator. 

This programme is different from other leadership programmes. It has been created for BAME staff by BAME staff and been shaped by feedback from previous cohorts. It places BAME participants at the centre, providing you with an opportunity to explore your leadership style with like-minded ambitious individuals from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

It features three one-day face-to-face workshops and one action learning set day. The sessions are themed around personal leadership journeys, power and influence, networking, putting learning into practice and taking action. You will have the time and space to reflect on your leadership goals and focus on the issues that affect you.

How do you know you’re ready to take part?  

Often the word ‘leadership’ conjures up images of Vice-Chancellors and senior leadership teams. It’s easy to think you are not ready, you just need another year under your belt, that promotion or that extra publication. 

The DL is the programme for you if you have been: 

  • contemplating about how to obtain that promotion;
  • struggling to be heard or seen at key meetings;
  • exhausted with being the only champion for inclusive curricula;
  • feeling as if you are working all hours but aren’t where you want to be career-wise but see other colleagues rising through the ranks;
  • keeping your head down and keeping away from “office politics”;
  • hiding your cultural identity and trying to “fit-in”;
  • reticent about submitting a research grant on a diverse or non-traditional subject matter;
  • comfortable where you are as no-one bothers you, yet unsure of the next step;
  • feeling frustrated with the lack of change in your area and;
  • in need of meeting colleagues like you;

A key benefit of Diversifying Leadership is that it uses an 'asset model' approach to combine four key elements: 

  1.   Preparation through a series of challenging development activities;
  2.   Collaboration through action learning with peers;
  3.   Reflection space between modules to help you think and act strategically;
  4.   Increased visibility through your sponsor. 

You will also hear from guest speakers who provide their leadership insights and tips for survival and success. 
Whether you are working at a senior, middle, or (what you may consider) a junior level, you will gain insight where you perhaps haven’t had it before. The peer learning will enable you to see things differently and realise you are not on your own. 

How taking part in the DL development programme has tangible results 

There are over 100 DL alumni. The changes, shifts and achievements they have made in their personal and professional lives never cease to astound us. A snapshot of the successes we have seen recently are:

  1. Securing a seat at the decision-making table where they previously had no access. For one individual this was through the relationship with their sponsor, the Dean of Students. Their ideas are now heard and implemented team-wide for the benefit of the whole organisation and student experience. 
  2. Receiving a significant amount of research funding for a collaborative project in Bangladesh, where this institution had no links or previous interest. The result was an increased profile for the individual’s work, which was their true passion. Their work also contributed to student recruitment, enhancing the university’s finances. 
  3. Turning adversity into advantage, through strategic thinking. One participant knew there would be a restructure in her department. DL enabled her to see her strengths more clearly. As a result, she built a business case for a new role, she wrote the job description and presented it to her manager as a solution to a problem. Not only was she successful in securing the role job, but she also negotiated the salary she deserved.   

After the programme, delegates find being able to say ‘no’ to extra work that does not benefit them is easier to do. By laying down clear boundaries, building better relationships with their managers and communicating these boundaries, results in them being able to focus on their academic/professional role.

What you can do now to support your leadership journey prior to DL

  1. Sponsorship is a key component of the programme. A sponsor is someone who uses their seniority and organisational capital to actively advocate and ‘open doors’ to promote their protégés’ careers. It is different to mentoring, in that the aim is to provide more than a listening ear, advice or ideas. Start to consider who may be a good sponsor for you. How could you go about asking them and building that relationship? There is a Sponsorship Toolkit for the course if you would like to find out more and share information about the role of the sponsor on the DL Programme.  
  2. It’s also a good idea to network inside and outside your institution. This can be done in a genuine and authentic way. Networking is about building reciprocal relationships to strengthen your support group. Having someone to check-in helps you grow confidence levels to pursue opportunities that you may not have considered before. We also know leadership isn’t a one size fits all approach. On your DL journey you will craft and refine your leadership signature.

All that leaves me to say is, we look forward to meeting you on the Diversifying Leadership programme very soon!

Find out more about The Diversifying Leadership Programme 

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