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Strategic Leadership Programme

Build the confidence and skills to lead, engage and influence across your team, institution and the sector.

The Strategic Leadership Programme has been completely redesigned specifically for online delivery. The programme will appeal to those with a portfolio which reaches across the institution and who want to exercise their strategic vision to make a meaningful impact in shaping the future direction of the higher education sector through influence and engagement.

The programme has been designed as a learning space that confronts and considers issues such as 'systems thinking', complexity, holistic approaches to organisational development, leadership in the face of wicked problems and the containment of organisational and system dynamics. It is a programme about the place of higher education in its context and the strategic leadership required to sustain it.

Submit your application early to be part of the selection process. Application submission deadline: 19 April 2021

Applications are now open

22 April 2021, see module dates for more information 

Application submission deadline: 
19 April 2021

Apply now
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Aims and outcomes

The programme comprises a blend of theoretical inputs, provocations, speakers, practical exercises, observations and discussions and will take a 'systems thinking' approach to considering strategic leadership.

One feature of that approach is that the SLP group itself becomes a 'learning organisation' to which all its members contribute. To that end, your preparation for, and active contribution to, the programme is an important part of its value. The Strategic Leadership Programme is designed to create opportunities to rehearse leadership approaches and is created around its participants: their willingness to engage, to share experiences, and to support each other.

The primary aims of the programme are to:

  • build confidence in the power of leadership to change organisations.
  • to disrupt complacency about the current operating model of Higher Education with a series of strategic “what if?” questions in order to create new models.
  • to challenge concepts of heroic individualised leaders in favour of distributed systems leadership.
  • to explore and develop approaches for leading in a complex environment

At the end of the programme, we expect that you will:

  • better understand the environment in which your leadership is being enacted.
  • have tested tools and approaches for influencing the systems and culture and of your organisation and the behaviour of others within it
  • have strengthened your confidence to lead well in situations of uncertainty, complexity and disruption.
  • have built a new network of fellow sector leaders who share a common language and understanding of the environment in which you are all working and who are able to provide generous mutual support.
"Genuinely transformative.” Paul Driscoll-Evans, Dean of School, University of Suffolk

How the programme is delivered

The programme is delivered over seven weeks and consists of an informal introductory networking session, two one-to-one coaching sessions (pre- and post- programme), four full-day modules and a half-day action learning set.

Each of the four modules will include to following elements to help participants consolidate their learning:  

  • Approximately 2 hours of asynchronous pre- and post-session activities (for example, screencasts, articles, undertaking a self-guided group activity)
  • 4.5 hours of synchronous online activity (split across two sessions), with refreshment/lunch breaks and 1.5 hours of asynchronous activity scheduled between these.     
  • Approximately 30 minutes of post-module reflective activity

Who delivers the programme?

Lisa Sofianos

Lisa is a senior associate and coach at Advance HE, and co-facilitates Advance HE’s Strategic Leadership Programme along with a number of other open and bespoke senior HE leadership programmes. She works internationally and across all sectors in the fields of organisational development, change leadership, strategic leadership and authentic leadership. Find out more about Lisa

Lisa Sofianos

Alastair Work


Alastair has worked with Advance HE (previously via LFHE) since its inception, is an alumnus of its Top Management Programme (TMP), has significant experience of higher education leadership and management at all levels, and has a very strong reputation as an engaging facilitator. Find out more about Alastair

Alastair Work
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In this video co-facilitator Lisa Sofianos provides an overview of the Strategic Leadership programme.

In this video co-facilitator Alastair Work explains the concept of systems thinking which underpins the Strategic Leadership programme.

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Module dates and information 

For full details of each of the modules, download our full information sheet.

Application deadline 19 April 2021

Introductory networking session

Evening, 22 April 2021
Networking Session designed to provide an opportunity to meet fellow participants and the facilitators in a relaxed and informal online setting and start to engage with the technology.

Coaching Sessions

26-27 April 2021 and 9-10 June 2021
Participants will have the opportunity to work individually with a coach over two sessions. One at the start of the programme and another after completion.

Module 1

10 May 2021
Engaging with complexity:
What are the trends and challenges coming towards the sector that we need to put back on our radar after Covid-19 has swept all before it? What can organisational psychology tell us about leading in these fast-paced and unstable times?

Module 2

11 May 2021
Leadership responses:
How can we lead when we don’t yet have the answers? How do we manage the tensions that inevitably arise in complex systems?

Action Learning Set

18 May 2021
A half-day of facilitated group coaching to bring fresh perspectives and inspiration for solutions to your real and intractable leadership challenges.

Module 3

24 May 2021
Leading complex institutions:
How can we lead higher education strategy better? What can organisational development thinking teach us about enacting change in complex systems? What fresh approaches can we design by re-imagining our institutions?

Module 4

25 May 2021
Influencing and engaging others:
What can we learn about our influencing technique from individually working with an actor and coach? How can we disrupt cultural comfort zones to get real traction on change?
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One-to-one coaching 

Participants will have the opportunity to work with a coach over two sessions at either end of the programme. One-to-one coaching offers a confidential, non-judgemental, reflective space to consider leadership impact, embed learning, challenge unhelpful mindsets, and try new ideas on for size.

Our facilitators are qualified and experienced in coaching leaders in the higher education sector and will work with you first to design coaching objectives, and then help you work towards achieving them during your sessions. Whether you have benefitted from coaching before, or are new to the process, it is an important opportunity for focused reflection and learning entirely for you and your leadership development in a supportive environment.

I found the Strategic Leadership Programme invaluable. It has provided me with actionable learning which has translated into a clear difference back on the ground at my institution. The network the programme creates is a powerful learning tool and sectoral support framework which has life beyond the programme itself. The value of this ongoing support is not to be underestimated."

Dr Sam Grogan, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience), University of Salford


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