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Leading from the front

Institution: A post-92 university in the Midlands


The university had in place a successful Principal Lecturer Development Programme that had been delivered entirely in-house and was well received, although in some cases less than well attended due to the demands on staff time. When training was brought into a new department, Leadership and Development (LEAD), all programmes were reviewed and externally evaluated, the Leadership Foundation provision in particular.

The partnership

It was essential to continue to invest in leadership and management training for prospective future leaders and, as sector-specific courses, programmes, resources and research had excited all participants in the scheme so far, the logical step was to pursue partnership working.

The university required annual programmes for entire cohorts of 20 staff and the Leadership Foundation provided a practical yet challenging programme that suited its needs.

The whole initiative was buoyed by a relatively new vice-chancellor whose own positive experience of the Leadership Foundation's Top Management Programme confirmed the university's commitment to providing progression for all staff.

The project

Vital elements of the programme included:

  • Organisational ownership, with essential support from the vice-chancellor.
  • Sponsorship of the programme and individuals by the senior team.
  • Tailored and localised, rather than generic, 360° feedback.
  • A feedback process, included briefing of all participants and their sponsors, and a detailed action plan as the outcome.
  • Support in the form of sponsors, buddy partners, Action Learning Sets and workshops.
  • Real projects to work on, which ran concurrently to the programme, but with a six-month extension for research. This approach sparked real interest and debate in each of the four cohorts to date. Their hands-on practice of new leadership skills has been seriously challenged in this respect.

The programme has been over-subscribed, with a welcome spread of participant nominations across the university, both academic and non-academic.


The programme is now in its fourth iteration and participants are unanimous in their appreciation for this personal and professional development opportunity.

The positive benefits that have accrued both for the individual and for the university include:

  • The first 10 promotions, continuing Action Learning Sets and buddying.
  • Personal confidence and improved work/life harmony positively impacting on participants' levels of engagement.
  • The impact of the positive results from project research and the influence and changes to university processes as a result of each cohort.
  • The pride instilled in participants as they become formally recognised as LEAD Alumni and are asked to contribute actively to the strategic direction of the university.
  • Participant feedback stating the programme was passionate, stimulating, relevant, memorable, fun, inspirational, and provoking.
  • Many of the participants now appreciate and respect colleagues who undertake differing, and sometimes hidden or backroom, functions within the university.

It is this sharing and partnership among colleagues that embodies the values of both the Leadership Foundation and the university.