In October 2016, my company selected me as a top emerging leader to apply for the Common Purpose, American Express Leadership Academy in London, specifically for the not for profit sector. Commencing the course I was honoured to have been selected, apprehensive that I should be included as a top emerging leader and worried that expectations may be higher than what I could achieve.

Many successful leaders learn to lead in roles or circumstances where they have clear authority but to operate effectively we need a different approach to leadership – the ability to lead beyond Authority.

Here are my 4 key challenges and learning opportunities that I took away from this experience:

360 Degree Feedback is scary but we need to be brave
As a foundation to attending the Leadership Academy I was required to take part in gaining 360 feedback from clients, partners, managers, peers and reports to rate against my own ratings. Although a scary exercise, the results were encouraging.
“All leaders should consider 360 feedback from inside and outside the organisation to ensure they are in tune with their competencies.”

 The gift of experience from CEO’s
A number of CEO’s spared their valuable time to provide insight into Senior Leadership. My very own Barnardo’s CEO Javed Khan, spoke about the 6 C’s for inclusive leadership: Commitment, Courage, Conscientiousness, Curiosity, Cultural Intelligence and Collaboration. These are Leaders who we would all wish to follow because we believe them – they are authentic.
“Utilise your experienced CEO’s, make a cuppa, pull up a chair – they all like to talk and share their wisdom.”

Personal Branding and how you would like to be perceived
We all need something to make us stand out a little, to be remembered. The higher the benchmark we set for our own quality standards the higher risk to our own personal brand. What would your brand be? I learnt not to be afraid to let the real person come through and that being distinctive in some way is good to be remembered.
“Decide on the issues you won’t compromise and the things you stand for, don’t be afraid to let the real you be shown within your leadership, it is what your followers experience as authentic.”

Asking questions is far more fun than talking at people
My personal reflection from the experience and all of those that offered their wonderful insights was that it is ok to sit back, trust others and listen more.
“Innovation will grow in a trusting, learning and engaging environment. A Leader is required to create that environment by setting an example and allowing change to happen for the right reasons.”

In conclusion I’d just like to say that, although daunted with the aspect of being selected amongst such amazing talent across the Charity Sector, the experience was thoroughly beneficial and brought me knowledge I would never have hoped to have gained. I am already implementing subtle changes to my leadership style, with a foundation in place to allow me to break through the glass ceiling of management to ethical leadership.