Tom Irvine is the director of Consultancy at the Leadership Foundation. He recently led the reorganisation of all the consultancy services into a new unit: LF Consulting.
In the part of the Leadership Foundation for which I am responsible – consultancy and in-house programmes – I have seen a definite shift in how institutions relate to the Leadership Foundation. In writing this article, and thinking about looking forward beyond the Leadership Foundation's first 10 years, I did some research into the ‘direction of travel’ that can be seen in the wide range of in-house / tailored leadership programmes we run on behalf of institutions.
The first thing to say is the next 10 years will be fascinating – will it bring a greater professionalisation of leadership in the sector? Will leadership qualifications become more common, as has been the case in other sectors such as health and government? Will the moves towards greater accountability be reflected in increased expectations about leadership and management competency?
I have been struck by the growing sophistication of the in-house programmes we run on behalf of HEIs – institutions of all shapes and sizes. Many of them routinely use 360-degree feedback using the LF’s higher education specific version of the Transformational Leadership Questionnaire (TLQ). Often this is done before the leadership programme begins as a way of helping the participant to think about their own leadership practices and helps them focus on their development needs. Ten years ago, 360-degree feedback was very rare indeed in higher education leadership development – now it is widespread. 360-degree feedback still remains the most usefully challenging way of reflecting on leadership effectiveness.
Many programmes now incorporate coaching support as part of the move towards personal transformation and change. It is only in the last four or five years that coaching has been more widely included – and the use of coaching is now seen as much more of a positive thing, and much less as remedial action.
Our national programmes such as the Top Management Programme and Senior Strategic Leadership introduced action-learning a few years ago as part of the pedagogy. This kind of approach to action and impact are now widespread and feature in many of our in-house programme provision. Allied to this is the growth in in-house leadership programmes that have an element of organisation challenge built in. This brings leadership development and organisational development much closer together, and can result in really significant developments at a local level.
The issues that universities and higher education colleges ask us to address in our in-house / tailored provision for them will be familiar to many readers of Engage – but there has been a definite shift away from personal development in its own right, and much more towards impact in, and benefit to, the organisation. The issue of dealing positively with performance and ways of influencing others is still a critical element, but there is a marked shift towards the skills of working with change and across boundaries.
In terms of the future we are already seeing patterns in the things that institutions ask us to run in-house for them. It is often said that the pace of change in the sector is ever-increasing, but there has been a time lag in the system which is now coming through. We increasingly receive requests for helping with the ‘change agenda’ – and have responded by developing a new range of services that we call “Supporting Change". These enable institutions to think and plan objectively about what they want to achieve and sustain through their change programmes. Our change portfolio also provides specialist support to the institutional change project managers, providing them with an extra sounding board and solid advice when they need it most.
The development agenda for research leaders is very much in the minds of in-house development colleagues. The LF is responding by creating new and innovative programmes to support this agenda and the academics and professionals working in this part of the organisation, building on our work through the highly acclaimed Research Team Leadership programme.
As the LF moves into its second decade we will be leading the way by developing in-house provision that meets the needs that emerge – just as we have done for the past 10 years.
My Inspiring Leader is Ruth Swinhoe who won silver in the long jump in the Commonwealth Games at the time of Mary Peters. She was my boss when I worked at the CBI Education Foundation in the 1990s and was such a delightful person – kind, considerate, visionary, clear thinking and very supportive.
Tom Irvine firstname.lastname@example.org
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