Report on attendance at Women in Leadership Program UNSW Australian Graduate School of Management
By Rebecca Hammond, recipient of the 2014 Natalie Miller Fellowship
My chosen area of development on receipt of the NMF award was attendance at the UNSW Women in Leadership Program. A program tailored specifically for women and aimed to promote authentic reflective leadership. Highlighting that women truly lead and communicate differently, and encouraging businesses to adopt greater diversity and balance in their organisations – in essence celebrating female attributes and applying them to leadership.
With a focus on understanding our own preferences, recognising areas of development and engaging in a cycle of action learning this program provides a forum to test our behaviour, skills and attitudes. Promoting Reflective Leadership, it encourages change and development in our leadership styles through observation and self-evaluation.
The program drew great diversity of extremely talented business women, from large corporations such as Telstra and ANZ to small not-for-profit organisations and government institutions.
Attendance was by way of three, 2 day modules, presented across a four month period. Sessions were hosted by guest speakers, supported by relevant readings and covered a diverse range of topics. Each individual was also assigned an executive coach to work with during the entirety of the program aimed to support training and development.
All sessions promoted authenticity and reflection in leadership, and we began by working to understand our leadership styles and ways in which we communicate, with a view that it’s only when we are aware of our own unique styles that we can critique and challenge our blind spots to enable improvement and growth.
As part of module one, and of particular personal interest was that leadership for women should not only be authentic but also be fulfilling in nature to be truly successful. Following the works of Joanna Barsh, we looked at the 5 factors underpinning fulfilling leadership:
- Meaning – purpose; utilisation of core strengths and happiness
- Framing – self-awareness, adaptability; learned optimism
- Connecting – inclusiveness; reciprocity; sponsorship
- Engaging – voice; ownership; opportunities & risks
- Energising – recovery; flow
Barsh presenting that these factors coupled with the preconditions of talent; desire to lead and a tolerance for change will set women up for leadership outcomes including joy; impact and renewal.
Subsequent sessions covered the importance of acknowledging our individual positions of power and authority, and that as women, we play both formal and informal roles with each equally important and impactful in the systems we are operating within.
Jo O’Reilly, presented fantastic involving workshops providing tools to ensure we make the most impact each and every time we present/communicate with others. Everything from voice, breath, posture, openness to listen and engage with others was covered. Interesting too was an exploration of the inner critic that exists in each of us, and how it may detract from our ability to present with impact.
Critical business tools around structural thinking and negotiation were presented, adding to our tool sets, and emphasising that key in business is an ability to think and communicate quickly and succinctly. Team management with a focus on building adaptive cultures was covered, supported by our reading of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. We looked at ways we can identify dissatisfaction in teams and expose issues by creating “productive disequilibrium” with a view to work collaboratively in working toward solutions.
Reignited too was the importance of personal brand and networking strategies. Julia Palmer was an engaging presenter taking us through very simple strategies that can ensure we get the most out of social media tools available, and that from within our internal and external networks we can build shared understanding and common goals to promote reciprocity, influence and visibility.
Probably one of the more confronting workshops during the program for me was around mindfulness and stress management. We identified ways in which we can look to manage stresses and that without caring for ourselves we can never truly be in a position to provide long term successful leadership that sees us as guiding lights for those making the journey upwards.
Authentic female leadership, involving dynamic, two way relationships and an investment in networks can bring a rich diversity to any business and assist us in achieving our goals.
That fulfilling leadership requires purpose, clearly defined framework from which to work and an ability to nurture and care for ourselves to ensure longevity and enjoyment from any role.
Essential also are attributes of self-worth and confidence in our capabilities, controlling the inner critic and developing the inner coach.
Experiencing the program with a group of talented, successful, supportive and fun women was a standout. The participatory nature, and depth and direction of conversations led by the women in the room was an empowering process. Witnessing the depth and difference in each of us was energising, each of us bringing something unique to the discussions.
Undertaking the Women in Leadership program has been important in my development both professionally and personally. Working alongside successful women who actively listen and contribute to discussion, sharing private moments of both success and failure, truly empowering.
It is often easy to become swept up in what we do day to day (particularly balancing family and professional lives) leaving little to no time to reflect. But it is only with deep reflection and critique of our leadership that we can challenge ourselves and develop further.
I thank all at the Natalie Miller Fellowship for the opportunity granted to me, and in particular to Chrissy Thomson for her unwavering support as I continue my journey of development. And to Natalie Miller herself, who continues to inspire the best in myself and all within our industry.
I encourage all women to apply for the Natalie Miller Fellowship, and hope that that you find your involvement with the fellowship as rewarding as I have.