Back in February I attended one of the Clore Leadership Short Courses, a two week intensive residential course for people in the cultural sectors to reflect on, and develop, their leadership skills. For anyone who has discussed it with me since, I apologise – I feel a bit like I’ve been indoctrinated into a cult and have been extolling its virtues and encouraging everyone to experience it for themselves. It really was incredible though. I’ve been interested in leadership for a long time, and have learnt a lot through reading, attending courses and events, and reflecting on my own behaviour. Often this is in small snippets though, and the Clore Leadership Short Course enabled me to really focus on leadership learning for two weeks. It was really intensive but so worthwhile. I wanted to blog some of the things that have stuck with me and that I’ve been continuing to reflect on since the course.
Authentic leadership is something I first learnt about at the CILIP in Wales Conference in 2012, and was a common theme through many of the presentations there. I’ve since included some reading on authentic leadership for the Library Leadership Reading Group, and have enjoyed learning more about how we can all lead in a more authentic way, building on our strengths and staying true to ourselves. This was a key theme throughout much of the Clore course, but in particular we had a one day workshop to help us reflect on our own authentic leadership. The evening before we were set homework of recording a timeline of our life including any things we’ve been good at, things we’ve been interested in, proud achievements, and inspirational people. It took me right back to my school days and of course I spent far too long thinking and planning before committing anything to paper. I found the process really useful though; I’m a reflector by nature so spend quite a lot of time thinking back on things, but usually within my adult life. This took me right back from my young childhood and helped me identify some of the key themes of my life.
During the workshop we discussed our timelines with our peers, and then in the afternoon we had a short activity on our drivers to help us think about what really motivates us in life. We were then given the opportunity to reflect on these individually, and prepare a 5 minute talk to a small group of our peers to talk about what being an authentic leader meant to us. I found the whole process so incredibly useful – a lot of it was common sense but having the time and space to think about this in a focused way really helped me consolidate my thinking and has given me a much clearer idea of who I am and how I want to lead.
Importance of story telling
As part of the Clore programme, we had a number of guest speakers throughout the fortnight. Some of these are people who have done the Clore Short Course in the past, or Clore Fellows, whilst some are involved in supporting the Clore programme. They all had really interesting backgrounds and were from various different parts of the cultural sector (dance, museums, Arts Council…). They each approached their talks differently, but the one thing constant throughout was the focus on telling us their story. Some did this in chronological order, some shared key themes that have always been present throughout their lives, some shared photos, some shared challenges, some shared achievements, some intertwined their leadership lessons within their story. Many of them shared elements of their personal life as well as their professional life. All were compelling stories that told you about the person as well as their experiences. I made notes for some of the talks, for others I just listened. I took something from every single one and it really made me appreciate the importance of good storytelling to help you get your message across. This was also reiterated in some of the course workshops, but it was the examples of the guest speakers which really emphasised that for me. I’ve noticed storytelling being mentioned quite a lot recently, it’s come up in a number of our LLRG conversations as it’s mentioned in a number of key leadership texts, and it was also the focus of a recent Slideshare blog post on The Secret To Activating Your Audience’s Brain.
A number of the guest speakers at Clore spoke about quiet leadership, and this is something that interests me. I often seem to gravitate to leadership positions (gymnastics club captain for my University, chair of committees, etc.) but I don’t lead in a traditional dictatorial way. I prefer to lead by being an active member of the team and understanding more about them and their motivations, and then for me to help facilitate that. When someone on the team (or the team as a whole) performs well, it’s really important for me that they get the recognition rather than myself as the leader. Some refer to this style of leadership as quiet leadership, and it was really good to hear some real life examples of that. I’ve also recently read Quiet by Susan Cain and will be discussing this as part of the Library Leadership Reading Group tonight (8.30pm UK time on Tuesday 5th May, feel free to join us using the #llrg tag) – this is focused on introversion in general but does include elements of quiet leadership. I’d like to learn more about this style of leadership in future.
Value of coaching
One of the workshops we had at Clore was on coaching, which reinforced a lot of what I learnt on my ILM Coaching course. One of the main things for me is the shift in power to enable the person being coached to consider their options, and make their own decisions. I really struggled with coaching at first because I always want to try to help by offering solutions. This is the total opposite of to what you should be doing when coaching as the solutions come from the person being coached. However, I’m also incredibly curious and constantly question things, and this (used appropriately) can be really helpful when coaching. Most days at Clore we had an opportunity to go for a ‘walk and talk’ which often involved an element of peer coaching. I really enjoyed these sessions, and particularly enjoyed acting as the coach. I did also have a coaching session from one of the course leaders which was useful, but I most enjoyed being able to coach others in the group. I try to do this in my mentoring for CILIP Professional Registration, and hope to continue to develop my coaching skills further.
The whole of the residential course was an opportunity for reflective learning and it was so valuable. Having the time and space to allow yourself to focus on your own development for more than an hour or so was so rare, and so special. It was difficult to switch off from other worries initially, but after a short time I was able to do so and really benefited from it. Within the workshops, we were encouraged to think about our own experiences and consider how what we were discussing could apply to our practice. We were also encouraged to try some of the new things out, and having a safe environment to do that in was very beneficial. Because of the type of environment we were in, we were also highly aware of each other’s learning and were able to provide feedback and support each other during our learning. We were encouraged to continue to do this afterwards too, and some of us are now forming action learning sets to help us with that. Even for those people who don’t have the support group like we have, we were encouraged to do this individually too. Many of the guest speakers commented on the fact that there is no end point and no ‘perfect leader’ and that we are all continually learning, and should be encouraged to do so. This is definitely something I can relate to as I think I’ll always be a work in progress, but it was good to know that’s OK, as long as you take time to reflect (individually or with your peers) and to apply your learning.
On that note, I think I’ll be processing what I learnt at Clore for a long time to come, but I wanted to share some of my initial reflections. I would highly recommend the Clore Leadership Short Course for anyone working on the cultural sector interested in developing their leadership skills.