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Discover Diaries: Gemma Wright

In partnership with Clore Leadership, we are delivering the Discover Programme to a cohort of 20+ cultural leaders. Clore Leadership has invited the participants to share their thoughts, insights, and overall experience with us. Among the participants is Gemma Wright, Head of Education at the Camden Arts Centre, who has been keeping weekly diaries of her learning experience. Check it out below.

Week One

I was a mixture of excited and nervous going into the first week of the Clore Leadership Discover Programme. My nerves were quickly allayed when I logged into the Slack programme and the other cultural leaders began introducing themselves; it seemed that everyone felt the same way!

My goals going into this first week were to learn, be challenged and to increase my confidence as a leader. I wanted to understand what type of leader I am and consider what type of leader I want to be, and the first week was set up to consider this further.

My key take-away from the first week was a greater sense of self. This came from considering the Clore Social Leaders’ Capabilities Framework. I could see that my strengths lay in collaboration and empowerment, yet I was less confident in changemaking.

It was enlightening to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses, and properly consider the barriers and opportunities around these. Things that I hadn’t expected came from this exercise – an example being that some of my greatest strengths are also my weaknesses.

The main challenge during this first week has been time. Fitting the content of the course around my work calendar was unexpectedly difficult. I wanted to engage with the resources and tasks properly and as such I ended up completing week one on the Monday of the second week.

I found Caroline McHugh’s TED talk ‘The Art of Being Yourself’ inspiring; the way she described the four layers of understanding yourself as perception, persona, ego and self… or as she described our very own ‘Queendom’.

Moving into week two, I’m eager to understand what it means to be a leader in the context I work in and learning from this week I’ve built time into my diary to do it.

Week Two

My goals going into the second week were to focus my leadership capabilities within the wider context, and consider the bigger picture. I also wanted to continue learning, being challenged and building confidence.

My key take-away this week is that the best leaders understand why they do what they do. That communicating your passion and belief, in relation to what drives you to do your role, can nurture similar commitment in others. In Simon Sinek’s Ted talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action he states: “What you do serves as the proof of why you do it.”

As a passionate advocate I have spoken about the ‘why’ increasingly in my work, however I hadn’t realised the importance and impact this had on my leadership. For me working in arts education is driven by passion, belief, value and meaning. The tasks and resources in week two have enabled me to see the power within this and the skills I already possess.

This week challenged me to consider strategic foresight and self-reflect on my skills as a system thinker. What is my long-term goal to impact social change? How can I make a difference? Big questions! In deliberating this, The Permaculture Podcast: Systems Thinking for Personal Transformation and Social Change, challenged me to think about individual action, personal responsibility and collective change.

I was inspired by the long-read article, The Dawn of System Leadership, by Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton, & John Kania. I felt that this resource gave me confidence in how to approach change making as a leader. Whilst a daunting prospect, this article made me feel it is achievable, and shared case studies and guidance for moving along the path of change.

Some of my learning for this week has already been put into practice. I lead Camden Arts Centre’s Access Forum, which aims to improve access to the arts for audiences with Special Educational Needs. The forum currently has in excess of 70 members across London’s galleries, museums, theatres, and specialist organisations and is expanding. My learning from this week has highlighted the importance of building collaborative networks for systemic change, and has given me the courage to see what the potential and power of this collective group could be.

Week Three

Week three of the Clore Leadership Discover Programme focused on how we as leaders work with and through others. My goal for this week was to consider myself as a leader within my team, and what the impact of effective leadership means for the people I work with and the aims we have.

There are 5 key things that I have taken away from this week, which became clear to me during our reflection task.

  • Social connection is key!
  • Helpfulness is a core part of successful teams;
  • A strong sense of renewal is vital;
  • Ensuring team alignment on direction and vision;
  • Understanding our collective development as a team.

Some of this is already a large part of my leadership approach (so it was good to have that approach validated!) but mainly it was important to remember that we can’t succeed in isolation, and the effectiveness of a team should come from our collective reflection and on-going evaluation.

Sometimes you find yourself enlightened by the most obvious things. This week's TED talk Forget the Pecking Order at Work by Margaret Heffernan, spoke about the importance of social capital; of investing time in getting to know each other to ensure bonds, loyalty and trust. She states that when these things are in place a team’s energy and imagination are liberated, that conflict can exist as candour is safe. None of this is new information, but understanding the impact of a team’s social connection and collective restoration is something I will prioritise moving forwards.

This week challenged me to consider ‘smart collaboration’. In this weeks podcast resource Collaborating Better Across Silos by Heidi K. Gardner, she discusses the importance of integrating specialist expertise within a team. I realised that in our team at Camden Arts Centre this is part of our focus on partnership working; we understand our limitations and celebrate specialist knowledge and experience, and work collaboratively with external organisations to achieve our aims. The ‘team’ in these instances are broader, and not tethered to just one institution.

I was inspired by our live classroom session. It was wonderful to connect with the other cultural leaders on the programme and discuss our learning, and how we planned to apply this in our roles. In a week based on how we work with others, this connection was well timed and relevant.

I am going to share this week’s learning with my team. We have an away day next week, which is well timed after this week’s reflection and I’ll ensure those 5 points above form part of the day!

Week Four

My goal for this week was to consolidate my learning and create a Leadership Development plan to support my ambitions following Discover.

Over the course I have reflected on myself, my context and the way I work with people around me. This week I reviewed my tasks and wrote a letter to my future self, which Clore Social Leadership will email to me in six months time. This letter is for my eyes only, and in writing it I was surprised by what came out. Within it I detailed my current thoughts, my learning from the Discover course, and my hopes for where I will be in six months time.

I was inspired by the short-read Make Strategic Thinking Part of Your Job, by Ron Carucci, and his advice that strategic leaders must extract themselves from day-to-day problems and do the work that aligns their job with the company’s strategy.’ This really spoke to me and I have included it as an action in my Leadership Development Plan.

My key take-away from this week came from writing the letter to my future self and offering myself some advice. The advice was clear, succinct and honest and I am going to take all 8 points on board!

The main challenge this week was to consider goals for my Leadership Development Plan. I wanted these to be ambitious and relevant, focusing on the development of my strengths, as well as the areas I’d consider weaknesses. My four goals are:

1. Continue to foster and prioritise my personal why.

2. Channel my inner Empowering Enabler to ensure social capital within my team.

3. Develop my capabilities as a Courageous Changemaker – BE BRAVE!

4. Continue to develop my capabilities as a Focused Strategist.

My next steps are to move forward with my leadership plan. This course has given me a greater awareness of my strengths and weaknesses, my priorities, context and how I work with others within a team and as partnerships. I feel like I have learnt so much about myself and my professional approach in the last month, and it has felt good to be challenged and inspired.

It has also empowered me to be bold and celebrate the strengths I have as a leader. With that in mind, here it goes… I am an Empowering Enabler, an Inspirational Communicator, a Passionate Advocate and a Generous Collaborator.

Interested in the Discover Programme?

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