I found my way to the MSc in Strategy, Change and Leadership at the University of Bristol when I was three years into my role as CEO of a Bristol charity. The charity provided therapy to children and adults who’d experienced sexual abuse, and it was a challenging role.
I’d started the role in 2013, just after the Jimmy Saville scandal. More people than ever were coming forward for support and there was starting to be some funding available. The organisation went through a rapid period of growth. The complexity of the level of demand and pace of change led me to want to understand more about leadership models and theory, to help me navigate the challenges I was dealing with on a daily basis.
The knowledge and experience I gained from the course provided me with so much more than I anticipated. The course opened up a world of academic theory and research, and also allowed me to develop practical, new approaches to complex problems. Challenging the traditional ideas of leadership and presenting the concepts behind distributed leadership, gave me permission to move forward with new management structures. These played to the strengths of the people already in the organisation, and freed me up to be curious about finding answers from others’ expertise, rather than the belief that leadership is about having all the answers.
This facilitative style of leadership also extended to working across boundaries outside of the organisation. I was an integral part of developing a consortium of organisations working in the sector. This collaborative entity went on to achieve much more than one organisation could on its own, and is now a major force in the city for providing services for victims of sexual violence.
I’ve now moved on from my initial role and have developed a new career of leadership coaching and consultancy, alongside a role as CEO of another Bristol mental health charity. I work with SMEs and charities across the country to help them develop their strategic and leadership capabilities. Part of that work is providing a training course on Making Collaboration Work, delivered through the Foundation for Social Improvement based on my dissertation research. Seeing the work come alive and being able to help other organisations benefit from what I’ve learnt is really great.
Michelle Windle, MSc Strategy, Change and Leadership graduate
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