“Leadership behaviour precedes leadership roles”

Posted in: Ideas and debates, Reflections

A note from Jane Millar

I attended the first Aurora day of this round in Cardiff on the 15th January. The theme was ‘Identity, Impact and Voice’ and there were over 90 women there from several universities. All our Bath participants were there and a number of us got very wet on the walk from the station – first lesson, taxi next time if it looks like rain!  I found the day both interesting and engaging.  There was a lot of discussion about how leadership in practice is not simply found in specific leadership roles and we were encouraged to think about how we already ‘do’ leadership in many ways and capacities. I had a badge saying ‘role model’ which felt a bit odd – but again, as we discussed, we are all role models already in various relationships and contexts. What did others think of the day?



Posted in: Ideas and debates, Reflections


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  • From Sarah Halligan:
    There was good humour at the introductory AURORA session in Cardiff, despite the distinctly unfunny weather outside. For me, it was a pleasure to talk about some of the challenges of leadership with colleagues who had extremely varied profiles. Despite the variety, there was a striking amount of common ground and the opportunity to learn from each other. I'm really looking forward to building on this network of peer experience over the course of the programme.

  • I too thoroughly enjoyed Part One of Aurora in Cardiff. For those not in attendance, we started the day off with a Leadership Foundation welcome and some introductions to Aurora, before we heard from guest speaker Heather Graham (formerly Director for Wales, The OU). Other components of the day included: an identity session, discussing inspiring leaders, reflecting on our own leadership styles and skills, and finding our voices! Particular personal highlights of the day were: the interactions with others from a range of disciplines, roles, and universities on our tables (and hearing the lessons they had learnt/challenges encountered); the very useful advice and tips from our table's role model (Jane Millar) on progressing as a leader in our careers, and the perspective on embracing change ("Pebbles in the Pond") from Heather Graham. I am looking forward to Part Two in February!

  • From Niki Panteli:
    There is no doubt in my mind that Jane is indeed a role model to many female academics at Bath and beyond. As we heard of course at the Aurora event, role models come from different streams: they could be celebrities (e.g. Michelle Obama), personal relations (mums, dads, grandmothers etc), or colleagues. I want to add that role models could be from different age groups too. On my table, a junior academic, Gemma, was assigned by her university (Cardiff) as a role model due to her pioneering work on women in SET. Another participant referred to her 6-year old daughter from whom she draws inspiration and energy. (Niki Panteli, Jan 16)

  • Svenja Tams says:
    So, here I was on my first Aurora workshop, along with a group of 90 or so other participants from the South West Higher Education sector. While this large group might sound intimidating, other familiar faces from Bath were present. Reassuring. There was plenty of space for conversation with the smaller group on my table. In this respect, the talks up front were more like prompts, giving us cues for the conversation on our table. It struck me that it's the quality of the conversations around those tables that will construct and shape our evolving take on leadership. It's in conversation that we explore similarities and differences between us. I heard some striking similarities among the participants on my table - leadership as spanning boundaries, holding quite different demands and challenges, and exploring how to integrate them. But there were also differences, with some participants exploring how to have more voice or resolve this or that issue with a colleague. Others offering clear prescription about how to go about working a leadership role, the importance of setting agendas, organizing meetings, managing boundaries, etc. - Listening to this dialogue of different voices about what leadership might mean, perhaps each one of us is shaping a more clearly articulated view of where you/I, personally, might want to place yourself/myself in the leadership space that Higher Education can offer.

  • Marcelle McManus says:
    I thought my first experience of Aurora was really interesting. I found myself sitting at a table with a diverse group; all with really interesting views on life and how to progress in academia. Interestingly all had come across similar challenges. Perhaps that is re-assuring, perhaps not? I had almost dried off by lunch time, but on the way back I found an under cover route almost from the venue back to the train station. I shall remember that for next time!