Testimonials for the Leading Learning Programme

In these difficult times councils need to invest in the development of new officer leadership capacity, and culture and sport is no different. The Leading Learning Programme has been instrumental over the last four years in developing over 85 future leaders, some of whom are now in senior positions in councils. I would ask councillors to seriously consider creating opportunities for their senior staff to access this important programme provided for the sector by the sector. 
Councillor Flick Rea, Chair, Culture, Sport and Tourism Panel


As a result of the Leading Learning Programme we now have a number of leaders capable of steering the sector through some very difficult times. Despite the constraints on funding we all face, now is the time to start investing in the development of new leadership potential if the sector is to survive.
Martyn Allison, National Adviser on Culture and Sport


I was part of the Leading Learning programme in the first intake and it was really important in helping me to increase my skills and ability in order to take up the director position at Leicester City Council, where I had worked as a head of service in cultural services for a number of years.  I was initially appointed as interim director, which I did for around eighteen months, and then in July this year I was appointed as director of culture and neighbourhoods.

I enjoyed the group sessions on the residential and the structured input from academics, key thinkers and senior influencers in the field of culture and sport. The informal networking opportunities with colleagues from across the country – many sharing the same challenges I faced in continuing to champion culture and sport in these difficult economic times – were equally valuable. I also gained a great deal of confidence (and probably competence!) from the chief executive I was paired with to provide formal mentoring over the period of a year; the sessions with him were challenging, supportive and thought-provoking. The mentor relationship was a particularly valuable experience and I know it was instrumental in my professional development. I followed this up by finding another senior mentor in the field on a more informal basis which was equally valuable.

Overall, I would highly recommend the Leading Learning Programme. It was a positive, high-quality learning experience and well timed for me in terms of my professional development. 
Liz Blyth



NCF Leading Learning Programme: George Candler's view

The Leading Learning Programme, run by the National Cultural Forum, is one of the most complete packages of learning you would ever wish to embark on – starting from an initial 360-degree review of yourself and understanding your own learning styles, through to three residential sessions, plus action learning sets and mentoring.

As a package, each of the different facets compliments the other and not only do you develop valuable insight into various leadership styles (not just in local government: within the business and voluntary sectors as well) but you are alsoable to share your experiences with those in your cohort, as well as supporting one another with your own challenges within the workplace.   

Personally, I found the 12 months incredibly rewarding; I learnt an awful lot about myself and how I could develop as a leader but also professionally as it had a direct impact on my two promotions within 18 months working within local government since I completed the course.

Why did I do it?

A number of reasons. First, for professional development as I felt, like most of us, that I don’t profess to know everything and there is always room for improvement, particularly on political leadership, which I felt was a weakness in my portfolio of skills. Also to back up some of my own vocational learning that I had picked up at work in the leadership of change. However, I was keen to seek out the appropriate academic theory through the NCF Programme. 

Second, personal development. I am very driven and keen to succeed in any field I work within. At present my career goal is to reach the top of local government as a chief executive (or managing director as they are tending to be called these days) and felt that this would provide a fantastic opportunity to accelerate that pathway, which looking back was proven correct.

Finally, to be inspired by others, whether that was the tutors, the guest speakers or my peers on the course. I learn most by watching, listening and talking to other people and this was a wonderful journey of learning for me over the nine months.
When, where and what?

I undertook the Leading Learning Programme from October 2009 through to July 2010. It was based at the Woodside Conference Centre in Warwickshire for the residential sessions, an ideal location.

This was a very comprehensive training package (probably the most comprehensive I have experienced) that addressed what others thought of you in terms of your leadership style, change management and management approaches (through the 360-degree review), how you like to learn and your own learning styles, right through to the invaluable action learning sets and mentoring that was set up through the Leading Learning Programme. 

On top of this were the residential sessions which focused on a broad suite of areas, including leadership and management of change, leadership of strategy and partnership, and strategic financial management, as well as political environment and political management leadership.

What was most rewarding was the insight that we were given, whether through the academic sessions, what we witnessed via video clips or listening to those people who were living and doing leadership, change management and political management in high-pressure situations, people such as Derek Anderson, chief executive at Lambeth, and Cllr Chris White, at the time Chair of the LGA Culture Group. Listening to their insights and reflecting on them was invaluable. 

This learning has since enabled me to develop my relationship management and political skills with elected members which in turn led to a promotion in April 2011 when I was offered the post of area director in Shropshire Council, working with elected members in their specific areas. I have been in this role now for just over 18 months and have found working with them to develop themselves as community leaders and local commissioners in their localities incredibly rewarding.

Mentoring and action learning

Two other areas that I found extremely beneficial were the mentoring and the action learning sets. 

I was very fortunate to have as my mentor Martin Reeves, chief executive of Coventry City Council and currently president of SOLACE. With him I was able to establish a clear action plan which included improving my visible leadership within the authority. Once again, having the opportunity to share my learning and my approaches with somebody at the top of his career and working in a very highly pressured job was wonderful. This helped accelerate not only my learning but also my career within Shropshire. That relationship still continues, even though the mentoring finished in the summer of 2010.

I had mixed opinions of action learning sets I had experienced before.  However, the approach adopted within this course was superb. Our small cohort bonded very well and was able support one another. We opened up and shared with our colleagues a number of issues and challenges that we faced in our own areas of work. The collective thinking and support carried a number of us through some difficult periods of planning and change in our own local authorities, to the benefit of not only those authorities but also to us as individuals on our career paths. 


I have nothing but praise for the NCF Leading Learning Programme. it was a wonderful experience and, as I have mentioned already, it had a significant impact in accelerating my career in the public sector.

Local government has had, and is continuing to experience, the most challenging of times and never has it been more important that we have strong, resilient leaders to take us through this period of unprecedented change. The Leading Learning Programme has already helped to develop over 75 leaders in the last four years and it is important that we find the next batch that will be challenged and inspired to take our sector onto the next level.

George Candler, Area Director, Shropshire Council


Master Class tickets now available online
You can now book places on the Leading Learning Programme Master Class Series on workplace resilience via the online booking service Eventbrite. The series begins on 23 June and all the master class events will be held in central London. Book your places now via www.eventbrite.co.uk

Master Class Series: workplace resilience

A new Leading Learning Programme Master Class Series will focus on the subject of workplace resilience.  These four interactive one-day work shops will enable leaders to survive the unprecedented challenges that the sport, leisure and culture sector is currently facing; and even to thrive in this environment!

Rate your own workplace resilience
Try the free Workplace Resilience Diagnostic Exercise to help you assess your requirements for training and support. Download the tool now.

LLP alumni master class discounts
Leading Learning Programme alumni will be able to take advantage of significant discounts for events in the latest master class series.


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