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Power and leadership Skills

My experience of the Community Leadership Academy

In this question and answer session, Hannah Burman from Central Jarrow Big Local gives us an insight into how the Community Leadership Academy has helped her build confidence and recognise the skills she can offer as a local leader.

Hello Hannah! First of all, why were you interested in taking part in the Community Leadership Academy?

I had been on the board of Central Jarrow Big Local for a couple of years when I was nominated by our Big Local Worker to take part in the Community Leadership Academy (CLA). The timing was interesting – shortly before the call for the CLA I had been asked to take a more senior role on our Big Local board and claim a leadership title, but had turned it down. I just didn’t feel ready to carry that title and all the responsibility which came along with it.

The participants in my cohort vary widely in personal and professional qualities and come from all walks of life.”

Partly, I think this was because I experienced quite strong ‘Imposter Syndrome’. From my perspective our Big Local area deserved someone who was comfortable leading from the front, was really experienced, efficient, serious and responsible. I guess, the traditional qualities we expect leaders to have and I have never seen myself that way!

I couldn’t deny the urge to do more for our community. But how could I do this when I didn’t hold, and to some extent didn’t really value, those typical leadership qualities? I hoped that the Community Leadership Academy might hold the answer to some of these questions for me.

Was there a particular skill or aim you had in mind when you started the programme?

I went into the CLA hoping to learn some of the traditional qualities I thought would make me a good leader – and, failing that, at least meet some people who could give me some tips on how I might at least look as if I had those qualities!

What have been some of your highlights so far?

So far the biggest impact has been breaking down the stereotypes I held about leaders. The CLA participants in my cohort vary really widely in personal and professional qualities. There are individuals who like to stand back and take a quiet considered approach, as well as those who are more extrovert. There are people from all walks of life, with a variety of life experiences.

I can now see how my values and skills can be useful as a leader.”

My experience has been of a warm, welcoming community of people who are brought together because of their real passion for making a difference in their local area. The theory presented on the course has helped me to fit this new idea of leadership into my framework of understanding. I can now see how my values and skills can be useful as a leader, and as the academy progresses I am enjoying honing these further.

How can you see the experience having an impact on the work you’re already doing in the community?

The CLA has enabled me to see leadership in an entirely new way and has clarified what I do have to offer as a leader in our community. In practice, the CLA has freed me up to express myself and my ideas more in our Big Local partnership, offering more to our board without feeling confined by what I ‘should’ be doing.

If you’re committed to making a difference where you live then the Academy is for you!”

I’m only part way through the program currently, but I feel my toolkit for enabling others to thrive in our partnership is also growing. I look forward to the CLA sessions, feeling invigorated and renewed passion after them which I am then able to share with my partnership board.

Who do you think might benefit from this type of training?

If you are committed to supporting your Big Local community, open to new ideas and ways of thinking, ready to challenge yourself, and want to make a difference then I’d say the CLA is for you!

If you enjoyed Hannah’s story, find out more about the Community Leadership Academy.