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Leadership Academy advocate: Emma Cleal

A Q&A where graduates share their experiences of Leadership Academy training. What has it added to their life, both personally and professionally?


Emma Cleal

Current role

Digital Development Manager at Elmbridge Borough Council 

Which Leadership academy programme did you join?

Top Talent 

What were your initial thoughts about participating?

Really interested to learn from colleagues at other councils and find out about different ways of working. But also a bit apprehensive as I’d only been in a role with direct management responsibilities for 18 months when I booked – I wasn’t sure if I was at the right level yet to be thinking about leadership. 

What were your first impressions?

The group were really welcoming, and there were people from a wide range of backgrounds from experienced managers of large departments, to people about to start their first management role. Hearing everyone talk about their challenges and learning gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities, knowing I wasn’t alone in feeling the impostor syndrome! 

What were the most powerful elements of the programme for you?

Spending time focussing on my own values and how they influence my management style. It showed me that there isn’t a single right way of leading, but what’s important is developing your self-awareness, understanding what motivates you and understanding how you can empower others to do the same. 

After graduation, what were the key things you took away with you?

I realised leadership is about more than your position in a structure chart. Good leadership skills can be applied in all sorts of situations at work. The course also showed me the benefit of being part of a great network, where I can continue to be inspired by the great work the alumni network are doing. 

How did you apply these professionally and what are the direct benefits?

Since the course my confidence has improved, and I’ve taken the opportunity to really think about how I can shape my work to help me achieve my goals. I’ve also started to work with my team to help them to do the same. We’ve made more effort to reach out to colleagues in other councils to collaborate on work, which has been really motivating as its helped us get some different perspectives and ideas.

What would you say to anyone thinking about joining the programme you enjoyed?

Book on it right now! Don’t feel like you have to already be at a certain level in your organisation to take part, the course can benefit anyone who is leading others, whether its directly or indirectly. 

Read more about the Top Talent programme. Places are subject to availability and membership level. Check with our Leadership Academy Manager for all  the information you need.