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Leadership Academy advocate: Emma Macquarrie

Leadership Advocate - Alex Haidar

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


Emma Macquarrie

Current role

Strategic ICT Project Manager at Wiltshire Council

Which Leadership academy programme did you join?

Empowering Women (October 2023 in Manchester). 

What were your initial thoughts about participating?

I felt very fortunate to have the chance to take part in the course. However, I must admit that I wasn’t sure if I was the right candidate for it. I believed my prospects for a leadership role were limited and I felt quite nervous about participating.

I was afraid that I would be surrounded by many inspiring women who were going places, and I would feel out of my depth!

What were your first impressions?

The workshops were conducted by knowledgeable and enthusiastic trainers. The topics covered were varied and they provided many practical tools and techniques to assist with personal and professional growth and development. However, the workshops were not the only highlight of the course.

The opportunity to have a coaching and mentoring session with one of the workshop trainers, to reflect on what had been covered in the workshops was fantastic.

In addition, completing a Belbin Self-Perception Inventory, provided a valuable insight into my behaviours and how others perceived me.

Finally, participating in a group exercise was a fantastic way to wrap up the course. Researching for the subject topic was hugely insightful and delivering the presentation at a conference, while very daunting, was a fantastic opportunity.

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

  1. An opportunity to pause and reflect
    During the course, I got the chance to pause and reflect on the things that might be holding me back. It helped me realise that instead of constantly comparing myself negatively to others, my values and beliefs and how I approach situations are actually my strengths and I understood that rather than hide them, I should embrace them as they can add value. The course let me identify areas where I could build my confidence and promote my offer. It provided me with many helpful tools and techniques to do so.
  2. Understanding how others perceive you
    The Belbin Self-Perception Inventory offers a fantastic insight into your behaviours and how others perceive you. The results highlighted that people’s perceptions of me were much more positive than I thought and have certainly helped boost my confidence!
  3. A chance to meet new people
    It was an amazing experience to meet a diverse group of women from various IT roles across the public sector and listen to their life stories. The atmosphere was very supportive, which created an open and honest environment where everyone could freely discuss the challenges they were facing. We soon realized that we were all struggling with similar issues.
  4. Coaching
    A few weeks after the workshops, there’s a coaching session. After having had time to reflect, this is a fantastic opportunity to discuss any issues with a coach and explore actions to help tackle them.
  5. Group Challenge
    The group challenge was an opportunity to collaborate with others from the programme and devise a solution for a real-life issue. While researching for it, I came across a quote that said, “Our stories are our strengths… inspire and educate by sharing some of our wisdom”. The challenge provided us with a chance to attend and present at a conference and share our stories with a wide and varied audience. Hopefully, by talking about our journeys and some of the challenges we’ve overcome along the way, we’ve helped educate and inspire.

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

I have struggled with a strong inner critic for as long as I can remember. It affects me both in my personal and professional life.

I am always worried about how people perceive me and this habit of overthinking everything can be quite exhausting and damaging to my confidence. However, on the course, I was surprised to find out that many people struggle with the same problem and that even confident-looking individuals have their own inner critic.

Although I may never completely silence my inner critic, since the course I’m working hard to lessen the negative impact of that voice. The results of the Belbin Self Perception Inventory have also helped boost my confidence by showing me that people’s perception of me is much more positive than I had imagined.

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

I started my career in local government as a National Management Trainee on the National Graduate Development Programme. The aim of the programme is to develop future leaders within local government. I quickly realised that I had found a fulfilling career that offered opportunities to positively impact people’s lives. However, due to my husband’s career in the armed forces, I had to take an extended career break to focus on raising our children. When I eventually returned to work, I never thought I would have a chance to reach a leadership position again, and my career path would instead take a different direction.

Silhouette of a crow.

A few months after attending the Empowering Women workshops, I saw a promotion opportunity in my workplace. With additional encouragement from a fellow course attendee who was also my colleague, I decided to overcome my inner critic (known as the ‘crow’ on the programme), to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and step out of my comfort zone to apply for the role.

To my amazement, I am now a senior ICT project manager and a part of the extended management team.

Although improving my confidence is still a work in progress, the Empowering Women programme has taught me that I am my biggest obstacle. This experience has made me realise that maybe I still have the potential to achieve more.

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

If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend taking part in the programme. It provides an excellent chance for you to pause and reflect, face any obstacles that may be hindering your progress and potentially open your eyes to a career path that you may have previously thought was out of reach.

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