Professor Helen Hackett shares her experience of the programme.
During the Covid-19 crisis, female leaders across the world have stood out for their particular qualities and skills. From Germany to Taiwan, and in Norway, Finland, and Iceland, women in leadership have been remarkably successful in meeting the unprecedented and daunting challenges of the times. Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, has drawn special attention by combining a swift and decisive move into lockdown with a ‘kindness first’ message. The result: just 21 deaths from Covid-19 in total in New Zealand at time of writing, and soaring public approval ratings for Ardern and her government. As a recent column in The Guardian observed, ‘Plenty of countries with male leaders have also done well. But few with female leaders have done badly.’
A year ago, before any of this was dreamed of, I had just graduated from UCL’s Senior Women in Leadership development programme. Looking back, I realise that lessons learned on the course connect with lessons that the world is learning now about the leadership that women can offer. Many qualities traditionally categorised as ‘feminine’ – such as being in touch with one’s emotions, being sensitive to others, being organised and dedicated, and attending to details – have often been undervalued in the past. Even before Covid-19, organisations and companies were waking up to the fact that these are qualities that they need. An even more important insight promoted by the S/WILD programme is that there may be no such thing as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ leadership styles. If we can break out of these archaic stereotypes, we will find that we each have our own original array of talents that we can deploy and develop to make vital contributions.
For me, the S/WILD programme was invaluable in helping me to define my own leadership style and make plans to achieve my goals. I discovered that I shared many experiences with other participants, such as battling with demons of self-doubt, sometimes feeling undervalued and frustrated, or struggling with work-life balance. The programme enhanced our self-belief and gave us practical strategies for managing our working relationships and pursuing our aspirations.
It’s great to know that the S/WILD programme is moving online. The team are dynamic and resourceful, and will ensure that the course in this exciting new format will be at least as rewarding for you as it was for me. I’m also convinced that UCL will benefit from the leadership skills that S/WILD will help you to develop, especially as we all face together the many challenges that lie ahead. Enjoy the course!
With best wishes,
Professor Helen Hackett