Ameliorative work: Women electronic music artists’ responses to gender-based discrimination

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In this seminar which took place online on 12 May 2022, Professor Samantha Parsley (University of Portsmouth) and Dr Marjana Johansson (University of Glasgow) presented their recent paper which explores gender-based discrimination in the electronic music industry. Based on data collected for a larger project on women DJ producers, the paper takes as its starting point the gendered conditions, characteristics and lived experience of work in the cultural industries. Specifically, the paper examines the invisible labour that women artists perform as they negotiate opportunities and manage their reputation and careers in this male-dominated creative occupation. The paper introduces the concept ‘ameliorative work’ to analyse both individual and collective efforts by women to survive and thrive in the industry. In so doing it responds to recent initiatives to increase gender diversity in the music industry and highlights a sector of the creative industries that has so far received limited research attention.

You can watch the full recording here;

HIV Programme Management and Service Delivery in Zimbabwe

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Bristol Leadership and Change Centre‘s Professor Peter Case recently returned from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where he helped run a series of workshops linked to a project funded by a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant and being delivered in collaboration with researchers from the University of California, San Francisco. The project, which Peter co-leads, is entitled ‘Optimizing Stakeholder Operating Models for HIV Prevention in Zimbabwe’ (OPTIMISE, for short) and has been running since June 2020. It aims to assist the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) to improve HIV prevention programme management and service delivery. The workshops took place between 4-8th April and marked a mid-stream opportunity to review progress to date and plan activities for the remainder of the project. Using participative action research as the main approach to leading change, the intervention seeks to integrate HIV prevention services (which are typically funded by a variety of external donors) and move them forward in a more effective and sustainable way in relation to MOHCC strategy.

The workshops involved reviewing progress with HIV health professionals representing five pilot districts in Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Manicaland provinces. The national director the MOHCC HIV Programme, Dr Murunguni, and his deputy were present to hear and comment on the progress updates, as were Provincial Medical Directors and other senior administrators. There was also workshop representation from key INGO partners, such as, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Population Services International, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and prospective future donors, including the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). District-level research groups highlighted key improvements to service delivery that had been achieved to date and discussed the results of ‘user research’ presented by the UCSF/UWE team. The events were a great success, with strong endorsements for the OPTIMISE project coming from the MOHCC and the prospect of future funding to expand the work stemming from the review exercise.

On the final day of events, 18 healthcare professionals associated with the OPTIMISE project and enrolled on FBL/UWE’s Post-Graduate Certificate in Professional Practice in Change Leadership (PPCL) had to opportunity to present and report on independent project work that they had completed as part of their degree. The module is being delivered in collaboration with a local HE provider, the Women’s University in Africa, and, as evidenced by the project presentations, is contributing significantly to the strengthening of leadership and management capabilities of Zimbabwe’s HIV Programme staff. Thanks go to the UWE/WUA local tutors, Dr Greyling Viljoen and Dr Priscilla Mataure, for their help in delivering the PPCL presentation workshop. The team is also grateful to Katie Joyce, UWE PPCL module leader, for her support. As with the workshop outcomes, the presentations were very well received by senior MOHCC colleagues and the project donor.

The Unleadership Movement: Confident Connecting and Collaborating

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The Unleadership Movement is a growing collaboration of practitioners and scholars from public, private and voluntary sectors. The movement seeks to reflect upon leaderly practices that have been illuminated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Its mission is to establish how this learning can be taken forward by participants to make an impact in their organisations and communities. In this month’s blog we focus on collaboration and connection – exploring how Unleaders make their best contribution to make change both with, and through others. Unleaders don’t seek to achieve followership but seek to engage with others to get the job done, all driven by a strong purpose to do what is right at the time.

We were lucky enough to have a conversation with Rebecca Lovelace, Founder of Building People CIC in January and collaboration was such a theme throughout our conversation we thought we’d share some examples here.  Building People is a community interest company, founded in 2017, bringing people, knowledge and opportunities together to address the challenges of skills, diversity and social value in the built environment sector.

Rebecca describes herself as “Chief Dot Joiner” who didn’t explicitly set out to create Building People. With a growing sense of frustration, she recognised that there was a skills crisis in the UK built environment and a lack of diversity not reflective of UK society. There was no single place where aspiring candidates could find vacancies, work experience, mentoring and career resources and so she had hoped “to irritate and prod and poke enough people to do it”, to take the obvious opportunity. Instead, after being prompted by a colleague – “Why don’t you do it?”, she gave it a go and things just grew. There is currently a network of 45 member organisations working at a grass roots level supporting underrepresented groups.

Rebecca is a great example of an unleader; by connecting openly, collaborating confidently, and teaming up with other organisations her ideas and community initiatives have reached far beyond her initial purpose.

She describes the UK Built Environment sector as fragmented and advocates for a truly holistic, collaborative approach, moving away from focussing on one particular profession or one particular trade. She says she constantly reiterates that she is not duplicating but collaborating, and with this approach people are less scared to join in.

“There is an orbit – people circulating, and we come together. There are many dot joiners. People have particular passions. Having a really inclusive approach avoids that sense of competition, we can share opportunities. All the language and messaging is about doing this together, being inclusive.”

When starting off, unleaders have no intention to secure the commitment of others and no achievement motivation beyond making a difference. We saw this during our conversation with Rebecca. She describes her motivations as reflecting that the world we are in could be so much better, happier and safer if it looked different, and if we had more diverse people designing a built environment and creating innovation from different perspectives.  She says she’d love to fix everything and that she has a habit of trying to make change, just keeping going because she can see ways to make a difference, taking the approach of “What if?” She describes living her dream 24/7, because it feels the right thing to do – creating something unique that doesn’t follow a traditional model.

It was so interesting to hear how Rebecca’s values have driven such a strong desire to collaborate widely and have become a part of Building People’s identity and the way they do the right thing – together.What drives you to collaborate? And what are the implications of such an approach for your leadership practice? How has this worked for you and your organisations? Share your thoughts with us! Carol, Kay, Selen and Hugo @The Unleadership Movement!

LinkedIn: Rebecca Lovelace

LinkedIn: The Unleadership Movement Twitter: @Unleadership_

Podcast Channel: The Unleadership Movement Podcast Instagram: @Unleadership_

Developing Leadership Capacity Conference 2022

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We are pleased to announce the 12th Developing Leadership Capacity Conference (DLCC) will be taking place online from 12th-13th July 2022, hosted by Bristol Leadership and Change Centre at the Bristol Business School, UWE.

** Extended Deadline for Call for Contributions – 3rd May 2022 **

Theme: Leading to Care – Foregrounding Health and Well-being in Leadership Development and Education

Extreme challenges such as climate change, the Covid 19 pandemic and social inequality have a direct impact on the health and well-being of individuals and communities around the world. In this conference we challenge those that are developing and educating leaders and leadership to consider what might be done to develop a deeper sense of care and to consider the implications for organisations and societies. We are hoping to open a rich conversation that enables leadership learning to link more clearly to issues of health and well-being and to put these at the forefront of the objectives that it wishes to accomplish.

We would also like to create a constructive, collaborative space through this conference that enables us to explore issues and share ideas and practices for socially responsible leadership learning and development. Hence, we invite contributions on leadership learning, development and education that enable us as a community of practitioners and academics to critically examine leadership development and education’s role in caring for those that leaders are responsible to and having a positive impact on their well-being.

Whilst we are aiming to advance an understanding of issues of social responsibility, care, health and well-being, the conference will also welcome any other more general discussions of leadership learning, development, and education.

Call for Contributions

Initial submissions to the conference should be in the form of a 600-word abstract and should be sent to the conference organiser – Professor Gareth Edwards at by the extended deadline of 3rd May 2022. There are three streams where contributions can be submitted, and we ask all submissions to specify the stream they are intending to contribute to. The streams are:

  1. Leadership Learning and Development (LLD) Research and Theory

Submissions to this stream should make contributions towards research and/or theory in leadership learning, development, and education.

  • LLD Practical Workshops

Submissions to this stream should be practically orientated and should be small workshops that explore innovative and creative techniques and tools used in leadership learning, development, and education. Space and resources will be provided for explorations, so requirements, such as room size and time should be made clear in the abstract/summary submitted.

  • LLD Case Studies

This submission stream is dedicated to those wishing to describe and explore examples of innovative and creative leadership learning, development, and education.

All submissions should include on the cover page:

  • Title
  • Name of author(s)
  • Organisation affiliation/position(s)
  • Address
  • E-mail address
  • Topic Area and Stream

The submissions should further be:

  • A word or PDF file
  • Written in English
  • Indicating word count clearly on cover page

*Please note* We will do everything we can to allocate you a time slot which works with your time zone, so please don’t let this put you off if you will be presenting from outside the UK.

For any questions or queries, please contact Professor Gareth Edwards –

The Unleadership Movement: Catching the Wave – Being alert to the possibility of NOW!

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The Unleadership Movement is a growing collaboration of practitioners and scholars from public, private and voluntary sectors. The movement seeks to reflect upon leaderly practices that have been illuminated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Its mission is to establish how this learning can be taken forward by participants to make an impact in their organisations and communities. In this month’s blog we focus on catching the wave – exploring how unleaders use their intuition to take action in a timely manner to make change. 

As we are writing in January, let’s mention New Year’s Resolutions! Whether you are a firm believer or whether you resist making pledges that may be broken, you will all have a sense of the time being fundamentally right – or wrong. You might describe this as “gut feeling” or “sixth sense” or perhaps it’s just beyond description.  

Traditional approaches to leadership advocate a more planned approach to decision making; taking action based on deductive or inductive processes. Using general established and accepted “facts” to deduce a conclusion for a particular scenario or noticing specifics of a situation and collecting enough data to generalise and induce a solution based on the evidence.  These approaches to using top-down theorising, collecting evidence and making rational decisions are what is generally expected of heroic leaders. They plan, assess and review in order to align resources and direct followers to take action based on rationality and logic. During the pandemic leaders took control in exceptional circumstances and created grand plans to execute solutions to the PPE supply challenges, infection control and community support.   

But as plans were created and data was gathered, others were taking small scale actions to make a difference. Fashion designers were banding together to make scrubs, teenagers were printing 3D masks, restaurants were using waste food to feed those in need. Action was being taken in a timely manner without data, evidence or strategies. These actions seem to have been guided by an innate desire to act, driven by values where a need was sensed. Unleaders were using “gut feel” or abductive reasoning –  probably most akin to informed guessing in practical terms – which was described by Charles Sanders Pierce in 1929 as “This singular guessing instinct”.  Our most famous example of an abductionist in literature is the detective Sherlock Holmes.  

So how can we use abduction in the workplace to take timely action? What stops us? In our workshops barriers were discussed such as risk averse cultures, a preference for logical reasoning and a lack of recognition that there is value in a mix of decision-making styles.  How could we enable ourselves to use abductive reasoning more in our workplaces? By not waiting for permission to be given, but to act, making space to reflect on ways of taking action, listening to others’ opinions, by seeing value created in different ways, and being clear on what adds value to our purpose. Through these experiments, it was felt that there could be potential for more information sharing, more proactivity, more problem solving and perhaps more communication in decision making. We also reflected on finding the right time was to use this approach; through being clear around risks, where we can add value and our own skills and experience. The group considered how different types of reasoning can complement each other and facilitate timely action being taken.

We decided that we could give ourselves permission to:

Give ourselves freedom to make decisions with incomplete information.

Reflect before acting – be creative.

Be prepared to fail and learn.

Focus on our purpose and intention.

Say no – to disrupt, make mischief and play.

Look at new opportunities.

Thinking about the worst-case scenario.

Deferring to hegemonic leadership styles.

Not ask permission.

Think outside of the box and be brave.

Focus on the bright spots.

Bring people together.

Delight in ideas. Develop ourselves.

So next time you have a decision to make, what will you do? Will you reflect on how you might take more timely action? Can you catch the wave? Share your thoughts with us!

Carol, Kay, Selen and Hugo @The Unleadership Movement


Twitter: @Unleadership_

Bristol Leadership & Change Centre 2021 Highlights

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As one year comes to an end and another begins, we take a look back on 2021 to share some of the highlights from Bristol Leadership & Change Centre and the interesting projects members have been involved with.

Research Highlights

Professor Peter Case secured a prestigious Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant (in collaboration with the Malaria Elimination Initiative research centre based at the University of California, San Francisco) to assist the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) in Zimbabwe to improve HIV prevention.

Dr Gareth Edwards, Dr Harriet Shortt, Professor Doris Schedlitzki from London Met University and Dr Sylwia Ciuk from Oxford Brookes University were successful in securing funding from the British Academy of Management (BAM) and the Society for the Advancement of Management (SAMS). The £145,000 fund will enable them to research leadership and language through visual representation over the next two years. They are hoping that this piece of research can encourage leadership studies and other organisation and management disciplines to take language more seriously in their research with the objective of becoming more inclusive.

Katie Joyce, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies completed her first Principal Investigator role following a successful research bid. She project managed and chaired the workshop: ‘Digital Methodologies – principles and practice of researching online’. The bid was approved by the Society for the Advancement of Management Studies.  The project team also included Dr Harriet Shortt, Prof Katrina Pritchard (Swansea University) and Craig Lennox (RBI input and event intern).

Professor Carol Jarvis, Dr Hugo Gaggiotti, Dr Selen Kars and Kay Galpin  were lucky enough to receive Higher Education Innovation Funding for The Unleadership Movement, to run a series of collaborative workshops in 2021 to start to understand more about the dimensions they’d identified; Paying it Forward with Kindness; Living with Imperfection; Catching the Wave and Confident Collaborating. The Unleadership Movement has gone from strength to strength in 2021 – from an idea to a movement! Since beginning with curiosity about leaderly practices in the pandemic and reflecting how both the state of exception and our consequent returning to a sense of normal they have learned so much this year.

Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System (ICS) is leading the way on integration to close the gap in health and wellbeing outcomes against a backdrop of limited finances, increasing population numbers and increasing numbers of people living in ill health. To support this, partners are working as an Organisation Development (OD) Collaborative across the whole system to develop well supported, informed and involved leaders and services that have the ability to influence the wider system into working effectively with partners across health, social care and the voluntary sector to provide joined up patient/service user care. In preparation for the introduction of ICS’s on a formal footing in 2022, Professor Carol Jarvis, Rob Sheffield, Professor Richard Bolden, Selen Kars and Margaret Roberts were commissioned by NHS Midlands Leadership Academy (Leadership and Lifelong Learning) to conduct a pre-diagnostic study. This research seeks to develop recommendations, grounded in a robust investigation of current and best practice, that will support the implementation of a sustainable, system-wide community of practice, with an emphasis on cultural development; service improvement/innovation methodologies; and leadership and in support of providing joined up patient/service user care.

Another research highlight for Professor Richard Bolden in 2021 was working on a project for the NHS London Leadership Academy into the experiences of healthcare workers through the pandemic and the implications and learning for leadership practice and development. The project was delivered entirely online and involved a diverse team of staff and visiting faculty including Anita Gulati, Addy Adelaine, Charlotte von Bulow and Conroy Grizzle. They also worked with a professional artist, Julian Burton from Delta7, to bring the participants’ powerful stories to life. Whilst the report is not yet in the public domain it is informing discussions within and beyond the Academy about how best to support and develop individuals, organisations and the wider system now and into the future.

Teaching & Learning

Professor Peter Case supported the delivery of a two-day face-to-face training workshop in August 2021 for nineteen Zimbabwe healthcare professionals enrolled on the FBL Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice in Change Leadership (PPCL). The students are working as part of the Bill & Melinda Gates funded project co-led by Peter to restructure and improve HIV/AIDS prevention in Zimbabwe. The PPCL module is designed to enable students to combine their studies with experiential workplace learning.

A teaching and learning highlight for Professor Richard Bolden was setting up and running the Leadership, Complexity and Change in Healthcare module for the Advanced Clinical Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship programme. This has now been delivered to over 60 participants in two cohorts (May-June and October-November 2021) and will continue as a core module on the programme. He delivers it alongside Gina Burns and Rob Sheffield, as well as colleagues from the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences.

Katie Joyce has enjoyed a number of teaching highlights in 2021, including module leading the ‘Professional Practice in Change Leadership’ (PPCL) which was an excellent example of highly effective teamwork and partnership working across continents, despite complex challenges faced due to the Covid19 pandemic. Katie has also been working in collaboration with HAS, leading on the coach education aspect of a trailblazing undergraduate programme titled: ‘Student Healthcare Leadership Programme’ (SHLP).  Students on this programme are allocated to a coach (a senior healthcare leader), and undertake x3 one hour 1:1 coaching session with the aim of developing their leadership capabilities.  Developed by the Council of Deans of Health in 2016 and funded by Health Education England (HEE), UWE are one of the first universities in England to run a health-specific coaching scheme of this kind.

Dr Harriet Shortt and Katie Joyce together ran the first online ‘Personal Mastery in Leadership’ module, during a pandemic AND getting lovely feedback!

Dr Arthur Turner‘s teaching highlight is working with Dr Karine Mangion on the ILM Coaching and Mentoring Certificates at Level 5 and Level 7. Karine has brought a huge amount of expertise and laughter to these vocational qualifications, which over the past 8 years have had over 70 registered at any one time.


Inspired by the pioneering Finnish ‘Team Academy’ approach, UWE Bristol was among the first to introduce this programme to the UK. Our award-winning BA (Hons) in Business (Team Entrepreneurship) is an innovative degree course that allows students to develop practical skills by working in teams, creating value for organisations, forming ventures and ultimately learning how to manage themselves to become effective problem-solvers. A new Routledge book series outlining case studies and research from the Team Academy around the world has recently been co-edited by Berrbizne Urzelai Lopez De Aberasturi, one of the Team Coaches at UWE, and provides valuable insights for those looking to find out more about this approach. There are four books in the series, including: Team Academy and Entrepreneurship Education, Team Academy in Practice, Team Academy: Leadership and Teams, and Team Academy in Diverse Settings.

Along with Professor Jonathan Gosling, Professor Peter Case published a set of open access resources in collaboration with the Malaria Elimination Initiative (MEI) and the University of California, San Francisco. The resources are entitled LEAD: Leadership & Engagement for Improved Accountability & Delivery of Services Framework  and comprise a set of guidelines and practical tools for Ministries of Health and advisors to assist with the improvement of malaria healthcare services. It is the product of work that Peter and Jonathan have been conducting with MEI for the past seven years in low- and middle-income countries across the globe.

Dr Jenna Pandeli, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies, had her research featured in an article in the Financial Times titled ‘Orange Collar’ workers are not the best solution to labour shortages. An excerpt of the article follows. Jenna was also delighted to discover that her UWE colleague had read the article in the Spanish Financial Times whilst travelling in Barcelona!

‘Much of the work that does take place inside prison workshops, even for private sector companies, is poor preparation for life outside. Jenna Pandeli at the University of the West of England spent 10 months observing and interviewing male prisoners involved in privately contracted prison work such as breaking up electrical items for recycling, putting stickers on parcels and sorting through waste. The work was mostly boring, monotonous and low-skilled, she found. Indeed, these jobs were disappearing from the world outside the prison gates because they were being offshored to cheaper locations. In England and Wales, the minimum pay for prisoners who work is just £4 a week.’

Dr Charlotte von Bülow and Dr Peter Simpson were successful in securing a new book publication

With Palgrave Macmillan which will be coming out in Spring 2022.  Offering fresh insights for leadership students, researchers, and practitioners on the challenges of working in uncertainty, the book offers a novel perspective on Negative Capability as a way of being. Each chapter explores an aspect of Negative Capability through the accounts of leaders and managers who had the courage to explore this way of being and share the stories about its powerful impact. Ultimately, this book explores how a practice of attention can lead to new ways of understanding the role of purpose, leisure, and passion in leadership practice. They’ve received some wonderful endorsements.

Dr Arthur Turner, Dr Gareth Edwards and Dr Harriet Shortt had their paper published: “Reflections from the field (mountain, cityscape and park): walking for management development and links to being-in-the world, belonging and “Ba”” in the Journal of Management Development.

Arthur, Gareth and Harriet (plus a colleague, Catherine Latham from South Wales) worked together for seven years to pull together data that they had been collecting from programmes and interventions where we had been utilising aspects of walking in the development of leadership. They selected, together, three different theoretical stand-points and discussed in their paper the reasons why they thought walking and adult leadership development went together so well. 


During 2021, The Unleadership team were able to work with some interns who have helped them to develop their identity on social media and to create some engaging animations and videos to share their ideas. What has been really refreshing is the rich stories their collaborators have shared with them during their six online workshops, from describing how they can ”let the human spirit into our workplaces” to making time in our communities and our lives to be true the values we hold dear. They also enjoyed sharing some learning at the Collective Leadership for Scotland Campfires event in September with an international audience where they heard more ideas about connection, bravery and communityship during adversity. It’s been inspiring to hear how thoughts about leading, not leadership – have resonated with others; some who have felt that they have found a new language to talk about what they are doing, taking leaps of faith, driven by the desire to make a difference and to connect with others without encapsulating their experiences into a leader-follower dichotomy.

Towards the end of 2021, Bristol Leadership & Change Centre hosted two online events before and after COP26. The first event in October, two of our visiting faculty members – Charlene Collison and Professor Jonathan Gosling discussed the opportunities, and likely challenges, of COP26 in securing real progress on climate change.  Drawing on extensive experience in a range of contexts, the speakers will shared their thoughts and reflections on what a successful COP needed to enable and set society up to deliver.

The second event in December began with a conversation between Jonathan Gosling and Steve Martineau, a member of the team appointed by the UK High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP26 Nigel Topping. Steve began by discussing the background to this work and the role of the Climate Action Champions in representing the voices of business and other communities in the discussions. He illustrated this by characterising the national governments as vertical systems, with business, finance, etc. as horizontal systems that intersect these at a global level. Following this discussion, Charlene Collison shifted our attention to the impacts of climate change on local communities and individuals around the world. She did this by highlighting that even with the agreements at COP26 we are on track for a 2.5oC increase in global temperatures – well beyond that experienced through human history.

External Engagement

Visiting faculty member Charlene Collison, Associate Director, Sustainable Value Chains and Livelihoods, Forum for the Future.Charlene leads multi-stakeholder collaborative initiatives across a range of sectors and themes, including directing the Cotton 2040 initiative in which she launched a climate change risk assessment tool for the global cotton sector and ran a series of workshops with cross sector participation to understand the risks, what the implications might be along the value chain, and priority actions the sector needs to take.

In 2021 Professor Richard Bolden and colleagues completed Phase 4 of the local evaluation of the Golden Key programme, which compiled evidence from a range of initiatives to support system change for the provision of services for people with multiple disadvantage in Bristol. They also supported the successful bid led by Bristol City Council to secure funding for a further three year’s work as part of the Changing Futures initiative from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as well as the National Lottery Community Fund.

Perspectives on Leadership in Global Higher Education

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Reposted with permission from the Advance HE blog, 16/12/2021

Over the past two months, as part of our scoping study for the Advance HE Leadership Survey, we have run 11 two-hour online roundtables on the nature and purpose(s) of leadership in contemporary higher education (HE). More than 100 individuals have contributed, representing the views of early career academics, established academics and professors, professional service directors and managers, senior executives, staff and organisational development practitioners, various representative associations, and HE support and funding bodies. While many contributors have been UK-based we have purposely engaged members of an international HE community and captured perspectives from multiple country settings including Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Egypt, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.

Together these conversations have provided rich and revealing insights into a turbulent and changing HE environment. It has been humbling to hear the scale of the challenges faced by HE staff at all levels and colleagues across the HE community, and equally inspiring to witness their commitment to the social value and societal benefit of higher education. The roundtables have been emotional, cathartic and energizing – a moment for reflection within ever more crowded diaries, and an opportunity to listen and to be heard by peers with compassion and empathy.

Unsurprisingly the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a backdrop to much of the conversation and has amplified many long-standing concerns. Issues of funding, workload, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, government policy, marketisation and the growth of hybrid and digital working are key priorities and concerns impacting global HE. Such concerns, however, are not easily resolved and their complex interdependencies highlight the difficulties of successfully navigating this shifting and uncertain terrain.

Within each roundtable we spent time exploring how values and purpose shape leadership in HE and, whilst participants articulated a strong set of ethical principles, they acknowledged that these are not always recognised and rewarded within an increasingly competitive and target-driven sector. Many of the discussions evoked a sense of existential crisis and the need for a much stronger sector-wide debate about the purpose and contribution of HE in a changing world. Torn between the demands and expectations of a range of powerful stakeholders there was a sense that some institutions, and their leaders, may potentially be losing sight of what really matters.

We concluded each roundtable by collating thoughts on the skills, competencies and behaviours required of HE leaders now and into the future. Common themes that emerged included courage, compassion, authenticity, agility, resilience, communication, decisiveness and the ability to build and sustain trust. Whilst many of the points referred to leaders in formal positions there was recognition of the need to develop and nurture collective or shared leadership at all levels.

As we work through the transcripts we are reminded of the pressing need for critical discussion about HE leadership during a time of global challenges and look forward to sharing emerging findings at the dissemination and engagement events in February 2022.

Authors: Richard Bolden, Professor of Leadership and Management, UWE, Bristol; Richard Watermeyer, Professor of Education, University of Bristol; Doug Parkin, Principal Adviser for Leadership and Management, Advance HE; and Katy Outhart, Membership Services Executive, Advance HE

Averting Climate Catastrophe: Collaboration, Care & COP26

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From 31 October to 12 November 2021 the UK is hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, which has brought together representatives from around the world to accelerate progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. With the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighting the pace and scale of climate change there is widespread agreement that this may be the last opportunity to avert irreversible, catastrophic damage to global ecosystems.

On Tuesday 26 October 2021 Charlotte Von Bulow and Professor Richard Bolden from the Bristol Leadership & Change Centre hosted an online discussion with two of their visiting faculty members Charlene Collison and Professor Jonathan Gosling to discuss the opportunities and challenges of COP26 in securing real progress on climate change.

In her opening thought starter, Charlene Collison set the scene by stating ‘This is the COP where the rubber hits the road’, going on to explain that despite knowing that we need radical change for decades, more than half of all CO2 emissions have been emitted in the past 30 years, and we’ve emitted as much in the past 12 years as we did between 1750 and 1971.

We know that staying within (or close to) the 1.5 C budget requires dramatic emissions reductions – requiring change across all societal systems – but most of the emission pathways that see us remain under 1.5 C emit more than the budget would allow, but make up for it with the large-scale use of negative emissions in the future. There’s a gap between 2030 commitments and net zero by 2050 and we haven’t really worked out how to close it.

In Jonathan Gosling’s thought starter, he framed the question ‘Are the expectations I’d like to have of the leaders in Glasgow at all realistic?’ going on to explain the competing interests like employability and stability, and the likely disruption and feeling of collapse we will experience as citizens. However, we hope that the leaders will come together to provide frameworks to make the changes needed. But what do we need to do to make this the most likely outcome? Jonathan explained that this is going to be an engagement with our leaders, and that as citizens we need to be engaging in ways which are less demanding of salvation and more recognising an adaptive interchange and negotiation that’s going to have to take place.

The event continued with a number of questions proposed to Charlene and Jonathan;

  • What are the implications for the decisions that will be made at COP for leaders in business and civil society? What will it mean for what they need to and can do?
  • Why is collaboration so essential to staying within – or as close as possible – to 1.5 degrees? What are the challenges and opportunities to collaboration? What are the implications for leaders?
  • The role of care – assuming stewardship of our global future. What does it mean and why is this essential?
  • What are our summary recommendations to leaders in the context of what might, or might not, be achieved at COP?

To find out their thoughts on the questions above and watch the full event, please click the button below.

Bristol Leadership & Change Centre will be hosting a post-COP discussion on Wednesday 8th December 2021 from 16:00 – 17:30 GMT

The Unleadership Movement: Paying it forward – giving without expecting to receive.

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The Unleadership Movement is a growing collaboration of practitioners and scholars from public, private and voluntary sectors who seek to reflect upon leaderly practices that have been illuminated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Its mission is to establish how this learning can be taken forward by participants to make a leaderly impact in their organisations and communities. In this month’s blog we focus on the practice of paying it forward. We’ve described this as a spontaneous proactive gesture; the best contribution someone can make to others without anticipation of any personal benefit. It is made in the spirit of compassion, generosity and optimism.

In many cases unleaders have described the feeling of being compelled to help out; be that printing 3D masks, cooking and delivering food to those in need or walking 100 laps of the garden to raise money for the NHS. When unleading, little attention is paid to the quantity and magnitude of these gestures; it is a matter of doing whatever is possible, with little regard for skills and resources as the primary factor in deciding to act. This stands in contrast with how leadership is discussed in mainstream rhetoric – where the leader is expected to have developed, and to exhibit a range of skills from planning and delivery to communication and persuasion, in order to deliver grand plans and successful outcomes.

However, when doing things for others, whilst having the ‘right’ skills and resources may not be crucial, intention is key. These gestures are made with a social motivation but without an anticipated personal benefit. Aimed at a greater good than the individual, unleadership disrupts the traditional gift and counter-gift rules of exchanging. How would our leaderly practices in our own organisations be transformed if we offered an act of kindness without expecting a personal benefit? The ethos of paying it forward and small acts of kindness is that taken together they create a social benefit, and in that sense, there can be an expectation of the ‘community’ getting something in return instead. In a series of collaborative workshops, we discussed small acts of kindness and paying it forward. We heard about so many stories of kindness received from unexpected places both in our workplaces and our communities surrounding the sharing of food, offers of friendship, and people giving time to others, perhaps just saying thank you, good morning or hello.

One of the most memorable stories shared was about how an individual had given the time to post team members a pink jiffy bag full of unexpected gifts such as sweet treats on regular occasions. This sparked both excitement and anticipation but also a sense of appreciation, feeling noticed and cared about.

One of our challenges through the discussion was to consider how we can continue to bring these acts into the workplace and what we could do to continue to allow these practices to thrive and develop. We used the metaphor of the rainforest to consider how we could build an ecosystem of kindness.

We discussed that kindness is particular to an individual, and that offering kindness is perhaps about understanding who another person is, or what they might need or appreciate. The idea of time was also a recurring theme, both offering kindness in a timely fashion at the right time and giving time to others. Seeing this as giving time offered a different perspective on the way we can notice and take action. There was a real sense of optimism that we could “unshape organisations” and find spaces for kindness, even in the most bureaucratic or hierarchical organisations. We felt that there was room to invite the human spirit into our working worlds, in all its uniqueness and generosity.

There were some inspirational pledges at the end of the session where our collaborators showed how they wanted to continue to “rock the boat with kindness”:

“noticing sameness and difference”

“to do and be what sparks joy”

“appreciate the star in everyone”

“checking in with people”

Inspiring thoughts. We’ll leave you with the words of Benjamin Franklin outlining the offer of his loan to Benjamin Webb and his request to repay the loan by lending the sum to another man. “I am not rich enough to afford much in good works and so am obliged to be cunning and make the most of little”. How can we make the most of small acts of kindness so that we can “pay it forward’ in generosity to our workplaces and our communities? How will this allow the human spirit into our working lives for greater social good?

You are all warmly invited to join our movement and contribute to the conversation! Join us next month for some thoughts on living with the unknown – how can we embrace imperfection in our leaderly practices?

Carol Jarvis, Hugo Gaggiotti, Selen Kars-Unluoglu  & Kay Galpin

LinkedIn: The Unleadership Movement

Twitter: @unleadership_

Spotlight on Professor Jonathan Gosling

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The International Leadership Association (ILA) brings together professionals with a keen interest in the study, practice, and teaching of leadership. It is the largest worldwide community committed to leadership scholarship, development, and practice. Each year, the ILA’s Leadership Legacy Program honours those who have made a significant lifetime contribution to the field of leadership through their published works and influential support of leadership knowledge and practice. We are delighted to hear that Jonathan Gosling, a Visiting Professor at Bristol Leadership & Change Centre, will be awarded the 2021 ILA Lifetime Achievement Award at the ILA Global Conference in Geneva later this month, and we asked him to comment about his prestigious award.

“This award recognises work with colleagues, many now based at the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre. Work which has touched the worlds of public health and private equity, from humanitarian emergencies to defence strategies.  We have always aimed to appreciate and support the extraordinarily complex work of leadership – which includes the webs of cooperation and contest in which it is often entangled.  One of our current projects with BLCC is to embed a truly worldly mindset in our Executive MBA courses by enabling students to work alongside leaders from all over the world. This is essential if we are to stand for leadership that is bold enough to stay connected and compassionate in the face of such a pressured world. So it is very pleasing that our lifetime (so far) of achievements (so far) are recognised by the ILA, and I am most grateful.”

Jonathan works closely alongside BLCC members, including Professor Richard Bolden and Professor Peter Case. He has authored a wide range of books, chapters and journal articles, many of which can be found on his personal website. The following except is taken from a recent chapter titled ‘Leadership and Management in a time of Deep Adaptation’ (2021). 

“The chapter is mainly concerned with how to sustain a capacity for leadership to contribute to organising in ways that remain kind and inclusive while also being effective and appreciated as socially legitimate.

“Leadership and management are aspects of ‘organising’ that traditionally place a special emphasis on the authority of one or a few people. Many other organising processes are required for productive work and wholesome community life (such as cooperation, peer pressure, self-authorisation and coercion (Alvesson & Blom, 2019)), and all come under pressure when things start to fall apart. Radical change tends to give rise to deep-seated responses to anxiety in individuals, groups and whole societies, especially when the threats are as all-encompassing as a pandemic of climate chaos. Leading ‘deep adaptation’ in periods of collapsing social structures requires the maturity to tolerate, contain and ‘turn’ these responses in constructive ways. This can be accomplished through individual initiative as well as through the kinds of behaviours and structures that allow leadership (along with other membership contributions) from many people.

“Leadership of adaptation is diverse and sometimes hardly recognisable as leadership. It may be found in counter-cultural experiments, in some protest and some policing, and is often persistent and undemonstrative in the sustaining institutions of society (schools, churches, professions etc.). It helps us reconcile with the situation, measure the appreciation of risks, grieve when we suffer loss, weigh with discretion when our options seem narrowed, and to choose pragmatic and courageous change. 

“However, while lauding the self-disciplined reasonableness of this kind of leadership, we should not totally eschew the bravado of the narcissist nor the bright hopefulness of co-dependent saviors: although both trade in unreality to some extent, they meet real emotional needs in individuals, organizations, and society.” (Gosling, 2021)

Understanding the strengths and limitations of different forms of leadership, and ensuring we have the capacity for deep adaptation, is a task to which our colleagues at UWE, Bristol much to offer.

To find out more about this, Pelumbra Ltd or indeed any other projects Jonathan is working on get in touch by email at


Alvesson, M., & Blom, M. (2019). Beyond leadership and followership. Working with a variety of modes of organizingOrganizational Dynamics, 48(1): 28-37.

Gosling, J. (2021) Leadership and management in a context of Deep Adaptation in Bendell, J. and Read R. Deep Adaptation: Preparing for climate chaos. London: Polity Press

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