Information and guidance

1 Our leadership, this course

This is a course that seeks to develop your understanding of leadership and begins the task of helping you develop your leadership practice. The work is continued, with more of an emphasis on practice, in our other optional leadership course, Collaborative leadership in voluntary organisations [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Both of these courses are aimed at anyone working in or around voluntary organisations – people employed by them, people who volunteer for them and people who run them. Why such a broad base of people? Because it is our case that we can help build leadership, we can all invest leadership with meaning, as long as we learn to think differently and more ambitiously. That is because we are going to be making the case in this course, as well as the one that follows it on collaborative leadership, i.e. something that many people can contribute to, that leadership should be thought of as a practice, as something we nurture, feed and critically reflect upon, rather than as some personality characteristics possessed by a particular person or collection of people. This course will help you feed and nurture a practice that can be shared between a number of people.

Week 1 introduces the concepts of leadership and management, and invites you to reflect on your existing knowledge of what these terms mean. We will also offer you a definition of leadership and invite you to judge it.

In Week 2 we will begin to explore leadership as person. This position holds that leadership is equated to the characteristics and behaviours of certain people. Rather than focus on individual leaders as role models for leadership, we will instead urge you to think of leaders as symbolic resources that can teach us a lot about what the sector does and does not value.

In Week 3 we will explore leadership as person in more depth. Our focus will be upon the most influential of leadership perspectives, transformational leadership. We will explore some of the underlying problems with ceding too much authority to people in positions of leadership. Leadership as person will be turned on its head and we will reflect on what kind of symbolic leaders might be made to matter for the voluntary sector.

In Week 4 you will explore leadership as ethics. Our account of leadership as ethics explores the work a purpose can do within leadership and urges that such purposes become the sites of contest and healthy debate. This week also introduces the idea of the ethical dilemmas – how we work through them and after them in leadership.

In Week 5 you will explore leadership as practice. Focusing on practice draws our attention to the work of leadership, rather than the personality of leaders. We focus on three dimensions of leadership practice – processes, spaces and technologies. We will explore how these dimensions can act as points for reflection but also brought together in interesting ways to generate new approaches to leadership practice.

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