In the past when I thought about ‘leadership’, I never thought it had anything to do with me. Instead, I associated the idea of leadership with large company CEOs or politics.
However, I now realise that leadership is within everyone and that you don’t have to hold a management job title to be a leader. I learnt this through an exciting introspective journey that started more than five years ago.
My leadership journey started on the Saltire Fellowship, Entrepreneurial Scotland’s leadership development programme aimed at inspiring and developing individuals to become the next generation of leaders.
The intensive training covered essential areas such as finance, sales and marketing, and entrepreneurial leadership with the latter delivered by Karen Ayas, Professor of Management Practice at Babson College School of Executive Education.
Karen is also an experienced and inspirational executive coach with deep expertise in large-scale transformation and leadership development.
During our ‘leadership retreat’, Karen guided me and 22 fellow aspiring leaders on a two-day reflective journey, where we were asked to search for our ‘inner leadership voice’.
At the end of the two days, it was clear to me that not only did I have an attitude for leading (and winning others over, which I discovered later on) but also that my leadership path was going to take me to new places.
In the following years, I focused on learning from the best leaders in Scotland; a privilege of my role within Entrepreneurial Scotland. Here I soaked up the entrepreneurial spirit and invaluable real-life lessons from numerous CEOs.
Joining Converge Challenge as Deputy Director represented the perfect opportunity to hone myleadership skills and help build the leading national Company Creation Programme for Scotland’s Academia.
When the founder announced her departure only nine months after my appointment, I wondered if I had what it takes to lead the team and a national programme that supports all Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. After all those years learning about leadership, hearing about the exciting lives of Scotland’s leaders, attending courses and being coached by leaders and CEOs, was I ready to be a leader?
Unsure exactly how to handle this new challenge, I did what I have never been afraid of doing: I asked for help.
The network I have created throughout my career in Scotland has allowed me to tap into the greatest leaders, some of the most inspiring men and women who have ‘been there and done it’ and never fail to extend their hand to help people behind them climb the leadership ladder.
The long list of meetings and phone calls helped me create a leadership guide, a step-by-step approach to becoming the leader I knew I could be.
Step 1: Create a comprehensive list of people you need to meet. This should include people you already know and can help you refine your vision; people you don’t know but who should know who you are and key members of the eco-system to help raise your profile.
Step 2: Create a list of members of your personal advisory group – a list of people who want you to succeed and who, most importantly of all, will never allow you to fail. Nobody can do this on their own.
Step 3: Enlist the personal and professional development gaps you feel you have and identify the right courses/readings/seminars to address them.
Step 4: Work on early wins. These will give you the confidence you need to take on the full challenge while also making you a credible candidate for the new role. Plan your first 30 days in the role and then the first 100 days.
Step 5: Note down all the new ideas you have and make sure to validate them with your personal advisory board before presenting them to the team.
In the past five months, I have organised more than 30 meetings; read eight books about leadership; attended four professional development courses and written several articles.
I am now 100 per cent confident I am ready to do this.
Luckily, the esteemed recruitment panel who interviewed me also agree and as of 4 December 2018 I was appointed the new Director of Converge Challenge.
Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge Challenge