How AGSM is accelerating future leaders

Mid-level managers need to deal with a unique duality in their role. They’re pushing for audacious goals and new opportunities, but also managing business as usual. At the same time, they need to prepare their teams for the significant changes underway in technology, people and markets.

Talent management teams also need to prepare their future leaders for a very different way of working, and the role they will play in leading people through change. However, customised in-house training programs can be time-consuming to develop and run.

The AGSM @ UNSW Business School’s latest short course offering, a five-day Accelerated Leadership Program, is designed to address these challenges. Running for the first time on June 29, 2020, it has been created specifically for mid-level managers who want to be ready to lead through unprecedented change.

“The program was inspired by feedback from the HR professionals and business leaders we work with,” explains Colleen Durant, Accelerated Leadership Program Director, AGSM @ UNSW Business School. “They can see the need to develop in leaders the capabilities to thrive through change.”

The AGSM Accelerated Leadership Program’s unique structure allows participants to apply their learnings from the first three days in a two-month Change Challenge – a work-based project that can help them solve longstanding issues in their organisation. “This helps them transfer learning through a real work project to realise an immediate return on their training investment,” explains Durant.

Before the program commences, participants also nominate a career advocate within their organisation – someone who can help them access emerging career opportunities. This relationship, combined with the Change Challenge, gives participants an experiential learning environment in which to develop.

Applied learning through the Change Challenge

The Accelerated Leadership Program’s unique three-day / two-day structure eases the pressure of time away from the workplace, making it possible to fit the program into a busy workload. Participants begin with a three-day workshop, then have two months to work on a Change Challenge within their own organisation and put their new skills and ideas into practice.

Participants can nominate an existing work project for the Change Challenge, applying new tools and mindsets to a real-business problem they are currently dealing with. “It could be reviewing a system or process, bringing new insights to see a perennial problem in a different way,” Durant says. “Alternatively, participants could focus on a larger transformation opportunity with longer-term impact, such as initiating a cultural change.”

After two months, participants attend a two-day workshop, where they are encouraged to collaborate and share their knowledge and learning. This unique opportunity to create new solutions to longstanding issues as part of training is one of the most exciting features of the course.

“It’s the quality of the ‘brains trust’ available, with the AGSM faculty working with participants on their Change Challenge, as well as broader perspectives from their peers in the program cohort that is so valuable,” explains Durant.

Organisations should realise real benefits from the Change Challenge as well. “It could speed up an organisation’s alignment to change, or it could be about finding new ways to increase revenue or decrease costs,” Durant notes.

Practical takeaway tools are provided through the program to support the Change Challenge. “Participants develop a toolkit for change leadership, coaching skills and emotional intelligence, among others,” Durant says.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution – or Industry 4.0 – brings automation and artificial intelligence to the workplace, it’s never been more important for leaders to understand how that technology will impact their business and their people. So one part of the program explores how this will create the future of work, and what role human skills will play. It then dives deep into those skills, providing the tools to engage people and manage themselves more effectively.

“Participants will be able to develop core capabilities, such as, finding their purpose, having the courage to make bolder decisions and enabling greater effectiveness of their organisation and gaining buy-in through influence. ,” explains Durant.

Designed to make a difference

In a time of unprecedented change, leaders play a critical role. They set the path for transformation, and align others to follow. And as expectations of managers grow and the way we work evolves, the very nature of a high-potential leader has shifted. “It used to be an individual-hero quality, but now we need people who can get things done through others – collaborating internally and externally,” explains Durant.

The capabilities participants develop through the Accelerated Leadership Program will set them up for these future demands. Durant describes it as ‘catalytic’ learning – applying learning quickly to create an outcome that makes a difference for customers and employees.

“This program is about adding more skills and mindsets to participants’ existing repertoire of leadership capabilities,” explains Durant. “In addition to traditional leadership capabilities such as direction setting, people leadership and influence the program will also look at some of the ‘outlier’ capabilities such as ‘rabble rousing’ – encouraging others to challenge the status quo – or ‘digital aikido’ – being able to use digital methods to engage and connect with others.”

The program is also designed to make a personal difference, by embedding a longer-term mentor relationship into each participant’s career. “Mid-level executives really need a sponsor – someone who has their back and can think about their career with them,” explains Durant. With a background in organisational psychology, Durant is passionate about helping others uncover what is possible for them, and a pathway to get there. She brings 20 years of human capital and leadership development experience to this program’s design, and the experience gained in corporate management and consulting roles around the world.

With opportunities to be part of a diverse group of peers – a future network of support through the inevitable ups and downs of leadership – AGSM @ UNSW’s Accelerated Leadership Program is an accessible step - along that pathway.

The program is ideal for mid-level executives who have teams reporting into them and also suits mid-level subject matter experts (SME’s) who need to influence organisations to change.

And for organisations seeking to fast-track their next generation of leaders, it provides all the benefits of a customised executive education program – bringing real business problems and opportunities into a highly immersive five-day experiential learning package.

Applications for the 2020 Accelerated Leadership Program are now open.

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