Blog

The latest insights on narrative, storytelling and leadership in higher education.

Week Four: Hour 4

Values, aspirations and your leadership manifesto

By Louise and Paul

The greatest single factor that builds trust between colleagues is how people live out their values in what they do and say. There’s nothing that breeds cynicism more effectively than a culture that implies ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. The contribution made by leaders here is critical. 

Part One: Where your team is now, and where it’s going 

At this time when a deep crisis has led you to think of preparing for significant change in the future, it’s worth reflecting on what your team stands for and what defines you culturally as a department or division.   

Your activity (i)

Take a piece of paper and allow 10 minutes to write a series of sentences which all begin with the same three words: ‘We are from…’ 

The ‘we’ is your team. Try to capture from a variety of different perspectives who you are, what unites you, what differentiates you, how you formed and what makes you do what you do. If you get stuck, you might like to see an example written by an academic leader, at the bottom of this page – though we encourage you to find your own voice, and not to be unduly influenced by another person’s approach.  

By the end of your 10 minutes, you’ll probably have written 6 or 8 sentences.   

Keep what you’ve written, and then consider how you might share this with your colleagues. You will have some words and phrases here that could be valuable in setting out the base on which your team is building.  

Finally, where does the team need to be in a year from now? 6 months?  3 months? Choose which ever timescale is most appropriate, and then try and envisage: 

  • how you’d like your team to be expressing its values by then 
  • what kind of working culture and climate you anticipate for the team 

Take 10 minutes to capture these aspirations in the form of a list of sentences, each beginning with the same three words: ‘We could be from…’ 

As an example, a former Head of Department of Modern Languages once wrote: 

We are from a family of varied cultures, united by a shared belief in language as a bridge 
We are from humanities and social sciences, from the head and the heart
We are from a struggle to make ourselves heard, understood and cherished 
We are from a world that needs greater understanding and empathy 


Part Two: Writing and communicating your leadership manifesto 

Welcome to your last activity! This is all about bringing together what shapes you as a leader, and what connects you to the people you lead, in a leadership manifesto.

This is the product of everything you have learned so far about how you lead others remotely and your commitment always to look for ways to do this even better. It’s an acknowledgement of what’s working and what isn’t, and it’s a promise to yourself and others of what to expect in the future and how you’ll get there. Ultimately, it’s your collective guide on how to be with each other whilst you can’t meet each other.

It’s your collective guide on how to be with each other whilst you can’t meet each other.

We encourage you to use this manifesto as a way to explore and articulate who you and your team are as a collective, what you stand for, your purpose and your promise to each other to live this out. Use it to be accountable to each other. Update, refresh, reimagine this manifesto as the situation changes. 

We’ve included this as your final activity in the programme because we hope you will, and we encourage you to, apply any of the creative techniques you’ve used in earlier sessions.

Your activity (ii)

Choose one prompt from each of the 4 categories below. Use these to shape the outline of a 1-page draft leadership manifesto which you can share with your team. Please have this with you for our final online session.

Identity – who are we as a team? 

  • What are our traits as a team? 
  • Who are we not? 
  • What’s surprising about us as a team? 

Beliefs – what do we believe in? 

  • What are our values? 
  • What are we here to do? 
  • What are our priorities? 

Bonding – how we connect 

  • How do we, or can we, show our appreciation for each other? 
  • How we can use time well? 
  • What do we need to do differently? Or more of? 

Practices – how we work together 

  • What are our commitments to levity? 
  • What are our commitments to creativity? 
  • How do we find balance? 
  • What do we know, and what do we not know about this situation? 

Hints and tips:

Be playful. Watch out for FOG (or, “fact-deficient, obfuscating generalities”). Think about white space, and the look and feel of your manifesto.

Resources

A selection to read, watch or listen to, to help find a new perspective.


Louise Clifton

Louise is the Director of Marketing, Communications and Operations at Invisible Grail. Specialising in professional development, Louise thrives on working with people to bring alive the stories that show the wider world who they are and why what they do matters.

Dr Paul Gentle

Paul is the Academic Director at Invisible Grail. A leadership expert, Paul has dedicated the last twelve years to creating and delivering leadership development programmes in higher education.