Take the next leadership step by understanding your community

18 March 2015 By Bernard Kellerman

The Folio Community Leadership Program is for senior managers who are ready to take the next step in developing their leadership experience, their understanding of community and a broader portfolio of leadership and networking skills.

An informed view of the problems facing your community is a crucial attribute for a great leader, says Peter Gluskie, senior project manager at Australia Post.

"Empathy for others and interconnection with a wider society is what allows you, as a manager to step up to be a leader. Without a high level of emotional intelligence, you risk becoming an autocrat," he says.

It was in this frame of mind, back in 2013, when Gluskie, with a Bachelor of Engineering degree and an MBA, was looking for an opportunity "to expand my mind and to think about these wider issues in society", first heard about Leadership Victoria's programs.

Initially intrigued by the network of people who had attended, either as alumni or as guest speakers, and impressed by LV's other personal and professional development programs, Gluskie signed up for the Folio Community Leadership Program in 2013.

He was not disappointed, but he was surprised at the lasting effect it's had on him since completing the course.

"In that group was a very range wide range of life experiences – but not people I would normally have in my circle of friends – but now I do.”

"It's given me a wider appreciation of so many of the challenges in a way that I never would have considered had I not been in this course."

In contrast to the formal coursework and case studies of an MBA, Folio is much more experiential. And less of a call on your time, with just 10 days over seven months.

While this equals an average of one day per month, a "buddy" system means participants are teamed up to act as sounding boards, compare notes and inspire each other to do further independent research, ensuring the times in between formal program days are productive.

"You're listening to the people on the course and the speakers, who talk about what they got right, and what they got wrong,' says Gluskie.

"You're learning from others as opposed to learning from a textbook."

Participants can expect to have their assumptions and presumptions tested on a range of community and environmental issues – the so-called "wicked issues", the big problems without obvious solutions – described by British social entrepreneur and academic Tim Curtis a few years ago

Gluskie says the topics might change, and being nudged out of your comfort zone on important social issues should never stop – the problem for him was finding a way to learn more: "How to fund anti-domestic violence programs, or how to deal with asylum seekers are not topics you'd sit around with your mates having a beer after work and debate, yet it was interesting to unravel that with other people who all respected each other's views.

A lot of the course time was, as Gluskie put it an "immersive" experience where participants went to places like Sunshine, a suburb in Melbourne's west with high unemployment, or met homeless people and those trying to improve their lot.

"Talk to someone who's been at the front line of asylum seeker programs and you get a different perspective – it's probably modified my thoughts," he says.

"But at the same time it probably made me more aware of what I didn't know, and inspired me to do further research.”

LV works hard at selecting people who are potential leaders, although the emphasis is on those who are looking "to evolve their thinking and mature their outlook", says Gluskie, who has since become more involved in the program, helping to in interview the next round of participants.

Applications have opened for the 2015 Folio Community Leadership Program, which commences in May 2015. Participants can expect to have their leadership potential boosted, self-awareness expanded and their assumptions challenged.