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Morvern Cunningham on the Clore Leadership Course

Freelance Creative Producer Morvern Cunningham talks about her recent attendance on the 54th Clore Intensive Leadership Course (formerly called the Short Course) run by the Clore Leadership Programme for cultural leaders.

I recently attended a Clore Leadership Course, a residential two-week course in Hampshire, alongside 23 other participants from around the UK. Attendance on the course was via a fairly stringent application process via the Clore website, and there was a sizable cost for successful applicants, for which I had to apply to Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund in order to attend. Although participants came from a range of backgrounds and disciplines, there seemed to be certain threads of commonality running through all of our work, including community engagement, social justice and the facilitation of increased access to the arts. It also felt that many of us were at a similar stage of development; being either at a junction in our lives or needing a shift in career, but unsure of next steps.

Each day was structured around guest facilitators and speakers, presenting subjects that included: Authentic Leadership, Finance, Resilience, and Governance. Alongside table-based work in groups, participants were also encouraged to learn via their peers on the course, often breaking into smaller groups throughout the day in order to share experiences and to practice learning (such as active listening and coaching skills) together.

Here’s some of the bitesize learning I’m taking from my time away:

  • Embrace and embody your vulnerability.

Showing vulnerability is a really powerful thing and having it on show allows people to connect with you and what you say on a much deeper level. Great leaders display their vulnerability regularly.

  • Don’t take other people’s monkeys.

This is about resisting the urge to be seen as a capable leader and sorting other people’s challenges/monkeys out for them, by literally taking them on yourself. Empowering the people around you to make their own decisions is an important aspect of leadership.

  • Leadership is all about storytelling.

From your organisational mission statement and curatorial decision-making, right down to your governance and finance documents, each tell a story about what it is you do. Aim for clarity of purpose across the board and in all areas, so that you can communicate your unique story to others most effectively.

  • Manage your chimp brain.

Not to be confused with taking people’s monkeys! This concept comes from The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters who has developed a ‘mind management tool’ teaching how to not be a slave to our immediate reactions and emotions. Remember that it’s not what other people say or do but how you respond to it that matters, which then dictates the subsequent quality of the exchange.

  • Everybody’s winging it!

We all know this, right? It’s still good to be reminded sometimes though :)

Overall, I would say the course was transformational, if somewhat taxing. Two weeks is an unprecedented time (for me, anyway) to spend on self-reflection and peer-based learning alongside 23 initial strangers, who end up feeling like family once the communally intense experience has come to a close. Part of this transformation is to do with the formation of a network amongst fellow participants, which will continue to sustain and nurture each other going forward. We continue to stay in touch post-course, and intend regular meetups in the weeks, months and years to come.

Morvern was supported by Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund in attending the Clore Intensive Course. This blog post was originally published by Film Hub Scotland.

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