England & Wales, Ireland, Scotland Personal and organisational development

Stepping into Leadership – how to improve your personal leadership skills


We are all capable of leading and we are all capable of becoming better leaders. ‘Stepping into Leadership’ is a new, freely available online course that seeks to support individuals to improve their personal effectiveness as a leader; “leadership” is not confined to people at the “top” of organisations.

Stepping into Leadership was designed for public library staff interested in developing their leadership and innovation skills. However, it has applicability outside of this sphere and has, for example, been incorporated into the ‘Step into Leadership’ website of Scottish Social Services Council.

Carnegie Library Lab: a programme for public libraries

Stepping into Leadership was developed from Carnegie Library Lab: a programme that aimed to support innovation and leadership in the public library sector across the UK and Ireland. It sought to do so through supporting both professional and personal development and innovative practice through practical project work. Carnegie Library Lab worked with three small cohorts of early to mid-career individuals for 18 months at a time. The programme ran 2014-2020 and offered each cohort:

  • project funding (£5,000-£15,000) to enable participants to introduce an innovative project in their library and “learn through doing”;
  • a bespoke online learning programme;
  • mentoring to assist with personal, professional and project development;
  • networking opportunities (opportunities to meet face to face); and
  • input from external evaluators to support evaluation.

The programme supported 21 members of library staff to deliver 19 projects. Projects ranged from a ‘library bike’ that was taken to hard-to-reach communities to promote the service and increase usage, to cookery workshops to improve literacy and numeracy skills. From projects that explored the potential of libraries to be at the heart of a local cultural offer at night and projects that took inspiration from “Oxfam unwrapped” to promote and fundraise for the library. You can read more about the projects and the learning from the programme overall here.

Stepping into Leadership: an online learning course

The premise of Stepping into Leadership is that to be more effective as a leader we need to know ourselves and to be open to understanding why we do things and how what we say and do affects other people. The course encourages reflection on our own behaviours and to consider what is helping us to be effective and what might be hindering us. It is not a “how to” manual nor does it advocate any single style of leadership. It asks participants to consider the nature of leadership and encourages them to develop their own principles for how they want to lead.

The course covers six modules that each take around 60 minutes to complete:

  • leadership and purpose;
  • creativity and innovation;
  • power and influence;
  • transformation, change and transition;
  • problems, systems and complexity; and
  • continuing development.

Following the whole course will:

  • Increase understanding of key leadership concepts.
  • Encourage reflection on your own leadership qualities.
  • Help you to develop a personal action plan to improve your effectiveness as a leader.

The course is designed to be self-directed but to get the most out of the experience participants might find it valuable to buddy up with someone else doing it, or else find someone to talk to about the ideas.

Find out more and access the course here.


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