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Developing Senior Systems Leadership – The Role of a Sponsor

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The Role of a Sponsor

Cohort One participants have really valued the support and contribution of their sponsor. You can listen to their reflections on the value of a sponsor below.

Who is a Sponsor?

Sponsors can be the nominators and line managers of the applicant.

And/or Sponsors can also be other senior leaders who may not have a line management relationship with the applicant but want to be supportive. These could be internal or external to your own organisation.

Sponsors are likely to be at Chief Executive, Chief Officer, or Director level in Health & Social Work. In Social Care, they may be the Chair or Chief Executive of the organisation.

Sponsors external to the applicant’s organisation will hold senior systems-level leadership positions, potentially influencing the strategic and national landscape of social care, social work, and/or health in Scotland.

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What do we mean by Sponsorship & what it looks like at its best?

The role of sponsors was a recurring theme during our inquiries across Social Care, Social Work, and Health to inform the design of Developing Senior Systems Leadership.

Contributors emphasised the size of the transition required to step up into a new executive, director, or senior systems-level role. In paraphrasing, many existing senior executive-level leaders from our inquiry process said to us:

Benefits of sponsorship include:

  • Learners grow in confidence to learn in the moment. They experiment, innovate, and trust their own judgement. They model these positive behaviours within their own teams and with others.

  • It creates conditions for ongoing learning exchange, open and authentic conversation, and stretch learning experiences.

  • Leaders learn from challenging circumstances rather than sometimes being overwhelmed by them. It avoids leaders from being crushed when they perceive they have made a mistake or them becoming indecisive, and reluctant to ask for support or to question.

How will the Sponsor add value to individuals and the cohort?

It starts from the outset – with a sponsored application

Sponsors are asked to complete a sponsor section in the application form, in support of the applicant. This gives them the opportunity to set out their personal commitment to supporting the applicant and demonstrate the types of additional learning activities they will sponsor the applicant to undertake. These activities (see list of ideas below) are complementary to the formal ‘Developing Systems Leadership Programme’.

The Sponsor section is factored into the selection process and will be reviewed and assessed alongside the applicant’s submission. If the applicant is successful, both submissions will be incorporated into a personalised learning contract that underpins both the personalised and cohort learning needs.

If the applicant is successful in securing a place…

Sponsors will be contacted during the selection process, to further consolidate their commitment and to understand what and how the Sponsoring community can collectively support the cohort learning experience across the programme.

There is no doubt that sponsors bring enormous benefits to a programme like this and often make a significant difference to the outcomes of the programme both for individual participants and for the learning community. The value of working with an established and experienced leader as a sounding board, mentor, and critical friend cannot be overestimated. There are many ways in which sponsors can add value and some of the specific contributions that could be made are described in the list below.

Sponsors and participants will define their own contracts, and at the heart of the relationship is a willingness to be available, to listen, to help make sense of the experience of the participants in developing their own leadership, and to use their own connections to open access to the system that participants will not get in their current role. Sponsors will have a wealth of advice and insight to bring to the relationship. And if they also bring curiosity and share some of their ‘unanswered questions’ about leading at the senior level. This can lead to a different type of conversation which is often transformational.

Overall, our intention is that sponsors will walk alongside you and the cohort – enhancing the learning experience and supporting you to transfer your learning into practice.

You might be interested in…

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The most frequently asked questions about Developing Senior Systems Leadership.

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Register interest

Sign up for the Developing Senior Systems Leadership 12-month programme.

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About DSSL

A new programme for aspiring senior leaders in Social Care, Social Work & Health in Scotland.

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