Next Generation Program Reflections

reflections: Next Generation of female leaders' program - 2013


“True leadership is about making other people better as a result of your presence - and making sure your impact endures in your absence”.

This is the Harvard Business School definition of leadership. The Women on Boards Next Generation of Corporate Leaders program and its candidates encompass this definition. Now in its third year, the program and its new graduates of 2013 have undergone an evolutionary transformation, resulting in leadership development at its best.

In a world where women are being encouraged to lean in, what makes the Women on Boards Next Generation of Corporate Leaders program any different to the rest? It essentially comes down to one crucial point: The WOB Next Gen program closes the gap between theoretical leadership and practical leadership.

It is fairly straightforward to read about leadership and to attend training sessions, to understand leadership skills and traits. To actually step into the discomfort and uneasiness of implementing leadership is a giant leap. There is a huge difference between knowing about leadership and practising leadership, and the WOB Next Gen program tackles this head on, by throwing its candidates into the uncertainty and risk of practical leadership. 

The program has evolved since its inaugural offering in 2011, to become an elite, results-focused leadership and directorship pathway. By the end of the program, each candidate has formed a new professional network comprising Australia’s most influential executives, directors and chairmen across every industry and has had one-on-one interactions with each of these leaders. To secure this network, the candidates are required to take risks, to step into confronting situations and remain measured, to establish presence and demonstrate influence. Who better to provide insights and advice than those who currently hold Australia’s top leadership positions and how better to develop crucial professional skills than to be immersed in the practicalities of leadership?  

WOB Next Gen candidates themselves have evolved over the course of the program, both professionally and personally, as reflected in their final presentations and reports, at the end of the program. Over the course of six months, they are required to challenge long-standing behaviours and perceptions of themselves. In the last two days of the program, it was evident that each of the 2013 candidates experienced massive growth as a result of their learnings and practice on the program. The candidates spoke with authority and experience, had command over their vocal and physical presence and displayed the wisdom of those who have undergone the journey of practical leadership.  

The WOB Next Gen program and its candidates demonstrate that real leadership is not safe. It requires an open demonstration of courage. As the third cohort of graduates of this program, the WOB Next Gen Class of 2013 are most certainly equipped to take the reins of Australia’s key leadership positions.

Dr. Raji Ambikairajah is an alumna (2011) of the WOB Next Generation of Corporate Leaders program. She secured her first board role, 8 months after completing the program.