GDST Pupils Leading the Way

Sixth Form

The GDST’s Future Leaders Week has taken place with more than 100 students in leadership teams from the Trust’s schools in England and Wales coming together online for a week of training.”
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In what CEO, Cheryl Giovannoni described as a “trailblazing initiative”, they heard from an array of powerhouse leaders on subjects such as imposter syndrome, personal branding, making change happen and a keynote speech from STEM champion Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon. They also took part in a psychometric assessment, CliftonStrengths, to discover their talents and the week ended with a sustainability challenge which all the girls competed in.

Cheryl Giovannoni said: “It is vital for us as pioneers in girls’ education that we teach our students to lead. It’s not enough just to tell our Head Girls that we have identified them as potential leaders, we need to equip them with leadership skills for the 21st century such as communication, collaboration, effective delegation, creativity, and empathy. With our Future Leaders Week, we are giving GDST students the opportunities to develop these key strengths and personal skills as they prepare to go out into the world, confident in their abilities and sure of their value and their values.”

Below, two student leaders from Royal High School Bath write about their personal experience of Future Leaders Week

Mathura Kathirgamanathan, Head Girl at Royal High School Bath

Being Head Girl was always an ambition of mine ever since I joined Royal High in Year 7. Our school leadership team works well together but we had not yet explored our individual strengths. The GDST, however, provided us with this chance with Future Leaders Week which was an excellent insight into leadership from inspiring women across the country. It offered five full days of advice, encouragement and positivity and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to take part in this motivating event.

“We learned that it is key to focus on who we are and the potential that we have.”

At the start of the week, I was hoping to learn a bit more about how to make our leadership teamwork even more effectively – whether that was through talks and activities. I was also hoping to improve as a leader myself. Looking back on the week, I have achieved this and beyond. In particular, when listening to Martha Silcott, who is CEO of FabLittleBag, it was interesting to hear about the challenges that she faced – for example not being able to get a patent for seven years. What really struck me was the way she kept going and had the resilience not to give up on her business, even whilst juggling family issues. However, what most impressed me was the passion that she had for her product, and I learned that this was what motivated her to keep going even through facing the challenges of the pandemic this year. The lessons that I will take forward from her presentation was to learn to ‘toughen up’ when facing criticism, because understanding how to turn criticism into improvement is a great skill to have, especially as a leader.

During the middle of the week, we were offered a session with Anja Pitz, who is a learning and development consultant. Prior to the session, we completed a psychometric CliftonStrengths Assessment, which identified our five most dominant themes of talent. What was really interesting was that the chances of finding someone with the same five talents, in the same ranking order was approximately 1 in 33 million! This reinforced that we all have unique strengths that we can utilise as future leaders. During the CliftonStrengths exercise, GDST leadership teams across the country met through Zoom for a session that recognised our strengths. We learned that as well as identifying our weaknesses, it was even more important to acknowledge our own unique strengths and not to strive to be someone else. It was key to focus on who we are and the potential that we have. I found out that the majority of my strengths are found in the ‘executing’ group and by ‘naming it, claiming it, and aiming for it’ we will turn our talents into strengths. The exercise was a unique opportunity to explore these strengths, and it was fascinating to see the different strengths that people had in our own leadership team.

I think it is important to be taught about leadership because it is how societies, businesses and the world works. Without a team of people who share a mission or purpose, we simply cannot ‘get things done’, therefore without a leader, we cannot effectively work as a team. By learning about leadership – which is what Future Leaders Week was all about – we could start unlocking and using these strengths and skills to our very best potential, so that what we achieve as a team, benefits everyone around us. I believe resilience, empathy, teamworking skills and ambition are exceptionally important skills in order to become a good leader, and will help you in working with other people, so that you can achieve goals together – more effectively.

I hugely appreciate the opportunity that we had to listen to inspiring women throughout the week, take part in an exercise discovering our strengths, and putting all of this into use in a challenge across the GDST. An ambition of mine is to become a doctor, and in this role, I want to be able to lead a team to make the organisation a better place – for patients and the people who work within the Hospital. My dream role would be to take on a management job within hospitals, in order to make this improvement and a difference people’s lives. Future Leaders Week has only energised this ambition, and I look forward to taking on what I have learned to use now – and in the future.

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Natasha Low, a Prefect in Year 13 at Royal High School Bath

I felt privileged to be able to take part in the GDST Future Leaders Conference. Going into the week, I was keen to be able to learn more about women in leadership, and how I could apply my strengths to be a better leader.

“I’ve learnt that there isn’t only one leadership style that fits the mould.”

I thoroughly enjoyed all the talks, in particular, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon’s talk on leadership in the STEM sector resonated with me. It was inspiring to be able to listen to her experiences as a woman leading innovation in STEM, and also reminded me of the many hurdles women had to overcome to be recognised in this sector today.

The CliftonStrengths exercise allowed me to get to know my strengths better, and how I can apply them in the leadership positions that I hold. Comparing my strengths with others in my school’s leadership team was particularly useful as well, to see how our different strengths complement each other. I look forward to applying my strengths to my leadership role in school as the Liaison/Links with Prep School prefect.

More than anything, this week has reinforced the point that teamwork is key to good leadership. During the Challenge on the final day, our leadership team worked together to complete the proposal by splitting ourselves to do different parts of the task according to our strengths. Those stronger in the executing and influencing domain worked on the pitch, whilst those stronger in strategic thinking and relationship-building worked on the proposal. Our different strengths complemented each other well, and we completed the challenge to the best of our abilities.

To me, leadership is something that is becoming increasingly critical in the 21st Century. Recent world events such as terrorism, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic have further highlighted the need for good leadership and has stimulated our thinking on what it means to be a good leader. The keynote speeches throughout the week have provided me with more insight on this, and I’ve learnt that there isn’t only one leadership style that fits the mould, but there are different strengths each person has that can be drawn upon to strengthen their leadership.

I’m hoping to study Medicine at university and become a doctor. As a doctor, leadership is important to be able to lead a multidisciplinary team of other specialists from nurses to dieticians, coming up with the best possible treatment for the patient. I’d like to be a leader that not only leads but listens as well. The Future Leaders Week has given me the confidence to apply my newfound strengths to become a better leader not just in school, but for life.