Gaining the skills to lead myself, others and a business

27 July 2021

Finding a course to develop your leadership skills, whilst maintaining a busy work schedule presents many challenges. Hear from Anne McComish, to discover why the Executive Diploma in Strategic Leadership at WBS ticked all the boxes when deciding on where to develop her leadership knowledge.

I have worked at AIB since 1988, the technical term I believe is a “lifer”! Starting in our retail network in Branch Banking and after studying my professional accountancy at night, I joined our Finance Department. I have spent most of my career in Finance, covering areas of Financial Accounting, Management Accounting, supporting various project work and more recently moving to the business in AIB, while maintaining a finance brief. My roles have provided me with great exposure to many of our different business areas and products and I am now working as the Head of Finance Reporting & Communications (Customer Services).

I have been lucky to have enjoyed a very varied career at AIB, one that also promotes learning and development, which has supported my move into more senior positions in the organisation. Since completing my accounting qualification, I have done very little in relation to academic type courses, focusing more on the skills that would enhance my leadership style such as soft skills development, project management, and management development courses.

I am a huge advocate of continuous learning and development and the need to remain current. After dipping my toe back in the academic pond in 2019 I became an EMCC accredited Executive Coach, which further fuelled my interest in the area of personal leadership and self-awareness.

Surprised at how much I enjoyed the academic learning again, I looked to further my education and started to look at other courses. I wanted something flexible, that supported my busy work life, and that supported me becoming more strategic in my thinking and leadership style, as I had noticed that as I moved up in seniority in the organisation I didn’t need to be the expert any longer.

A number of my colleagues had attended courses at Warwick Business School (WBS) and to be honest, being based in Ireland I hadn’t even considered a UK based university until my manager suggested it to me as an option. Looking at the WBS website, I was drawn to the Executive Diploma in Strategic Leadership, as it was part-time, delivered across four modules four times over a year and focused on leading self, leading others and leading your business. The course outline highlighted that it directly links leadership to strategy and personal with the professional.  It certainly ticked all my requirements, including the added bonus of being held at The Shard in London.

However with Covid restrictions this was not to be and the course was held virtually across the four modules. While we did miss out on the face-to-face networking that complements the course, the virtual content did not disappoint. The faculty had a wealth of experience and practice in real world business leadership and each lecture had a different Professor of Practice who supplemented the course work with real experience. Our class number was small with diversity across different industry, geography and backgrounds, all of whom shared similar challenges and experiences. It was great to share all our different experiences in the virtual breakout rooms.

The course also provided us with 1-2-1 executive coaching sessions which were a huge benefit to me in understanding what my next career move might be. In terms of what I have gained from the course, it did exactly as is said on the tin. I have come away with a wealth of knowledge and research on leading self, leading others and leading the business.

If you are considering taking part in this programme I would say go for it. Don’t be worried about the academic writing, it was a comfort to understand that we were all worried about it, most of us having not done academic writing previously. You will get lots of support and feedback on all of your assignments.

I won’t lie, there is a lot of work to do between each module, with reading material and assignments. But if you plan well and keep on top of it, there are plenty of interesting articles and case studies to support your assignments. I am so glad that I did this course, and I think I even surprised myself with what I have achieved.

I look forward to meeting my class mates face to face - soon hopefully!

Find out more about the Warwick Executive Diploma in Strategic Leadership