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Why We Love Nominations - to find those leaders in disguise

(The joyful journey of creating the next Music Leaders Network programme continues)

As soon as we began the process of recruiting our first cohort of the Music Leaders Network in 2020 Remi and I knew we needed to ask for nominations along side our promotional work encouraging women with leadership potential within the industry to put themselves forward.

Self-identifying as a leader is not necessarily straightforward amongst women in the music business. Despite the fact the industry is blessed with a lot of amazing pioneering, change making, trailblazing women the concept of “leader” isn’t one all women leap to claim or even identify themselves as at all. No matter how much they have achieved or are achieving in their career, leader as a term often conjures up images of people utterly unlike them.

Imposter phenomenon is of course part of it. When women songwriters, festival headliners and music producers are represented at the paltry levels of 18%, 13% and 3% respectively it’s no surprise that women behind the scenes in management positions and higher are also far from at a level of parity with their male counterparts. Which leaves a woeful lack of role models and a substantial if not overwhelming number of people who are nothing at all like you in positions of leadership. This will inevitably colour your gut reaction to what a leader is or looks like. Imposter phenomenon is named as an issue by a significant percentage of our participants, cohort after cohort, as an issue they would like to deal with as one of their outcomes from being part of the programme. And not to blow our own trumpet (I'm totally blowing that trumpet) but 82% of our participants consider themselves more effective leaders and 91% of our them are more confident in their abilities as a leader by the conclusion of the programme. You love to see it!

Then there’s the fact that the majority of people in the industry (70% according to UK Music) are self employed or freelance. Which means there is no boss overlooking your development, there is no scheme to ensure you fulfil your potential. So a programme like ours might not seem as if it’s meant for you at first glance if you don't aleady see or feel your leaderly potential. A lot of women don’t even know to look for something like the Music Leaders Network, and if they do come across us they assume that as they aren’t heading up a team however small, we aren’t for them. But we are.

And so we knew that if were going to encourage as many amazing women as we could to apply to the programme and especially if we want our network of past participants to grow to be as diverse as the industry we are in, we were going to have make sure we weren’t only getting the people who were already comfortable with the idea of being or becoming leaders, we needed a way to reach the ones who were doing, creating, organising or managing amazing things but hadn’t made the connection yet between who they are and “leader” as a concept. So alongside the marketing campaign we reached out to the people in our network who we knew rated, supported and encouraged women to reach their full potential and said – what amazing women do you know who should be applying for this programme? If you don’t want to chivvy them into applying yourselves, we’ll contact them and say you told us to invite them to apply.

And lots of people did just that. When we asked our participants for their nomination stories it was confirmed that whether they had heard of the programme or not, being suggested as someone who would fit there by someone established in the industry meant people applied in spite of their doubts or concerns that they weren’t leaderly enough.

This form of community supported, inclusive recruitment is reflected in our programme’s approach to leadership development in general. We aren’t just providing our participants with tools and skills, we are proving those things of course, whilst also enabling our members to build a supportive network designed to last them career long. And we know this works because Remi and I met in 2008 when I was a co-creator of an industry women’s leadership development programme and of that cohort of 12, Remi and I have worked with or for or collaborated with at least 8 of them, not to mention attending one another's events and giving support or introductions when asked. Right up to the present day.

And we already see that kind of support and collaboration happening between the women who formed our first two cohorts as well. Their WhatsApp groups do a brisk trade in heart-felt congratulations for successes, moral and practical support in the face of challenges, invitations to one another’s events, and sharing each others media features and awards. The last two often posted by an eagle eyed member who’s spotted their friend's success and knows they’ll be too modest to brag about it themselves. Behind the scenes collaborations and referrals for work abound.

And that modesty or at least reluctance to brag which is such a common trait amongst our members is another part of why we ask industry folk to nominate those they think might be a good fit, who need a push to claim their leader status, whose women whose time has come to reframe the creating, organising and managing they do naturally as the leadership in disguise that it really is.

Who do you know who might be right for a place on our next programme starting in September? All the information can be found here

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