Why leadership is about building relationships

Developing networks and relationships with peers has always been an important part of successful leadership. Vice-Principal, External Relations at the University of Glasgow, explains why.

Rachel Sandison, Vice-Principal, External Relations at the University of Glasgow, shares why nurturing relationships and expanding networks is crucial for opening doors to new opportunities and becoming an inspiring and successful leader.

Last year, perhaps more so than any other, we witnessed the positive impact of collaboration and partnership.

The pandemic has reinforced the importance of connection and brought into sharp focus the benefits of individual and institutional alliances. But developing networks and relationships with peers has always been an important part of successful leadership, and I am privileged to have the opportunity to engage with colleagues from across the globe who continually help to inform my thinking, share best practice and open the doors to new opportunities.

At an early stage in my career, I took advantage of mentoring opportunities within my organisation, and through this was introduced to volunteering for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) where I began to make contacts in universities across the sector through conference attendance and informal networking.

As a CASE Global Trustee today, I continue to benefit from these relationships with colleagues that are based on mutual respect and reciprocity. These colleagues, and now friends, I entrust with both my successes and my failures.

In no small part, I am a Vice-Principal now because of the guidance and support I have gained through my many networks, and because these relationships gave me the chance to chart career paths of peers that had either been unknown to me, or discounted as impossibilities.

The adage is that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, and being able to see and celebrate the successes of role models within the sector gave me both an indication of what was possible, and the desire to achieve it.

I now have the pleasure of acting as a mentor to others, and always look to encourage the potential of talent both within and outside of my organisation.

My advice to Chevening Scholars, and to anyone who wants to become a successful leader, is to say ‘yes’ wherever possible!

Be open to trying new things, to volunteering your time and expertise, and to fostering relationships with peers that will provide a platform for mutually beneficial exchange and support; and do so always being your authentic self. And, most importantly, enjoy these opportunities and the journey they will take you on.

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