Employees of City of Gold Coast have had the opportunity to hone their leadership skills by completing Griffith University’s Graduate Certificate in Leadership and Management as a corporate cohort. What started as a way of formalising leadership behaviours among staff has turned into an enlightening personal journey for those who were selected to participate in the program’s first cohort.

The initiative is part of the City of Gold Coast’s LeaderSHIFT program, which aims to embed a new way for thinking and leading people.

Principle Strategic Project Officer Tanya Lipus hadn’t really considered leadership management roles before undertaking the Graduate Certificate but says her whole perspective has changed. Since completing the certificate as part of City of Gold Coast’s first cohort, Tanya has successfully applied for Griffith Business School’s QBM Responsible Leadership Scholarship to begin her MBA.

She credits her time studying for the Leadership and Management course as having fundamentally changed her way of thinking and doing business. “I think it inspired me; once you’ve gone through the Graduate Certificate Leadership program you can see a potential in yourself in the long term,” Tanya explains. “Completing the Graduate Certificate has helped me form a better picture around how a leader should be, which made me realise that I actually do want to get into leadership and management. I now want to really hone my ideas and skills around what a leader should be, and the values of a leader that I want to be.

“I think the program is valuable because it starts to get you thinking more critically and contributes to a cultural shift within your organisation.”

Tanya says doing the course as part of a corporate cohort continues to deliver benefits to her in the workplace. “Council is a large organisation and you don’t often get to meet a lot of people across the range of different business units, so I think it was very helpful for the networking side of things,” she says. “I had a greater understanding of the inner workings of other departments within the City of Gold Coast that I don’t work with on a day-to-day basis. You learn they are facing the same problems as you and you can work together on finding the right solutions.

“I definitely recommend doing the Graduate Certificate in Leadership and Management not only as an individual but also as part of a team or organisational cohort… it’s really important to start building those connections.”

Shannon Richards, Chief People and Culture Officer for City of Gold Coast agrees that the benefits of doing the program as a group are plentiful and already visible. “There are benefits across the board for City of Gold Coast,” Shannon says. “There are technical benefits, managerial benefits and there are leadership benefits. Before we started the program, conceptually we thought that there would be some real benefits in bringing individuals together from around the organisation into a collective, and this would promote networks. What I didn’t truly anticipate is how deep and how rich those networks would be.”

She says even those who weren’t a part of Cohort Alpha or Bravo (as the first and second teams to enter the course are referred to within the organisation) are seeing the results and wanting to get involved. “All of the participants are speaking so highly of their experience it can’t help but create a bit of peer envy and competition to be part of it,” Shannon, who has previously completed both a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws at Griffith, says. “Our intention is to put all of our leaders through the program so that we have a shared language and a shared way of thinking about leadership.”

To ensure she could speak from experience when touting the virtues of the Graduate Certificate in Leadership and Management, Shannon signed up to be part of Cohort Alpha. She ended up learning more about herself than she imagined in the process. “I went into it to ensure that I could be an authentic ambassador, I have come out of it with a lot more than that. Obviously I have come out with the ability to be very genuine in my praise for the program but it has been deeply influential in terms of understanding myself better as a leader.

“So my intentions were to do the right thing by the organisation and I ended up doing the right thing by me so that’s a great place to be,” Shannon says.