Breaking the glass ceiling through ‘transformational leadership’

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Twenty-four women aspiring to assume leadership positions in open and distance learning (ODL) and ICT-based fields gathered at Wawasan Open University (WOU) in Penang, Malaysia from 26 to 28 April for the Pan-Commonwealth Training Programme on Women and Leadership in ODL. Now in its second year, the intensive workshop attracted mid-career professionals from across the Commonwealth and was organised by COL in collaboration with WOU.

The workshop focused on imparting knowledge, skills and confidence among participants for their career progression. It also aimed to help build a network of role models and mentors to provide ongoing guidance, encouragement and support to enable the women leaders to realise their full potential. Ms Caroline Ong from leadership development firm Leaderonomics held two sessions on ‘Leading with Influence and Power’ and ‘Motivating Teams Towards Delivering.’

Professor Asha Kanwar, COL President and CEO, spoke on the topic of ‘Women’s Transformational Leadership’ during the programme, where she said, “The critical feature of transformational leadership is that it empowers both the leader and the follower to higher levels of motivation and performance. Transformational leaders identify their own values and those of others and use these as a basis for collective action. The power is shared and this leads to the empowerment of all involved.”

The concept of ‘transformational leadership’ guided much of the programme design and participants were asked to draw on their own experiences as leaders to inform the discussions. Together, the participants reflected on their strengths and weaknesses and shared lessons learned from their careers.

The goal of the programme was to equip participants with the necessary tools to advocate for change and champion gender mainstreaming to advance the women leadership agenda. The hope is that these ambitious women will also be able to act as trainers and facilitators in their own institutions and communities.

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