Learning takes place with a cohort of women dedicated to expanding their capacity for executive leadership. Emphasizing the power of learning cohorts, building networks and long-term relationships make the Strategies for Success program distinctive.
During the tenure of the program, a faculty director will lead the seminar series, providing her content expertise in emotional intelligence, leading change, and work-team dynamics. In addition, the faculty director will engage with the group between programs, facilitating a continuing conversation among participants through an online vehicle that will ensure the learning experience reaches beyond the classroom. Guest speakers will instruct in topics such as authentic leadership and communicating across genders.
Participants will meet for six one-day seminars over the course of eight months. These highly interactive sessions will include a variety of networking opportunities, group-mentoring conversations, and peer-to-peer coaching. Between seminars, participants will extend the classroom experience through selected readings and discussions, on-line conversations, and assessments. The participants will also be encouraged to journal their learning experience throughout the program. Other highlights of the program include our SES Mentor breakfasts, Open Space Discussions, and various leadership exercises.
Participants interesting in leadership coaching are strongly encouraged to register for the Individual Development Pathway that will include our 360-degree leadership assessment based on the Executive Core Qualifications, and 5 individual coaching sessions.
About the Instructor
Susan Brock Wilkes, Ph.D., is an organizational psychologist with extensive experience in executive coaching, leadership, team development, and facilitation. She is the owner of Wilkes Consulting, LLC. Prior to establishing Wilkes Consulting, she was employed by Virginia Commonwealth University at the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute and as the founding Director of the Workplace Initiatives Program. She also continues to serve as an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Psychology at VCU and as a Senior Consultant for the Leadership Development Center at University of Virginia. Dr. Wilkes is a Licensed Professional Counselor whose practice includes 25 years of experience with working adults.
The 411 on BEE’s Women’s Leadership Program: Reflections from the Lead Faculty
Due to the popularity of Brookings Executive Education Women’s Leadership program we are launching our third year with two cohort groups, one starting in October, the second in April. Our lead faculty, Susan Wilkes, shares her observations on the program’s success.
Walk in first thing any morning of the women's program at Brookings, and you'll immediately be struck by the vibrant energy in the room as some of the brightest female leaders in government engage with their SES mentors over breakfast. Lucretia McClenney, one of the six SES mentors who support the program, described the conversations as "spirited discussions challenging the status quo and exploring ideas in a non-threatening environment."
Each of our days in "Women's Leadership: Strategies for Success" begin with the mentor breakfasts and continue in an active learning format covering timely topics such as emotional intelligence, leading change, authentic leadership, resilience, and conflict management. Simulations, experiential learning activities, and small group discussions are commonplace as we apply important concepts to relevant situations in the participants' agencies.
As lead faculty for the program, I've been impressed with the richness of learning that occurs as women from diverse agencies, ages and backgrounds share their real-time challenges, opportunities, and perspectives. Indeed, our program goals center around not only the acquisition of leadership knowledge, but also deeper exploration of individual leadership capacity, and strengthening of a network of female colleagues across agencies. As recent graduate Abigail Smith noted, "this program is a safe haven of learning for women in government service to grow, explore, vent, and laugh. The Women's Leadership Program brings practical application of leadership best practices with a twist of female bonding thrown in for good measure."
A male visitor asked me what the difference is in having a program just for women. Did we have "female topics?" I told him that while we do address some specialized topics such as gender issues in communication, the important leadership skills for today aren't different for men and women. I invited him to sit in for a while and see how he thought the program was unique. "Oh, now I get it", he said afterward. What he noticed was that the differences are in the women's perspective on the topics and the collaborative way women leaders with a strong spirit of public service engage with each other. McClenney pointed out that a distinct advantage of the program is that it allows "women to be genuine and authentic which can be challenging in politically charged work environments."
I was touched during our closing session as each woman offered a single comment in reflection on her experience in the program. Some focused on practical learning such as the one who noted, "I now have a tool-kit to use back in my agency." Others shared that the program had encouraged them to take risks and grow in new ways, or how their confidence had grown through the support of their program colleagues. One wondered what positions members of the group might be in five years from now and expressed her excitement about the advancement we'll see during that time. The third cohort group of the women's program will begin in October. As I reflect on our experience so far, I find myself inspired by amazing women leaders we have served in the first two cohort groups and by the many contributions I know they are making for our country. And, I am eager to meet the next group of women who will come to think together, learn from each other, and lead from their distinctive strengths.