Monday 09 October 2023

Recapping IPA Business & Agency Leadership

Leadership. It’s an abstract notion.

Sara Stevenson, Group Business Director, cummins&partners


One day it is thrust upon you, right at the point when you think you are finding your feet; when you are getting confidence in your day-to-day, starting to grapple with tasks and delivering them (with challenges of course) but at a level where think you might actually start to know what you are doing.

Then all of a sudden – you’re a leader. People come to you for all sorts of things: your advice, guidance, direction, your approach to solving problems, personal challenges, people problems, what’s the priority, what’s the vision, what do you think about this new piece of tech, process changes… the list goes on. It’s daunting, a bit scary. You jump into this new journey of leadership and question constantly if you are getting it right.

And that’s the thing: leadership is a journey. It evolves and you learn every day but it’s hard to stop in the midst of the chaos.

The recent IPA Business & Agency Leadership course allowed exactly that – a moment to stop in the chaos.

Now, I assume I can speak for a fair few of us in that when you hear about another leadership course you think to yourself, How will this be different from every other leadership session? Are they going to tell me to just be “authentic”? Do I really need to relearn the difference between a leader and manager?

You know those podcasts, articles and TED Talks; I’m not shaming them, these are wonderfully inspiring and important pieces of content where brilliant minds are delivering you valuable information and insights. However, they tend to leave you with a bit of an adrenaline rush and you walk into wherever you are headed the next day and think… Shit, what did that podcast say again? How do I apply this? How do I want to react in this situation? What was that advice again?

Which brings me to this three-day residential. As a new group of peers we all sat in a room together, staring at the agenda, wondering what we were going to take out of this.

Don’t get me wrong, not all the problems are going to be magically solved through this course. But what it did so brilliantly was give depth, space, clarity and a true moment to understand more. It was a carefully curated and crafted experience that taught fundamentals and functional aspects of running a business, but importantly it gave you the room to learn who you want to be as a Leader.

It allows you to understand that you have time. It helps you evaluate your values and clock what is important to you; not just the business but you. How to respect yourself and your time, understanding that it’s an everyday practice, how to be consistent in how you show up and, dare I say it, how to be authentic.

At least for me, this wonderfully, awesome experience helped clarify how I want to show up as a leader, gave permission to prioritise the values I hold true, and ensured that I can be that person for myself and those around me.

Your experience and outtakes won’t be the same, but what I can assure is that you will be better for it.

Leadership, it’s still an abstract notion – still very much a journey – but now, it’s one I can step into with more confidence.


ACA’s IPA Business & Agency Leadership course is a three-day residential for aspiring agency leaders. Find out more and register your interest for 2024 here.

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