CSC Leaders Programme: Lessons Learned

In this leadership blog Pat reflects on her experience on the second leg of the CSC Leaders programme in Kuala Lumpar.

Info on CSC at  The programme involves one week in London and one in another part of the commonwealth with almost 80 leaders from a wide range of countries and sectors.

See blog on first leg for more details on CQ and core and flex which are concepts which underpin the learning.


I thought I’d try a different format for my blog this time.


Day 1: Sunday – hours slept 8 

Excited to be heading on my first visit to Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia as the second leg of my CSC leaders programme. Packed for all eventualities.

Lesson Learned: You don’t need all eventualities



Day 2: Monday – hours slept 1 (maybe) 

Arrive in KL after two 8 hour flights and a quick 2 hour stop off in Doha. Trying not to sleep until local time. Caught up with some colleagues from first stage in London by heading to Sky Bar for cocktails – new way to keep the jetlag at bay.

Lesson Learned: Going through challenging situations together builds strong bonds and trust very quickly. It felt like meeting a group of old friends and so nice to see everyone.




Day 3: Tuesday – hours slept 7

Met around 70 leaders from across the commonwealth, many who had been in London in May, along with a few added “alumni” and “newbies”. The day was a mix of speakers and group discussions/challenges all around the dynamic of cities and resilience. It was fascinating to find out more about KL and Malaysia, the politics, the people and the mix of cultures. We finish at 6 and after a quick change, head for dinner at local restaurant.

Lesson Learned: Familiarity makes things less scary or challenging. Although the first day was just as intense and challenging as that in London, it felt so much more relaxed and “easy”.  When you have an idea of what you are going into and know the people involved, you can engage much more quickly and confidently.



Day 4: Wednesday – hours slept 3 (jetlag’s kicked in) 

Up at 5.45am to meet for a jog. Seemed like a good idea at the time and lovely to meet fellow runners and find out how they find time, value wellbeing and stay resilient.  Did struggle a little with range of abilities though – mine was way down the list compared to the ultra-runners but everyone was so encouraging and we adapted our pace to spend at least some time running together.  Today revolved around visits to projects, the first a river regeneration project and the second an aerospace company. The visits give us a chance to think about what makes a city resilient through a range of different lenses and gives us the opportunity to hear their stories, question the leaders and really reflect on what we can learn and share. After a few dashes across the city and some amazing visits and insights, we headed off to the British High Commission in Malaysia for the evening and heard from the very inspiring High Commissioner Vicky Treadell and the new Minister for Youth and Sport Syed Saddiq. 

Lessons Learned: Social media can be a force for change – stories are powerful. Sayed talked about how the government in power for 60 years had been changed through messages being shared on social media, and young people then sharing them with their families. I was also made to think about how we use the specialist knowledge and expertise around us.  Vicky told us of a situation when she had to argue a case with religious leaders and used their teachings to strengthen her arguments.




Day 5: Thursday – hours slept 4

Back up for my second 5:45am jog only to find I was on my own...  We were all so enthusiastic at 11pm last night! Did meet one of my ultra-runner friends in the park though.  Was so much scarier wandering around in the dark, trying to remember where the park was, in a strange city, on my own, than when there was a few of us. Visits today were to a Batik project trying to keep local culture and art alive while helping local women and then to the TV and media organisation of the country.  Both fascinating in totally different ways. Tonight’s dinner was at a restaurant in a Shopping Mall (KL is full of Malls) – progress not always a good thing!

Lessons Learned: You can get too much of a good thing. I’ve tried to take advantage of all the opportunities open to me from early morning till late evening and realise I’m (literally) running myself a little thin.  Maybe if I focus on a few things to give my energy to I might get more out of them. A lesson to take back?



Day 6: Friday – hours slept 5 (gaining ground)

No jog – need to re-charge and last the day.

We had a few more inputs and spent time reflecting on our experiences and learning.  We had also been part of a “learning group” throughout the week where we took turns to explore our own issues in an action learning type setting. As we were all heading off at different times we said fond farewells at the end of the session.  We ended up with a WhatsApp group of 79 which is still going strong.  It’s great to have connections across the world and also great to see the sharing of ideas and knowledge already continuing to happen between the group. We also now have the opportunity to be part of an alumni group – and those of us who have taken part from Scotland (three from this cohort) are already planning a “pop up” get together soon.

Lessons Learned: Active listening changes your entire process of learning. I challenged myself with a different approach to my learning. Last time I was determined to keep pace, have my say and stand up to the mark as a leader from Scotland.  One of the things we had worked on previously was how well we listen so I consciously decided to be much more reflective and focus more on “receiving” rather than “transmitting”. It’s a fascinating thing to reflect on when you purposely and actively make the shift. The broadcast/receive exercise was hugely enlightening and something I will definitely take back into my day job.  I tend to go straight into extoling the virtues of ACOSVO and what a wonderful organisation it is when I meet people we might want to work with.  I think I’ll now spend much more time trying to find out about them first now before I talk about us.


Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this experience – the mix of learning from inputs, visits and a peer group of leaders from across sectors, counties and perspectives is challenging, enriching and hugely beneficial. – and I now have a group of leaders from across the globe as a peer support network – How fabulous is that?! :)