Interloping for Good

Pat Armstrong, Chief Officer of ACOSVO talks about her Leadership Exchange experience with Laura Chow, Senior Community Programmes Manager, Sustainability from RBS...


I've been developing our Leadership Exchange programme now for a couple of years. The idea is to connect leaders across sectors to enable them to get a better understanding of each other's culture, environment, language, leadership challenges and ways of working. This enables more collaborative leadership and understanding between sectors and builds strong working relationships that can act as conduits between sectors.

We have matched over 150 leaders to date across the wider public services and the programme is now a key workstream of Workforce Scotland.

Although the original concept came from an exchange I did with a Serbian leader, it's been a while since I was part of an exchange - and now I have the chance to delve back in as we pilot expanding the programme into the private sector.

I spent the first day of my exchange based at RBS Gogarburn with Laura Chow, Senior Community Programmes Manager, and what a fascinating day it was! There were lots of learning points; from the logistics of the office layout, the move from face to face meetings to video and phone, comparing how we manage diaries, to considering how we each already connect to each other's sectors (not always as joined up as it could be from both sides.)

The day included seeing the roundup of a recent London to Edinburgh cycle challenge for Sport Relief, the Corporate Generation Challenge for the STV Appeal and Prince’s Trust, and meeting key colleagues across the different parts of the bank, including the CEO Ross McEwan.

We also generated many ideas for future events and projects that could be of benefit to leadership and governance across both sectors. I finished the day feeling inspired and refreshed – what’s that saying about how a change is as good as a rest?

I increasingly find that the lines are blurring between sectors, myths are being busted and most of us want to make a difference in the work we do. I feel very privileged to be connected across third, public and private sectors (Chief Exec of ACOSVO, on the board of OSCR the charity regulator, and on the Scotland committee of the IOD) and I look forward to introducing Laura to our work with third sector leaders.

And very topically, as with many people across Scotland, I am also taking part in the Ulab journey which encourages us to “walk in each other’s shoes”, “see through each other’s eyes” and “lead from the emerging future”. Walking in each other’s shoes is the core theme of the Leadership Exchange – sometimes I believe things coincide for a reason. It felt like perfect timing to be exploring a very different environment, looking at how we break down the barriers between traditional sectors and at how we co-create a way forward to a new way of working.