Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Carleton Leader: Cultivating a Leader-ful University
Year Submitted 2016
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name Title
Cindy Taylor Director, Office of Quality Initiatives
Duncan Watt Vice-President (Finance and Administration)
Name of Institution Carleton University
Office Address 1125 Colonel By Dr.
2020 Dunton Tower
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6
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Telephone: 613-520-2600 x7847
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Duncan Watt
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice-President (Finance and Administration)
Office Address 503 Tory Building, 1125 Colonel By Dr.
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6
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Telephone: 613-520-2600 x3804
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

Carleton Leader is a bold and innovative approach to leadership development within higher education. It focuses and invests in growing our organizational leadership capacity in faculty and staff so the university is better prepared to face the emerging challenges of our times, collectively and collaboratively.


It is a customized initiative developed for Carleton, by Carleton which challenges our traditional constructs and notions of leadership. It provides a collaborative environment for faculty and staff to come together to better understand and engage with each other, their teams and the university.


While Carleton Leader is still in its infancy - two years completed and into its third - it has already had a tremendously positive impact and influence on individuals, departments and the university as a whole. An integral part of the success and continued growth of Carleton Leader is the support of the university's senior leadership which recognizes that leadership exists throughout the university, at all levels and in all areas.


Carleton Leader is based on the philosophy of growing a "leaderful" community - the process of leading all together and at the same time, so that there is a chair at the table for every leader, regardless of title or role on our campus. Participants go through a practical and reflective learning process that moves from ME to WE to US, such that we create a community of empowered leaders who think about the broader impact of their leadership.


There are three streams of Carleton Leader Carleton Leader 1, 2 and 3. Cohorts from each stream are comprised of faculty and staff from across campus.


Participants in Carleton Leader engage with the underpinning principles of collective leadership. The principles are conveyed in a variety of ways, including leadership exchanges and Strategic Impact Groups (SI Gs), through the architecture of Carleton Leader.


By investing in our most valuable asset - our people - and harnessing their potential, Carleton Leader has resulted in participants having enhanced leadership confidence and competence, an expanding community of connected leadership practitioners, and innovative, tangible and meaningful contributions to the future of Carleton University.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

When Carleton University was considering renewing its leadership development efforts in 2012, a cross-functional team began looking for examples of cutting-edge initiatives in higher education. Above all, one stood out: The Sheffield Leader, based out of The University of Sheffield in the U.K. As a result, Carleton worked in partnership with The University of Sheffield to customize its model for Carleton, recognizing that the key principles could be adapted to meet the specific needs of our campus community. The result was the launch of Carleton Leader in 2013 – a unique approach to leadership development that brings both faculty and staff together in the journey. The collaborative relationship between Sheffield and Carleton continues today through information exchanges between the two universities, phone calls, meetings, as well as through presentations. Carleton and The University of Sheffield joined together to present the Leaderful philosophy at the Network for Change and Continuous Innovation (NCCI) to spread the word about how Carleton Leader is transforming the culture on our campus. Our success has already attracted the attention of more than 15 universities in the United States, Canada and the U.K, including Bradford University in the U.K., the University of Washington, Queen's University, University of Toronto and Western University. These institutions have heard how The Sheffield Leader was transformed into the Carleton Leader and they have reached out to learn more. Internally, there has been an unforeseen ripple effect, with Carleton's residence team adapting the Carleton Leader model into a leadership initiative for its student employees, as well as our Recreation and Athletics department examining the potential of this for its student staff.

Quality Impact

The goal of Carleton Leader is to give faculty and staff the opportunity to develop their leadership capacity and use that in their day-to-day work at the university. We have heard that as a result of bringing faculty and staff together through Carleton Leader, new networks are being established which have helped identify new opportunities for collaboration and contributions to the campus community. Since launching Carleton Leader in 2013, our evaluation process includes soliciting regular feedback, including interviews and surveys six months after participants complete their modules, as well as receiving unsolicited comments - all of which allows us to ensure Carleton Leader maintains its relevance. In terms of the institutional impact at the ME/WE/US levels, faculty who have participated in Carleton Leader are engaging their students in new ways as a result of their experience, Carleton Leaders are being asked to be on high-level committees across the institution and new collaborations have grown out of Carleton Leader connections. As a direct result of work conducted in one of the SI Gs, the university has moved away from using "staff' as a generic reference, to a more meaningful "faculty and professional services staff," and has changed the name of the annual Employee Appreciation Day to Carleton University Appreciation Day - a cultural shift that has had a positive impact. Since Carleton Leader began, we've seen increased participation in workshops and training which links to Carleton Leader as the awareness, understanding, and peer-to-peer promotion of how and why this is important changes our perception and culture of continuous learning and improvement.


  • A Humanities professor's research attracted local and national media attention from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) - which was directly related to a connection she made through her Carleton Leader experience. The professor says that without her CL experience, she wouldn't have taken measures to promote her research. At the time, she felt that CL may have been a distraction from work on her research, but it turned out to be the differentiating factor in her work being picked up and promoted and was an excellent news story for Carleton.
  • A Social Work professor says that through Carleton Leader she has made a connection that is responsible for the creation of new internship opportunities for students, and she is also pursuing the potential of similar opportunities with a second department.
  • Excellence Canada has credited Carleton Leader as "transforming leadership and culture at Carleton."
  • Duncan Watt, Vice-President (Finance and Administration), notes that Carleton Leader is helping to break down the silos between the academic and administrative areas of the university.


Feedback from Carleton Leaders:

Carleton Leader 1 Participants:

  • Carleton Leader "saved his career" by reinvigorating and energizing his interest being involved and connected to the university.
  • I never would have taken on this new role if it wasn't for Carleton Leader.


Carleton Leader 2 Participants:

  • My time in Carleton Leader has been one of the most valuable experiences I've ever been a part of. The Carleton Leader has helped me grow as a leader through interaction with other leaders which has widened my perspective on the community. Not only will you grow as a leader and person, but you will do so alongside a diverse group of fellow Carleton employees. The Carleton Leader sends a powerful message that this institution is committed to investing in the development of a community of leaders. A leader is not just what you hope to be, it is what you become.
  • I'm using the networks and connections I made in my SIG to do something new and beneficial in my everyday work.


Carleton Leader 3 Participants:

  • I feel that I now have permission to have my own sense of ieadership.
  • Carleton Leader reinvigorated by loyalty to the institution.
  • I had more traditional views of leadership before and now I have a sense of collaborative leadership - This was a revelation.
  • SIGs were instrumental.
  • Re-examine the way I act as a leader without the title.
  • I'm more relaxed about the concept of being a leader. I don't have to solve everything. I can work with others.
  • See more opportunities to engage with other like-minded people.
Productivity Impact

In 2016, Carleton Leader is entering its third year but is already having a positive impact across the university.


  • There have been 175 participants in Carleton Leader - in 2 years since Carleton Leader was launched (just started year 3). This represents almost 10% of our workforce. By 2017,  hat figure will grow to over 325.
  • Feedback received includes Carleton Leaders feeling increased levels of confidence, improved networks and relationships with colleagues and therefore feeling more engaged and productive in their work.
  • 92% are more confident as leaders
  • 87.5% are taking on more of a leadership role
  • Provides a framework for the beginning of a strategic succession planning approach
  • Directly supports Goal 4.1 of Carleton's Strategic Integrated Plan (SIP) which says: "To pursue organizational excellence by building leadership capacity and through the continuous improvement of our academic and administrative processes."
  • Carleton Leader has become the umbrella initiative for all our other learning and management development components. As a result of Carleton Leader we have launched:

• Fierce Conversations (101 participants)

• Supervisory Development Series (62 participants)

• Harvard ManageMentor (48 participants)

• CoachingOurselves (set to launch)

• Carleton Scholar (75 participants)

  • In our Employee Engagement Survey conducted in November 2015, Carleton University scored high in the area of Professional Growth. We received a score of 78 when asked "I have opportunities to lean and grow." Our score was 19% higher than other academic institutions within the data set. The comments received provide evidence that Carleton Leader is making a significant impact, along with the Professional Development offerings that are linked to Carleton Leader.
  • The university's senior leaders are seeking out Carleton Leaders to sit on committees, search panels and other campus initiatives.
  • Senior leaders are using Carleton Leader principles in their roles at the university.

Excellence Canada has specifically recognized Carleton Leader as a one-of-a-kind "leading practice" that is transforming leadership and culture at Carleton because it encourages crossfunctional team learning and innovation and, as a result, is one of the university's strengths. In addition to this third-party recognition, we have heard from faculty that Carleton Leader has changed the way they teach and interact with their students and the institution. Staff have also said that Carleton Leader has given them the renewed confidence to take on new and expanded leadership roles. A particularly innovative element of the Carleton Leader experience is that each cohort of Carleton Leader 2 and 3 are given the opportunity to focus on a "wicked" or complex issue facing the university through Strategic Impact Groups (SIGs). These groups encourage cross-university dialogue and ultimately aim to improve a key aspect of the institution. So far, Carleton Leader SI Gs have focussed their efforts on solving a wicked problem in one of the following themes: Internal Collaboration and Work Systems; University Reputation and Competitiveness; and Campus Environment and Experience. Once participants complete their Carleton Leader module, the opportunities for development and to stay connected are available through the Carleton Leader Community which is spearheaded by Leaders. Beyond Carleton, we increasingly see that unconventional leadership development is being explored and discussed as a viable approach for organizations to best equip themselves to face future challenges. Colorado-based Center for Creative Leadership Prof. Nick Petrie makes the case that collective leadership is the way of the future in his white paper called Future Trends in Leadership Development.