Women’s Sport Leadership Academy – an inspirational 5 days

Last week I had the privilege of delivering the 2022 Women’s Sport Leadership Academy Residential (WSLA).

I was first introduced to WSLA back in March, during my first week at Leading Edge. WSLA, supported by the University of Chichester, has the ambition of ‘providing unique development opportunities for women leaders from around the world to step up, take the lead and make an impact.’  This really struck a chord and I was delighted to be involved.

Safe to say it exceeded my expectations – I had the honour of spending five incredible days with 21 women leaders spanning 10 different countries around the world. This is one of the strengths of WSLA – creating an opportunity for a range of knowledge, experience, and cultures to come together and share, all with a common goal to support and inspire each other’s Leadership Journey.


I could share so much about the week, but I’ve pulled out 3 elements of our approach that I think really made for the fantastic week:

  1. The importance of creating the right learning environment:

It’s not very often you have five days to focus solely on yourself and whilst there was a busy week scheduled, my belief is that it’s important to set the right environment for the group to thrive in from the start.

In true Leading-Edge style, we anchored the week with a ‘Green Thread’ of belonging, vulnerability, and the gift of feedback. We explored what the environment and behaviours needed to look like to ensure everyone felt like they belonged at WSLA 2022. In doing so, how this would enable people to be vulnerable – creating a safe space to share, experiment, take risks and learn fast. Finally, we actively encouraged feedback, recognising that this was coming from a positive place and to remain curious.

This set the tone from the off, with several of the group referencing how open and deep they were able to be right from the start.

  1. Using an overarching frame to explore the tensions of leadership:

The rest of the week focused around the three tensions in our Leadership Point of View.

  • Authentic Self – who you are as an individual and leader and how you can be at your best
  • In service of others – focussing on creating coaching cultures, boundaries and dealing with difficult conversations
  • Finding Ways to Win – adaptable leadership and dealing with change.

As we were working with sport’s leaders, what better way to see the tension and leadership behaviours play out then through a competitive scavenger hunt around Bognor Regis!  The reflections provided interesting insight and a good reminder about the importance of being clear on the goal and checking to ensure everyone is aligned to that goal!

We were also delighted to be joined by Magali Dolo, Head of Leadership & Management Development (EMEA) at Insight Technologies. With many parallels between sport and business, the participants benefited from Magali’s expertise in situational leadership and discussing some of the challenges we face as women leaders regardless of the context. In the evening, alongside Sue Storey CEO of Badminton England, we were also fortunate enough to hear Magali’s own inspirational leadership story having been an elite Rugby Player for Ireland.

  1. The power of owning your story:

In fact, storytelling played a prominent role during the week, with the women working with professional Storyteller Katrice Horsley to own their stories and to tell them with passion and pride. It was a fantastic way to pull together the learning over the week and after only four hours culminated in two fantastic and emotional group performances at the evenings celebratory event.

It was an incredible experience and fantastic to observe everyone’s energy, passion and belief grow throughout the week. I feel fortunate to have played a small part in supporting the leadership journey of these women and can’t wait to see what their next chapters involve. Whatever it is, I take confidence knowing there is a strong foundation of Women Leaders inspiring the next generation.



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Sarah Kelleher

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