- Written by The Academy Team
Rona MacKay is the Head of Operations & Governance at Community Energy Scotland, a charity that aims to strengthen and empower local communities by helping them to own, control and benefit from their local renewable energy resources. Attending Social Enterprise Academy programmes has given Rona the confidence to become Chair of her community council.
We caught up with Rona in the lead up to International Women's Day 2020, to find out how attending our recent Enterprising Leadership programme in Uist has empowered her to step up and take on a new role outside her comfort zone as the Chair of Benbecula Community Council
Rona, how did it feel taking time out to focus on your learning and development?
"I felt guilty at first taking time out of the office and the long list of things to do and emails piling up. It felt great to have two days of headspace in a relaxed atmosphere without the usual pressures and deadlines, and the luxury of thinking about my own learning instead of the day’s tasks."
Were there any lightbulb moments for you during your learning experience?
"I learnt that leadership isn’t reserved for naturally confident people and extroverts. Everyone can be a leader in their own way, I learnt it’s about taking the initiative and responsibility, sharing your vision with others and working with them to see it through.
The learning we did on crucial conversations has been invaluable in addressing the elephant in the room. So much depends on getting along with people - practising open and honest discussions leads to a greater understanding and trust, which are so important to working well with your community, team and stakeholders."
How has this programme empowered you to seek new opportunities in your professional or personal life?
"The programme gave me the confidence to become Chair of our community council as I realised I do have valuable knowledge and experience of the Third Sector, and a coaching & democratic leadership style. Being Chair is not a role I’m normally comfortable to take on as I tend to shy away from being noticed or any potential conflict. I’ve been surprised, however, at how positive an experience it has been. We have such a strong community Uist full of passionate, experienced and skilled people willing to volunteer their time, and working together is uplifting. I still need to hone my skills in keeping time though: I enjoy the discussions so I forget to look at the clock!"
How has this programme helped you forge positive visibility of women?
"Most of the top jobs in the Western Isles are held by men, particularly in the Council where all councillors are currently men. It’s not just a problem of representation of women, we also have very little representation of younger voices in our Council."
"In the Third Sector in Uist, however, many of the leading roles are held by women and I’ve found it an inspiration to spend time learning with them on SEA programmes and working on development plans and tackling issues together."
What has changed for your organisation as a result of taking part in the programme?
"Community Energy Scotland is a national charity with staff working remotely all over Scotland. We get together usually twice a year in person and use it as a time for planning and socialising as a team. Since participating in the SEA programmes I’ve put a lot more thought into team activities and what we want to get out of the valuable time we spend together. I use what I learnt on the programme to help staff to recognise their own leadership skills and styles and encourage them to take the lead on their own ideas."
Why do you think it’s important for social entrepreneurs to take time out and focus on their leadership development?
"When relaxed, people can be more innovative and problem solve. Modern working lives can be so task orientated with everyone having a long list of things to do and with emails piling up looking for our attention. There is so much value in dedicating time to learning so we can look at problems and issues in a different way, plan instead of react,and learn from others with similar problems but different perspectives."
Get in touch
To find out more about how our programmes can benefit you and your organisation, contact:
Rural Phone Number: 01463871219
Urban Phone Number: 0131 243 2670