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designed and delivered in partnership with

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Sunday 10th to Friday 15th September 2023

Bishop Otter Campus, University of Chichester, UK

The participants

Applications for WSLA 2023 closed in February. Over sixty women applied, meaning this was the most competitive process seen for a residential week programme. A team at the University of Chichester selected the 2023 cohort based on a series of criteria.

WSLA 2023 brought together 32 outstanding women leaders from around the world to support to fulfil their leadership potential.

When they applied, the leaders were:

  1. Currently in middle management, or recently appointed senior managers or Board members, of sport or sport-for-development organisations

  2. Responsible for key areas such as managing staff (or likely to be doing so soon) or heading up a specific department, area or project for their organisation

  3. Passionate and driven to pursue their own professional development

  4. Committed to influencing change in an organisation or sector of work

  5. Identified as future leaders by their organisation

  6. Committed to making a difference to as well as enhancing opportunities for women and girls in and through sport

  7. Competent in written and spoken English (min IELTS 6.5). Please note that no translation service will be provided.

The paricipants

The 2023 programme

The 2023 programme benefitted from a revised set of objectives and goals based upon reflections and feedback from our return in 2022.  


WSLA used four objectives to support the further development of participants. We term these The four Cs: competencies, confidence, context, and commitment.

2023 programme

leadership Competencies

to support female leaders to enhance their leadership skills and behaviours to navigate the challenges that are part of leading an organisation


to encourage female leaders to identify their strengths, goals and ambitions to support their desired career path; championing who they are and others around them


to understand the organisational and cultural environment, recognising opportunities and challenges, and influencing fellow allies and champions to create positive change

Commitment of employers

to engage with the employers of female leaders and support their ongoing development and wider influence

Specifically, WSLA 2023 aimed to support the participants to:

  • Become a more adaptable and impactful leader 
  • Develop their own leadership style and identity, and appreciation of their impact upon others
  • Identify career ambitions and produce a Personal Development Plan and strategies to support these ambitions

  • Maximise their network by being intentional about who to approach any why, including connecting with global WSLA alumni

  • Improve intercultural understanding through engagement with a diverse cohort and conversations around leading and working in different environments

  • Gain a better knowledge and understanding of the challenges and opportunities for women in sport leadership

  • Strategically influence and advocate others to create a more inclusive workplace within their organisation

The week-long programme consisted of several elements, all of which were essential for the critical learning and development that took place during the WSLA residential week:

  • Workshops – These are an integral part of the learning process and are designed to meet the needs of participants. They have clear learning outcomes and are tailored to maximise learning; they will be challenging, constructive and highly interactive. Even though we are based at a university, we do not have any lectures at WSLA.

  • Personal Development Plan – Each participant will produce a Personal Development Plan setting goals on leadership behaviours, career strategies, future opportunities and to consolidate learning.

  • Reflection groups – These consist of small groups of participants who meet regularly throughout the residential week. Their aim is to help participants consider their learning, raise issues and concerns, discuss hot topics, and provide support and encouragement.

  • Peer support sessions – These provide opportunities for participants to define, frame and communicate their key challenges and receive support from colleagues. The sessions allow participants to have time to reflect on their experiences and to explore ways of doing things differently.

  • Physical activities – A range of physical activities have been designed to indulge our love of sport, to live our principle of an active lifestyle, to provide a physical challenge, to promote team building and... to have fun!

  • Facilitators and guest speakers – The programme is led by Sarah Wright and Tina Dullaghan alongside a team of experienced facilitators, some of whom are WSLA graduates, to inspire participants as well as share their own experiences. Guest speakers will identify what leadership means to them and what motivates and challenges them, as well as providing top tips for participants.

Programme structure and content

Our leadership vision


Leading Edge Performance has been a partner to high performance focused sport and commercial organisations for over 14 years. We challenge ourselves every day to deliver against our promise ‘If it matters to you, it matters to us’. We are experts in, and inspired by, high performance and are energised by people-led partnerships. We recognise the biggest enabler of success is shifting the mindset, skill and behaviour of people. Designing and delivering development solutions that impact on performance and focus on engagement are the outputs for everything we do. 


We believe leadership is the root cause of most organisational successes – and failures. From the organisation’s results to the meeting format, the leadership ‘shadow’ is a long one. We’ve observed and listened, coached, and facilitated hundreds of leaders over the past 25 years, and our reflections have defined our point of view on leadership.

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Authentic Self   |   Find Ways to Win   |   In Service of Others 

At the heart of our leadership point of view is sustainability, while navigating ambiguity. We believe successful leaders manage the three inherent tensions of leadership 


The difference is brilliant leaders have enhanced skills and behaviours in five aspects:

  1. Clarity of identity – self awareness and self development 

  2. Embrace paradox – recognition of and ability to operate in ambiguous and often contradictory landscapes

  3. Trust centred – creates trust led relationships, environments and cultures

  4. Encourages fail fast, learn quick – values innovation and creativity, encourages fresh thinking and removes fear of failure 

  5. Sense maker - has a strategic vision and can influence and engage others to join them 


During WSLA we will explore some of these skills and behaviours in more detail. Importantly, we will ensure that what we deliver is relevant to the group. Therefore, ahead of the week we will be conducting an insight gathering phase. This will ensure that we prioritise and focus on the necessary areas that will be impactful to you in your role.

To ensure that participants get as much as possible from the WSLA experience, and also to ensure we make the content of WSLA as relevant as possible to the differing circumstances of each person, we will ask for some pre-work to be completed prior to attending WSLA. Detailed instructions as well as deadlines and templates will be provided following acceptance onto the programme. 


We recognise the need to support participants and their organisations to continue to reflect and practice the skills that they have learnt over the WSLA week. Therefore, following the week, we will also be working with participant organisations to offer guidance about the role they can play in helping the participants to continue to grow and develop.  

Graduate testimonies

WSLA has been subject to an independent evaluation as well as monitoring and feedback actioned internally. The results below are from a survey administered to graduates in 2020, which saw 99 responses. 


Graduates who said WSLA had a life-changing or significant impact on them as a person

Graduates who said WSLA had a life-changing or significant impact on them as a leader



Over half of graduates said they had a new job/role since WSLA

Over two-thirds of graduates had taken on a non-paid leadership role since WSLA


We asked graduates of of our 2019 & 2022 programmes “What message would you give to someone who was thinking about a future WSLA?”


"It's a brilliant opportunity for women of all ages and stages of their careers to engage, explore, learn new ways and approaches, and leave ready to inspire their colleagues and future generations of great women leaders"

"It's not something to even think about - just do it!"

We know that women encounter issues and barriers to advance within systems of sport leadership. Crucially however, we do not aim to “fix”, “upskill” or “teach” women. We know that women already have the skills and knowledge to excel. Instead, we challenge our participants to really think about what leadership means to them, what they want to achieve, how they can go about doing it, and provide insight into tackling problematic systems and cultures. WSLA facilitates a personal learning experience, cultivated within a safe, multicultural, diverse, trusting environment, that will impact you in ways you could never anticipate. And it’s not us saying this, as our graduate testimonies attest:

Graduate testimonies
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