Stories - Tags

Every leader starts somewhere... by Matthew Mills

Every leader starts somewhere...


Take a second to consider this statement. You may not have thought about it before, but all public figures, from Cameron to Obama, are not in any way larger than life; in fact, they are more similar to us than is usually recognised. Their position is the only thing that sets them apart, and these positions can be gained by any one, if they apply themselves appropriately.

On the other hand, when someone considers what it is that makes a leader, the words "young people" or "teenager" do not usually come high on their list. This is perhaps not surprising, due to our lack of experience, but it is wrong to dismiss youth as credible leaders. This is because young people have the most potential to become them. A fact that the people at the Bristol Leadership Programme (BLP) know well. Piloted in 2012 the programme aims to identify capable young people from underprivileged backgrounds and create a platform to help them reach positions of leadership that may otherwise have been unobtainable in their current situations.

I came onto the programme this year after being put forward by my head of year, qualifying for the programme due to my status as a child in care and as a student who had been recognised as talented. I will admit that I was sceptical at first as I had little information and not much interest in leadership, at least not in a political sense. I decided to test the water, attending an interview with programme director Tracie Jolliff. After being offered a place, I took part in the BLP induction in June in an attempt to see what the programme was all about.

The outline was certainly impressive. A two week schedule (this year from the 8th-19th July), the programme boasted seminars and workshops from public figures from all areas, including top university professors, barristers, politicians, entrepreneurs and architects. Amongst some of the most notable were George Ferguson, the mayor of Bristol, and David Berg, professor of psychiatry and lecturer in the department of arts and science at Yale university. As well as this there were personality profiles and other inputs by JCA Global and High Growth Knowledge Company, who specialise in Emotional Intelligence and all aspects of leadership development. It certainly looked intriguing.

With this in mind, I cancelled a trip I had planned with school and jumped aboard. I was certainly not disappointed. From the first day I was drawn in by the engaging schedule and also the social aspect of the programme, joining ten other young people aged sixteen and above. A typical day on the programme, starting at 1:30pm, consisted of three ninety-minute seminars, with a break in between. Each evening from 7pm onwards we would host a different high profile guest, providing the chance for the members of the programme to get advice and support in their fields of interest, with the chance of getting work experience and possible internships. As well as this, we would be joined by members of the Bristol junior chamber, an organisation of entrepreneurs under the age of 40, who also provided advice and stories about their own experiences, which was an extremely beneficial insight which otherwise would not have been available to the young talent in the room.

The most beneficial thing I gained from the programme was opportunity; through the workshops and seminars I have opened doors that would otherwise have remained closed. I met many influential people and now have a larger understanding of what I need to do to put myself out there and make an impression. Coaches and mentors provide a support network which stays with you for at least 12 months and helps you take the steps needed to get where you want to be. On top of this, I met 10 of the most incredible people, all of whom were from different backgrounds and all of whom were inspiring in different ways. I am still in contact with them after the programme. The programme’s emphasis on breaking the class barrier within leadership was also inspiring, with talks from a wide range of people who were not from privileged backgrounds, including black & minority ethnic speakers who had excelled.

A strong message I would pass on is that leadership is not all political and constitutional. The programme has taught me that you can be a leader in any aspect, whether it be in sport, music or amongst your friends. If you put the effort in, then the benefits will be obvious. I myself am excited for my future as an ambassador for the programme, and where it will take me. The programme’s motto is "accidentally gifted, deliberately brilliant", and similarly the BLP was given a chance to transform the lives of those involved, and it has done a deliberately brilliant job.

If anyone would like more information, look to the BLP website:


Group picture


This year's participants, all dressed up!