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Leading Change in practice: Nushelle de Silva

Leading Change in practice: Nushelle de Silva

Making myself findable to pass on my knowledge and expertise

Queen's Young Leader, Nushelle de Silva considers how improving her profile and change by design have helped her become more confident – and more useful – as a leader.

When I first read Lauren Currie’s work on design thinking and Pete Mosley’s The Art of Shouting Quietly on the Leading Change course, I was struck by their three-part call to action.

  • First, as a young leader, I should endeavour not only to be mentored, but also to be a mentor.
  • Second, mentoring others requires that I make myself findable, whether in person or virtually.
  • Third, to make myself findable, I must confidently take ownership of my expertise, clearly articulating and sharing knowledge in the areas where I am a leader.

I found this last to be terrifying. Until then, I was content to think of myself as a perennial student, absorbing information and mulling it over before making any response.

In a world of over-sharers, I was a serial under­-sharer. I prided myself on being careful, thoughtful and considered. But I was failing to admit that in my quest for perfection, I actually wasn’t saying anything at all.

Shouting quietly

While I am still admittedly quite cautious about what I share, I am taking real steps to owning and honing my expertise, and to making myself findable. Here are a few different ways I now ‘shout quietly’ – to use Pete’s words.

First, I tested my expertise within the Queen's Young Leaders network. Over the past year, I have reviewed and edited content for the Leading Change course – crafting to-do lists to make clear what was an action item or simply food for thought. I crafted at-a-glance summaries for the modules, and made suggestions for re-arranging some content so that it would be simpler to grasp.

Discovering my knack for presenting information made me think more seriously about how I could make myself useful to a global community.

I reflected on the leadership training I have received through the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme and elsewhere, and could immediately see patterns and connections I wanted to make more explicit.

Leadership blog

So, secondly, I launched a 12-part leadership blog series this year, which distills the advice I received into a series of monthly challenges that will run until the end of the year.

Previously, I would have embarked on lengthy personal notes that I would perfect and polish laboriously, but ultimately abandon for lack of time before ever reaching an audience of more than one.

This time, I simply sketched out a general plan, and trusted myself and my abilities to see where each month took me.

The structure has changed over the past five months, and will continue to do so each month. This is a fact I am now comfortable with, because I’ve realised that expertise is not static, and grows through sharing as much as through absorbing ideas.

Sharing as a novice

Thirdly, I’ve learned that that you can share your journey while still a novice, inviting others to join you. To that end, I’ve been sharing my forays into design thinking, even while I am still in the midst of planning to new workshop series for Building Bridges – launching in August – that will adapt some of these methods for teaching creativity to middle-school students.

Lauren’s and Pete’s words have encouraged me to be simultaneously vulnerable through sharing, and empowered through owning my strengths. This has given me new insight into the meaning of courage.