Danni Clayton: Future Leaders is a life changing experience


Last year was the second time I had applied, and I wanted to mention that because with the benefit of hindsight I can see that first time round I simply wasn’t ready, and so I’d like to encourage anyone who’s applied and been unsuccessful before to reapply. Demand is always high, last year there were over four times as many applications as places; so even if you have applied and felt ready but been unsuccessful, my advice would be to try and try again – competition is high as the programme is so well-regarded (and for good reason!), but I can assure you it’s well worth the wait.

I remember the interview process quite vividly: not because it was particularly difficult, it wasn’t at all – my interviewer was lovely and completely put me at ease in what turned out to be a very relaxed conversation – more because I was working from home when a high speed police chase ended with the suspects crashing into our parked car on our driveway around 20 minutes before! So I hope that allays any fears about the application process – if I can get through after that, it really must be a straightforward and relatively painless process! (police chases aside, of course.)

Come September and a mad dash on my part through London to the first of the scheduled two days, having been delayed and arriving into Kings Cross much later than expected. I arrived somewhat hot and breathless despite the rain from several wrong turns along the way (thanks to my Google maps which apparently doesn’t know right from left) into a room in the offices of London Councils with nine other equally hesitant-looking individuals starting to strike up conversations. As it turned out, that initial hesitation would last about, oh, five minutes into meeting each other! The first two days were intense, exceptional, and inspirational; and I won’t say any more so as not to ruin the surprise!

As I said, it’s now ten months on and what I’ve taken away from my time with Future Leaders is:

  • Some amazing relationships and friendships that have developed with an incredibly talented and diverse bunch of people from across the country that we have all pledged to continue
  • Fantastic opportunities to meet; hear and learn from; network and develop relationships with many of the top communicators in both central and local government, and experts in a wide range of fields and disciplines
  • A brilliant two days spent in Leeds learning about Leadership from Prof Paul Willis, the most down-to-earth, knowledgeable and un-proffy-professor (in a good way!) I’ve ever met
  • Opportunities to attend both LGcomms Academy and CommsCampNorth as part of the programme (though on the latter I was also ‘volunteered’ into selling cakes for charity!)
  • Having access to a mentor who was already working at a head of communications level and who could offer their experiences, insight, and suggestions to aid my development
  • Taking part in a LGA Peer Review with an exceptional peer review team which was a fascinating insight into another council, as well as an opportunity to step up and contribute
  • The most wonderful, hectic, sometimes stressful but ultimately rewarding graduation day in Brighton spent completing a competitive team task (we won! just had to mention that!), with a grand finale at the top of the British Airways i360 tower amidst stunning views
  • The opportunity to be a part of planning for next year as part of the LGcomms Exec Board in a job-share capacity with a fellow Future Leader, and all the opportunities that brings
  • So much fun! drinks, food, laughter; and memories and experiences I’ll remember forever.

In short, Future Leaders has been a remarkable, positive, personal and professional life-changing experience; and if you’re in any doubt as to whether you should apply, don’t hesitate – go for it.

Nominations are now open, and as someone who will be involved in planning and hopefully delivering some elements of the programme next year I very much look forward to meeting you, and having the absolute privilege of watching the experiences and progress of the next Future Leaders.

Danni Clayton, Communications and marketing business partner, Leeds City Council

Sounds interesting? Apply for for Future Leaders 2018/19 here.

Posted on 22nd May 2018