The importance of developing mutual leaders

As applications open for the 2024 cohort of the BSA / Loughborough University MSc in Strategic Leadership, we look at the importance of leadership and share valuable lessons and insights from the latest graduates.

Leadership is vital to the success of any organisation and the mutual sector, where purpose and values are fundamental to everything we do, is no exception. Our strategies and the energies of our people need to be directed to achieving that core purpose of serving our members.


The BSA / Loughborough University MSc in Strategic Leadership is designed to support BSA members grow their own talent.  The unpredictable external environment of recent years has served to demonstrate the importance of developing future mutual leaders. The need for strong and compassionate leaders is greater than ever, as what we do and the way that we do it becomes ever more important. Ambiguity and uncertainty are now part of everyday life and making good decisions in challenging and changing circumstances is key to performing well.

The skills that go into making a good leader are often achieved through experience, reflection and a deep understanding of a business, its values, and its people. Developing leaders of the future is not only worth the investment, it is critical to the success of the business.

The MSc programme helps member organisations to retain and develop talent, build management and leadership capability and bring an extra, external dimension to existing professional development within their organisation. Students on the course bring back business benefits to their organisation, the investment reaping tangible rewards for both the organisation and student. Since its inception in 2015 we have seen 96 students graduate.

We asked some of the latest graduates about their time on the programme. Huge thanks to Clare Riley, West Brom; James Domm, Nationwide; David Smith, Yorkshire; Toby Atkinson, Furness; Jo Moscrop, No1 CopperPot CU; Sandrine Streeter, Chenavari and Stephanie Hattersley, Skipton for their valuable insights:

What motivated people to join the course? 

A range of factors motivated people to join the degree programme, such as developing skills for different types of jobs in the future, enhancing career prospects and a desire to learn and gain a qualification were among the motivating reasons shared by the graduates. 

Toby recognised that the qualification would be highly sought after in the sector, while James said that the opportunity to take on a personal challenge that exploited his desire to learn was key for him. Stephanie wanted to address her self-doubt face on and build on self-confidence to progress and develop.

What challenges did the students face along the way?

Challenges faced by the graduates included time and prioritisation, fitting studies in busy work and personal schedules required discipline and balance! For Clare this was her first experience of academia; this plus the additional requirement of studying for Level 2 Functional Maths skills was a big challenge. 

David highlighted time management and returning to academic study after 20 years – so much had changed! Sandrine reminded us that the beginning of the course took place during Covid meaning the benefits of in person study and the Loughborough campus and library were not available, while James saw the programme as part of his job to help him manage his time and prioritise. 

What were the highlights?

Graduating was the obvious answer! Most of the graduates mentioned the support network and camaraderie formed within the cohort as a real highlight of the course. 

Other highlights included the guest lecturers and the real sector insights they brought to the course. Sandrine mentioned that the University Learn platform and apps were full of information that really helped her. Clare successfully gained her Maths qualification! Jo said that the graduation itself was a major highlight and a chance to reflect on everything the group had achieved. 

How has completing the programme helped the graduates in their organisations?

Numerous benefits were highlighted by the graduates – Claire has added value to the business by collaborating more outside of her area of expertise by developing her strategic leadership skills; James is now able to bring different models and experiences to work, and has connected his extended network with others in his organisation to enable benchmarking with peers. Toby highlighted how he is utilising the valuable skills learned in his day job and Jo now has the knowledge and confidence to work on more strategic projects. On a personal level, Stephanie shared how she has gained the confidence to try new things, to push and challenge herself on what she can achieve.

The graduates we spoke to would unequivocally recommend the Masters programme to others within the industry!

Key information about the MSC programme

2024 will see the recruitment of the ninth cohort of students onto the three year, part time MSc programme. The programme is also available as a two-year apprenticeship plus a third year to deliver the Masters degree. The application window is open and will close on 31 July.  Between now and then, there will be an Open Day on the Loughborough Campus on 10 April. Studies will commence in October this year.

You can download the Employer's Guide here

Topics covered

The MSc Programme modules provide a wide-ranging and comprehensive array of subjects, from Strategy, Governance and Risk, Managing organisation resources Strategic Marketing to Information management and Leading and Influencing Change. The first two years study also include Professional skills workshops to increase knowledge, skills and behaviours.

For more information about the course, contact Vicki Unwin V.E.Unwin@lboro.ac.uk or Kate Creagh on kate.creagh@bsa.org.uk