Self Development & Leadership Course Companion

Designed for participants by participants


Welcome! This guide has been completed by a group of participants on the first ever online Self Development & Leadership course.  We have called the guide ‘course companion’ because that name reflects its purpose - which is to support you.  

The Course Companion summarises what we have learnt about getting through the pre-reading for this course and completing the pre-course assignments. It is not a marketing tool, and no one was paid to do this. Furthermore, you may not need this. You may already be flying and enjoying the challenge - great. Move on!  Nothing in this guide is an obligatory read; our intention is to support participants who may be feeling lost and alone at the pre-reading stage, to stay on the course.

The Course Companion is split into several different sections.

  1. Introduction with tips for starting
  2. Video of participants reflections on the language of the course
  3. Video of participants’ stories of struggles and successes
  4. Handling assignments
  5. Study tips
  6. Glossary

Tip 1 - Start early

Start early on your pre-assignment reading.  Please note that there is a lot of it! Please see our complete guide and estimated reading times in the Studying tips and handling assignments section five.
Note that the really sizable readings are readings 5, 6 and 7 which make up 131 pages.  So start early, if you can. Some participants on my course have reported that it helps to plan out your reading; put it all in your calendar and use the checklist as a way of tracking where you are.  If you can’t start early because perhaps you joined late,  stick with it, work it out so you can read as much as possible. Again for more tips on managing time at the pre-assignment stage go to section five.

Tip 2 - Wrestle with the language

Wrestle with the language. Many of us struggled with the language. It can be a maze of lofty words.  You have to re-read them many times, and sometimes that doesn’t work.  Whatever you do, keep with it and keep on going.  You may find yourself getting very frustrated. 

The thing is it is the way it is. The language is carefully designed, and all these words and phrases put together, express a unique way of being, - being a leader. It’s a way of being that’s so powerful that it changes the way you interact with others and yourself. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it –  absolutely yes.  

So keep going back over those paragraphs – you may find it helpful to make notes throughout the pre-reading. Did we all understand it initially? No, not at all!  Throughout the actual course, you will get much more insight into how these words and phrases work in real life. Crucially you will discover for yourself, what the words and phrases mean in practice, for you, in your life.  Just keep wrestling with the language.

Tip 3 - Apply it to your life

Apply what you are reading to your life. Some content in the pre-reading may go completely against what seems natural to you.  Just be with that; - you don’t have to get it straight away.  Once you have completed the essential pre-reading, the actual course helps you discover for yourself what you first encounter here.

You’ll discover more when you apply it to your life. Take an area of your life where you have a problem, with someone or something that happened/ is happening and apply it there.  Look at a relationship that causes you to get angry and frustrated. Think about a past event that haunts you many years on. Why? A part of being a leader is not being run by anyone or anything else. You steer your ship.

If you are having a struggle, that is OK. Many of us have been there.  Don’t beat yourself up about not being able to get what on earth they are talking about.  Just apply it to something real in your life where you can and accept it if you don’t yet get it. Where you are with these materials is where you are, and that’s fine. Finally, let’s not assume a struggle. For you may not struggle or you may enjoy the struggle. You may love grappling with new concepts and distinctions and find this exhilarating. Whatever your experience, it's all good so….

Tip 4 - Stick with it!

Stick with it. If you are struggling, Breathe. Stick with it. Remember – we are all leaders in our lives, for our friends; family; for strangers in the street if not yet in a formal position of leadership. You do belong. You would not be here otherwise. Stick with this course, it’s simply a way of working through life that really gives you power, inspiration and insight. Enjoy!

Course language

This video contains participants’ reflections on discovering leader and leadership as a result of this course.

As previously said, when you are viewing these videos, we invite you to view with a lens that is ‘this is not you!’ It’s a collection of other people’s experiences built into a short video to encourage you so that you know you are not alone - if needed

You will have your own unique experiences of struggles and successes with the language of this course and it’s an intrinsic part of the work. We have outlined just a few experiences in these interviews, - which may or may not be similar to what you encounter.

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Participant stories

This video contains participant's reflections on discovering leader and leadership on this course. 

When you are viewing these videos, we invite you to view with a lens that is ‘this is not you!’ It’s a collection of other people’s experiences compiled to support you if needed.  You will have your own personal experiences of struggles and successes and discovery on the course.  

We have outlined just a few experiences in these interviews, as a flavour of the incredible journey you are going on and the brilliant variety of brilliant people you’ll meet - another largely unsung benefit of being on this course.

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Handling assignments


There are three pre-course assignments that you must complete before coming on the course. In addition, you are requested to determine what you will do for your leadership project.

The assignments are in different readings on purpose, because that is where that particular assignment fits in.  We are deliberately not giving you details about where to find out more about the assignments - as they are put in between certain readings for a reason. We have found that it helps to remind yourself that there is little or perhaps nothing left to chance on this course, even when that seems wrong, annoying or both! 

Leadership project

Every participant must each have a leadership project.

Follow the steps outlined in the leadership project assignment to start deciding what to do for your leadership project. This really helps you see a number of options for your leadership project if you haven’t immediately hit on something that you know you have to do.

Don’t panic about the leadership project if you don't immediately have an idea.  It’s critical that you lead on a project, yourself. If, like me, you think “what on earth am I going to do, then you are not alone.  Some participants get inspiration only at the start of the course or change their minds shortly afterwards.

Do take the steps recommended to help you determine what you will take on as a leadership project assignment.

We will not re-publish those steps here; there is nothing to add - just go through each step before the course.

Please also note that you can get support on your project, so it does not have to be you doing all the work. This guide - the Course Companion, is testimony to the beauty of collaboration. It is the product of a team leadership project that came into existence due to the valuable contributions of fellow course participants

Poor memory?

The type of assignments that we are asked to complete require you to remember 3 essential cascades and to describe your leadership project. Those of us who think of ourselves as having a poor memory may find this particularly challenging.  Some of us found that this type of assignment led to feeling resentful.

If you are experiencing this you are not alone. It may help to have a quiet word with yourself. Make an active choice to overcome the perceived impediment by using a variety of techniques to help yourself remember the words and the order of the words. You may or may not have a labelled medical condition that impacts the memory, either way, there are many tools.

Other challenges?

You may find it challenging to do assignments for entirely different reasons. It may be dyslexia or you are somewhere else on the neurodiversity spectrum.

We recognise that there is a lot of text in the course. Whilst there are reasons for this, the disadvantage of the volume of text is that it can be challenging if you have dyslexia or are somewhere else on the neurodiversity spectrum.  Perhaps you have been diagnosed with ADHD or Aspergers or Autism or you suspect that you may be on the spectrum.  You may have a physical condition like fibromyalgia that will impact your ability to concentrate. These are valid conditions that have varying unique impacts on you if you have one of them. The videos of each course session will be of benefit as you can keep on returning to the videos where you have missed something the first time around.  You will probably have learnt other techniques to get to where you are now, still Universities do make reasonable adjustments for participants with additional needs. So talk about your condition with the course leaders - they will do all that they can do to support your study.

Study tips

The pre-course materials are a brilliant way to prepare for the actual course. Some of this material is relatively straightforward, although some of the lengthier readings may be more challenging.

The following is aimed at providing you with some study guidance to help you make the most of the pre-reading.


Put times into your calendar for when you will do the pre-reading. Note: some of the readings take longer to process. You may have to go over parts several times. Some suggested reading times are given below based on average reading speeds with standard texts:

  • Pre reading 1+2+3: 4275 words - 14-34 mins
  • Pre reading 4: 3785 words - 12-30 mins
  • Pre reading 5: 18729 words - 1-2 hrs
  • Pre reading 6+7: 34094 words - 2-4.5 hrs
  • Pre reading 8: 4080 words - 13-33 mins
  • Pre reading 9: 1979 words - 6-16 mins

TOTAL - 4 - 8 hours

To ensure you get the benefits of doing the pre-course reading and assignments:

Identify spaces in your calendar where you can read the pre-reading. You do not have to read all of this in one sitting. However, make sure you read it in the order indicated, and you will have to plan accordingly. People differ in their best times in the day for reading. Try to pick a time when you can concentrate and take notes and be relatively undisturbed.

It may seem daunting to you to do this amount of pre-reading but consider this, if we haven’t said it in other words: - The Being the leader course has the potential to completely revolutionise your life and career.  Doing the pre-reading is just one step on that path and a relatively small investment of time for what you will ultimately get from the course if you persist.

Unfamiliar terms

As you are reading the pre-reading, you may find that some parts are hard to process. The course uses terms that may be unfamiliar. You can use the glossary to look them up. To help you with developing your memory for those terms also keep notes, writing out what these terms mean. Note-taking helps you with building up your memory for the new language you will be developing on the course.

Do ALL the assignments

Here it might be useful to start using some form of journaling to record your answers to the assignment tasks, including those you will be doing during the course. Journaling can also be a great way to follow your progress and show you how far you have come in your understanding. It is also a good practice for developing self-awareness beyond the course. Use the course as an opportunity to get into good self-development habits if you are not already using some form of journal

Take a break

Manage difficulties by taking a break. If a passage of the pre-reading seems too demanding, take a break before returning to it. If you still struggle, the following are good ways to manage and avoid you getting blocked in your completion of the reading.

  • Try to understand the basic gist of what is being said. If the detail is hard to grasp , you will get far greater clarity on the course.
  • Write down which ideas, concepts you have difficulty with – ask during the course sessions or email the organisers.
  • To help you to get it, where possible at this time, write short summaries of what you have read. What are the core ideas you need to get? Be Ok with what you don’t get

 If you disagree with any of the points made in the pre-reading, make a note of them. There will be an opportunity to talk through all your ‘yeah buts’ and ‘what if’s  in the course. Importantly how you deal with inner disagreements will be part of your learning about actually ‘being a leader’!


If you struggle to understand any of the pre-reading, that’s ok. Be honest with yourself and others. If you have questions, ask. There is no pressure for you to pretend to have an understanding that you do not have. Working in groups once you are on the course is reassuring - it makes you realise that many are grappling with the language and concepts and it provides opportunities for linking up with people who can help shine a light on something that has not landed for you yet.

Initial exposure

The language on the course is carefully chosen as we have already stated. The pre-reading will give you some initial exposure and access to this. Don’t worry if you start in the first session and you cannot remember everything you have read.


Revisit the pre-reading as you are going through the course. It will all make sense, and you will have access to being a leader as part of your natural self-expression


This glossary acts as a reminder of keywords and concepts – all of the phrases have much more expansive explanations that you absolutely must read first. This is part of learning a new language - and it is key to your success. It may be that you only get a full grasp of the meaning of these words and phrases during the course as you share real-life experiences of ‘trying’ them out, or discuss with other course participants about their experiences and how they have applied it to real-life situations. Discovering for yourself and applying words/phrases in your own life is vital on this course.

When wrestling with the language of this course, remember:
“If things were simple, word would have gotten around” (Derrida. 1988)


Being and acting consistent with who you hold yourself out to be for others [and yourself], being grounded, and able to be straight with yourself, and straight with others without using force…being authentic about your inauthenticities.

Reading 6, Page 38

Cause in the matter

“Being cause-in-the-matter starts with the willingness to deal with a situation from the view of life that you are the generator of what you do, what you have and what you are."

Slide 667


A space with nothing there, where something can be generated newly or come into existence newly.

Cognitive dissonance

If a person is confronted with two cognitions (items of knowledge, belief, or explanation) that are inconsistent with each other (are at odds with each other), they experience something called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a negative drive state, not unlike hunger or thirst, or being upset.
Slide 106


A matter of fundamental interest or importance.

Conversational domain

A set of specialized terms, that are networked together in a specific way.

Reading 6, Page 7.


A context functions as a cognitive lens (a powerful filter) through which we see life (the world, others, and ourselves). In any situation, one’s context for that situation
1. Determines the meaning of certain aspects of what we are dealing with.

2. Highlights some aspects.

3. Dims or even blanks out yet other aspects.


“a transformative experience through which an individual comes to a new or an altered sense of identity.” (p. 3) “For the leaders we interviewed, the crucible experience was a trial and a test, a point of deep self-reflection that forced them to question who they were” Bennis & Thomas’s article “Crucibles of Leadership, HBR Sept 2002


Ethics: In a given group, ethics is the agreed upon standards of what is desirable and undesirable; of right and wrong conduct; of what is considered by that group as good and bad behaviour of a person, group or entity that is a member of the group, and may include defined bases for discipline, including exclusion.
Reading 4


Four factors including: integrity, authenticity, cause in the matter, being given being and acting by something bigger than yourself.

Frames of reference

While one’s worldview is relative to everything in one’s world, each of one’s frames of reference is relative to some specific something in one’s world. It is as though our worldview is a primary lens through which we view everything in our world. And, our various frames of reference are secondary lenses through which we view specific things in our world.

Reading 6 and 7

Honouring your word

“Over simplifying somewhat, “honoring your word”, as we define it, means you either keep your word, or as soon as you know that you will not, you say that you will not be keeping your word to those who were counting on your word and clean up any mess you caused by not keeping your word.”
Readings 4 and 5


“A state or condition of being whole, complete, unbroken, unimpaired, sound, perfect condition”...”Integrity is thus a requisite condition for maximum performance.”…” We distinguish integrity for an individual as being solely a matter of that person’s word and for a being comprised solely of what is said by or on behalf of the group or organisation. For a person [or group] to have integrity, the word of the person [or group] must be whole, completem, unbroken, unimpaired, sound, perfect condition. In our new model  this is achieved by honoring one’s word.”* 

*See Honouring your word - above.  

Readings 4 and 5

Integrity for a person

”Integrity for a person is a matter of that person’s word, nothing more and nothing less. Be it my word to myself (e.g., making a promise to myself, or a comment to myself about myself,), or my word to others.In fact it is my word through which I define and express myself, both for myself and for others. ”
Reading 5

Ontological constraints

Ontological constraints are obstacles to your natural self expression that must be removed and are made up of the following

  1. Perceptual Constraints: Worldview (model of reality) and frames of reference (mindsets). (Colors, shapes, distorts and even obscures our view of life and the world and how the world occurs for us) Reading 6, Page 32.
  2. Functional Constraints: “knee jerk reaction”…in the presence of a particular stimulus (trigger), the inevitable response is an automatic set way of being and acting.

Reading 6, Page 33


The word ontology – derived from the Greek words for “being” (onto) and “study” (logos) – means “the study of being”. In this course we are concerned with what it is to be a leader. That is, what is the nature of being when being a leader, and what is the impact (function) of being on one’s actions in the exercise of leadership. 

Reading 6, Page 2 & 11

Ontological model

The ontological model of leader and leadership opens up and reveals the  actual nature and function of being when one is being a leader, and opens up and reveals the actual source of one’s actions in the effective exercise of leadership.

Reading 6, Page 4

Phenomenological method

The phenomenological method provides a personal as-it-is-actually-lived direct access to what has been opened up by the ontological model.

Reading 6, Page 4

Ways of being

Our way of being is, in any given moment or situation, some combination of:-

1. Our attitude or state of mind

2. Our feelings or emotions

3. Our body sensations

4. Our thoughts and memories.

For short, our way of being is what is going on with us internally. 

Reading 6, Page 14

World view

Our worldview (or model of reality) – that is, our network of unexamined ideas, beliefs, biases, prejudices, social and cultural embedded-ness, and taken-for-granted assumptions about the world, other people, and ourselves – is an important aspect of our being, which constrains and shapes our way of being with the world, other people, and ourselves. 

Reading 6, Page 25