What is forensic readiness and why is it so important?

While the digitalisation of the business landscape offers never-before-seen opportunities, it also makes organisations more vulnerable to cyberattacks and breaches. Forensic readiness is the capability to be able to preserve, collect, protect and analyse evidence following such incidents so that it can be used effectively in security investigations, in disciplinary proceedings, in employment tribunals or in a court of law. It is a measure of an organisation’s capacity to maximise its potential to use digital evidence while minimising the cost of an investigation and its impact on business.

While many organisations are aware of the importance and need for disaster recovery and business continuity plans, digital forensic investigations are still, for the most part, ad hoc affairs conducted after an incident. In a recent survey, 49% of executive and C-level respondents admitted that their organisation does not conduct forensic readiness exercises such as cyber wargaming (live test scenarios developed specifically with the businesses weakness and current security trends in mind). More than a third (34%) indicated that they do not know their individual role within their organisation’s cyber incident response plan.

Proactivity is key

Such a reactive approach is inappropriate on many levels. For a start, it puts extreme pressure on the investigation team to gather and process digital evidence before it becomes unavailable or gets modified. There’s also likely be increased disruption to business and damage to reputation, particularly during the response phase, when keeping the cyber incident under control is the primary focus. Organisations face a considerable loss of revenue and clients, as well as the negative consequences of breaching regulations and law. It is therefore vital for organisations to become proactive, creating and maintaining conditions that will enable them to be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to any security breach.

Having the plans, policies, skills and capability within the business to gather, preserve and analyse digital evidence in the immediate aftermath of an attack – including legal and PR support, staff policies and procedures, asset inventories, geographical implications, etc – can help get the business back up and running sooner and minimise impact. With a plan already in place for gathering, preserving and analysing digital evidence, businesses can also focus on understanding the origin of an attack, taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again and beginning legal action where necessary.

>Other benefits include: minimising the time and money spent on investigations; reducing disruption to operations; blocking the opportunity for malicious insiders to cover their tracks and deterring them from carrying out further activity; reducing the cost of meeting regulatory or legal requirements for disclosure of data and showing due diligence; and establishing good corporate governance and regulatory compliance practices. Having good information management policies, such as a forensic readiness policy, helps garner goodwill for the organisation, providing customers with a feeling that their transactions are secure and protected, and reassuring investors that threats to their returns are minimised.

Offering foresight

Forensic readiness can also help to reveal potential incidents before they become a serious problem. It allows cyber threats to be uncovered, traced and prevented.

Businesses no longer ask how they can respond to a cyber incident when it occurs. Instead they’re asking themselves ‘how often will we need to respond’ or ‘how do we withstand persistent attacks’. Having forensic readiness and providing employees with the knowledge, practice and skills they need can help organisations mitigate risk through preparedness and increase overall business resilience.

Forensic readiness requires a great understanding of cyber security, the threats involved and an in-depth knowledge of the industry and business at risk. As these attacks become more and more common, businesses are employing specialists to mitigate the risks and help them recover more quickly. Designed specifically for ambitious professionals, the University of York’s online Computer Science with Cyber Security MSc means you can earn a Masters degree in an in-demand field from a world-class Russell Group university without putting your current career on hold. You can access course material and study any time, anywhere, on a variety of mobile devices, and with six start dates a year to choose from, you can start when best suits you. There’s also the option of paying per module so that you can split the cost of tuition fees across the duration of study. You may even be entitled to a UK government-backed postgraduate loan to cover the full cost of the course.

Find out more and begin your application.

Human factors the biggest threat to cyber security

Cyber attacks disrupt businesses on an almost daily basis – around a third (32%) of businesses have reported having cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months – and they are becoming ever more sophisticated. But while cyber security breaches are often attributed to organised crime, all too often it is the people within an organisation that unwittingly pose the greatest security risk, with research showing that self-reported data breaches are seven times more likely to be caused by human error than by hackers.

How criminals use human error in cyber attacks

Many human error-related cyber attacks rely on social engineering, spear-phishing, and other email and internet-based exploits. With phishing in particular, attacks are becoming more convincing in both mimicking the language and representation of real messages, couched in what look like true communications from trusted brands or even colleagues. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group’s (APWG) Phishing Activity Trends Report, the number of phishing attacks detected in the first quarter of 2018 was up 46% from the last quarter of 2017.

However phishing and social engineering are far from the only source of human error-related data breaches. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies – where employees use their own personal mobiles or laptops in the office or when working remotely – invite a whole range of security issues. Malicious or rogue apps being installed on the device, data loss or even physical theft can all give criminals access to a whole host of data and information. BYOD policies can put employees literally one click away from unwittingly exposing their organisation to risk.

A collaborative approach is vital

With the risk of a cyber attack now being classed as the top threat to organisations, it’s clear that current approaches to training and raising awareness need to be re-thought. While the most common approach to security has been to focus on raising awareness of how attackers operate among employees at all levels, such simulations rarely keep pace with the sophistication of genuine cyber threats, and they also often apportion blame and undermine trust. Instead, the right balance should be struck between policy and engagement, to foster collaboration. Those responsible for training in such matters need extensive knowledge of working practices in order to identify weaknesses and introduce policies and procedures that enable rather than hinder work.

Create an accessible cyber security plan

Expecting all employees to become security experts and avoid every threat is unrealistic. Instead, the aim should be to help them spot the common features of deception and establish a culture where users feel able to ask for guidance when something feels suspicious or unusual.

With IT department heads struggling to get their employees to respond to notifications of a vulnerability or attack and take appropriate action, teams need to find immediate ways to alert staff to potential threats. Apps such as Workplace (Facebook’s enterprise connectivity platform), that cut through the noise of emails and uninspiring intranets and enable the sharing of security awareness messages quickly, might therefore be a better solution.

Consider ways to make it easier for employees

When it comes to password security, it is unrealistic to expect staff to remember increasingly complicated passwords. In fact, research shows that users are likely to write down trickier passwords, undermining their strength. Instead, organisations should take steps like reminding people what the password structure is before they try to enter it, or letting them look it up instead of only telling them at reset. They could use approaches which let staff set complex but memorable passwords, or two-factor authentication or alternatives to passwords to make authentication easier. It is also vital that everyone who needs digital services to fulfil their role can get easy access to them, so they don’t resort to sharing passwords with other people to ‘get the job done’.

Security policies developed in isolation are often misaligned with real, shop floor working practices. By making collaboration the norm and using appropriate policies and controls to remove opportunities for humans to do ‘silly’ things, organisations can identify security issues more easily and develop policies that take account of the real ways people work.

Do you want to make your mark on the future of cyber security? Designed specifically for ambitious professionals, the University of York’s Computer Science with Cyber Security MSc enables you to earn a Masters degree without putting your current career on hold. The course covers topics such as security risk analysis and network and operating system security as well as broader computer science topics such as software development.

It’s 100% online so you can access course material and study any time, anywhere, and on a variety of mobile devices. With six start dates a year to choose from, you can start when you choose and complete the programme within 2 years. There’s also the option of paying as you learn, and you may even be entitled to a UK government-backed postgraduate loan to cover the full cost of the course.

Find out more and begin your application.

The value of good management

There are many who take the concepts of ‘leader’ and a ‘manager’ as interchangeable. For many junior positions, these words are synonymous, with Team Leaders and Team Managers essentially performing the same function. The truth is that leadership and management are two separate disciplines, each with their own individual skillsets, aptitudes and most importantly, value to a business environment.

People prefer to be thought of as strong leaders, rather than strong managers. Leadership tends to conjure up images of inspiration, striving forward and taking your followers on a journey of improvement. Being thought of as a manager is far less romantic. However, while people may aspire to lead, they need management skills and experience to be successful.

What does a manager do that a leader doesn’t?

Management skills often relate to the technical aspects of a role. Good managers are experts in their fields, using experience built over time to give them a wide, overarching knowledge of their sector. They can control processes, resources or operations, exemplify best practice and ensure smooth running of the day to day business.

Strong management skills are business critical in many situations. Good managers are able to understand and control all of the resources at their disposal. Familiarity with systems and processes gives a wide, overarching knowledge that allows managers to control outcomes effectively.

It’s important to remember that employees are the most valuable and variable resource available to managers. While leaders aim to inspire employees to do more and grow, managers understand growth must be guided and channelled effectively.

Management isn’t a standalone skillset

Management skills may be seen by some as more technical, resource-focused and numerical, while leadership is softer, more people-focused and human, but neither discipline is entirely separate. Leaders still need the skills that managers possess to get the most out of every resource, whether it’s time, employees or operations. The most effective managers have leadership skills, just as the most effective leaders have management skills.

It is possible to ensure that you have the best of both worlds: the University of York offers 100% online MSc programmes in Leadership and Management. They provide essential skills, such as effective communication and critical approaches to problem solving, which will help you develop a range of approaches to business. As all learning materials are delivered online, you can study when it suits you best, avoiding the need to take a break in your career. You can keep your current role and salary and apply what you learn while you earn. There are also six start dates throughout the year and the ability to pay-per-module, making this an extremely flexible way to gain a prestigious Masters degree from a Russell Group university.

Learn more and begin your application.

The changing role of the IT leader

The skills and knowledge required by leaders change frequently, reflecting a huge number of different factors, from technology to people to politics. These changes have been keenly felt by IT leaders, as businesses focus more on innovation and become increasingly reliant on technology.

These shifts have seen IT leaders entirely refocus their priorities, often from primarily operational positions to being more and more strategy-led. No longer are IT departments just there to make sure websites, CRMs and email servers are working properly. Now IT is focussed on digital transformation to make sure the whole company is working in harmony. IT ensures data is secure, but accessible by those who need it, allowing the whole business the right tools for innovation and success.

Influence

Arguably IT roles – particularly the Chief Information Officer (CIO) – are more influential than ever before. Individuals in these positions are increasingly responsible for innovation and revenue generation. In order to fulfil these new expectations, they need to become more involved and more influential in the wider business, with an in-depth understanding of operations, planning and business functions in order to comprehend the impact of innovation on aspects like organisational change and strategy development.

Vision

These new responsibilities all require vision and impeccable communication skills. Technical expertise alone is no longer enough for IT leaders. They need to be able to explain new concepts and innovations to those without the technical understanding, with long term strategy and bottom line growth in mind.

Marketing teams commonly work on an outsourcing model, plugging gaps in their team’s knowledge and allowing for project flexibility. As technology keeps pushing forward at a rapid pace, CIOs are starting to embrace a similar model. By reinforcing internal teams with external suppliers, IT departments can accomplish things they may not have the expertise or time to fulfil in house.

Continual learning

With such rapid changes in technology and innovation, CIOs and those with aspirations to become IT leaders need to keep their skills constantly refreshed. Deloitte’s CIO report found that tech leaders are committed to ongoing learning – a trend that’s expected to continue over the next few years. Not only that, but the vast majority of them (96%) consider educating the business about technology issues to be one of their responsibilities.

To support continual learning, the University of York have introduced a 100% online MSc Innovation, Leadership and Management. Aimed at ambitious career climbers, it teaches the skills and knowledge required to help individuals to succeed in IT leadership and CIO roles. It covers topics such as innovation management, leading change and business operations: all important elements of the modern day IT leader role.

As all course materials are delivered online, there’s no need to take a career break, so you can study whenever it suits you. Flexibility is built in with six start dates per year and pay-per-module options, allowing you to study for a prestigious Russell Group university degree around family and work commitments.

Find out more and begin your application.

The Chief Cyber Security Officer needs a seat on the Board

All businesses would love to be in a permanent state of absolute certainty, but unfortunately that’s simply not realistic. This is especially true when it comes to cyber security.

Our reliance on technology has meant the digital elements within business have increased hugely over the last few decades. Applications, networks, data and hardware have all developed to aid companies and make them more efficient, but these elements also each come with their own security risks. As we increase the technological elements of companies, we create more cyber security risks. Couple that with a network of digital providers, each with a different understanding of cyber security and it can be impossible to be absolutely certain that breaches have been and will be prevented.

Attacks and breaches

Attacks and breaches can happen at any time and can be deliberate or accidental. Sometimes courses of action are chosen by businesses to make life easier, or keep costs down in the short-term, but can ultimately lead to massive costs. Something like the WannaCry ransomware outbreak, which encrypted data on infected computers and spread rapidly across networks once it had got in through a single poorly-protected machine, cost the UK’s NHS around £92million in lost service and actions to recover. A report on the outbreak highlighted that part of the problem was a lack of co-ordinated cyber security within the organisation.

The CCSO

The challenge of keeping up with new technologies and security techniques is no small matter. While traditionally this would have simply come under the remit of the IT department, now businesses are recognising the need for specialist skills and creating roles specifically for the task.

Most companies now have a CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) and/or CCSO (Chief Cyber Security Officer) either sitting at board level or reporting to a board member. Their responsibility is to assess and manage risk within the organisation to ensure that appropriate precautions are taken to prevent or reduce the impact of breaches, and to have plans to deal with any incidents that do occur.

Not only are they responsible for overseeing the technical security programme across the organisation, they also play a critical education role, ensuring that employees company-wide don’t unwittingly cause a security breach through phishing or social engineering.

Board-level representation is essential for these precautions and plans to be implemented and to comply with legal obligations for reporting incidents.

The skills to succeed

There are currently a huge number of vacant cyber security positions in the UK and a shortage of qualified people with the skills to fill them. This is why the University of York has introduced a new online Computer Science with Cyber Security Masters. The course offers ambitious individuals the opportunity to learn the skills and knowledge needed to start their career in this in-demand sector.

The course introduces key concepts, such as the ability to identify and analyse threats, create high-level security management strategies and understand and evaluate testing. Delivered 100% online and with a choice of start dates throughout the year, the Computer Science with Cyber Security Masters is designed with flexibility in mind; there’s no need to take a career break, so you can earn while you learn and fit your studies around other commitments. There’s also an option to pay-per-module, avoiding large upfront fees.

Find out more and begin your application.

The new path to becoming CFO

Not all paths to leadership positions are the same. What was once a rigid route to the top finance role – from accounts assistant, to accountant, to controller and treasurer, to Chief Financial Officer (CFO ) – can now be supplemented by roles in other business functions, such as operations and sales, creating an opportunity for those with unconventional backgrounds to step into the position.

But while the opportunity is there, that’s not to say it’s easily achievable. The next 10 to 15 years will see a period of huge technological advancement, as well as political, economic and social upheaval, meaning that CFOs will need a breadth of experience to take on such a challenging role. With this mind, what can future CFOs look to do to create cross-departmental value and prepare them for the role?

Build a broad foundation of finance experience

As the breadth of the role increases, it’s critical that future CFOs can ask the right questions across the organisation; a skill that comes from experience across multiple roles. For example, while merger and acquisition activity creates specific technical finance experience in structuring deals, it also helps develop wider skills in change and project management. Of course, that’s not to say that financial experience isn’t essential; almost half of today’s CFOs have had six or more finance roles during their career, 80% have had a finance role in more than one organisation and almost three-quarters have finance experience in more than one industry.

See strategy and business experience as the new baseline

Over the next decade the business landscape will be reshaped by a combination of market volatility, globalisation and transformational innovation. In this environment, deep business experience will be highly valuable. While 61% of today’s CFOs do not have experience outside of the finance team, future CFOs should seek out greater mobility, building the commercial qualities needed, as well as the internal relationships. It is vital for future CFOs to gain commercial experience and business understanding.

Career plan for data analytics

As business data grows and the multiplicity of information presents new challenges to decision-making, the requests for insights from the finance department will become more frequent and more demanding. Tomorrow’s CFOs need to be technologically adept and understand the role of technology in driving better finance delivery. Being able to effectively analyse data and provide insights into what that data means for the organisation is a crucial skill.

Gain risk experience

From traditional financial risks to emerging online reputational risk or cyber risk, future CFOs will have a significant role to play in balancing the investments that need to be taken against potential risk impacts and plan out the different scenarios.

Get closer to stakeholders

The future finance leader will need to ‘talk the same language’ as key stakeholders across a wide range of traditional finance and non-traditional finance relationships. Aspiring CFOs need to plan for roles that increase their breadth of stakeholder engagement and cultivate strong relationship management and influencing skills.

Learn how to be customer-centric

Gaining experience in roles which provide greater customer understanding will be key in developing a customer-centric culture, which drives innovation, service and, in turn, profits. This is an important milestone on the transition from back office to front office for the finance department. Working closely with colleagues in sales, customer service, customer experience and marketing can provide a broader view of how to satisfy customers and provide the best return on investment.

Be skilled in leadership, communication, strategy and change management

As finance organisations become more diverse, their success is dependent on a strong united leadership vision and an engaged and skilled team. Experience in transformation and change management will become a priority, as will the communication skills to align messages and provide appropriate context on financial and business performance to different stakeholder groups.

Bring cross-cultural, cross-market business and finance experience to the table

The future CFO must be adept at working in the global business environment, leading finance teams which are diverse and virtual across both mature and emerging markets. From managing new reporting requirements to driving financial insights into new markets and new consumer sectors, or indeed raising capital, the finance department of the future must be entirely aligned with the business’s needs.

If you’re eager to progress your career and improve some areas of your knowledge in order to reach for the CFO role, then postgraduate study could be the right path. Designed specifically for ambitious professionals, the University of York has introduced an online Finance, Leadership and Management MSc, meaning you can earn a Masters degree from a world-class Russell Group university without putting your current career on hold. You can access course material and study anytime, anywhere, and on a variety of devices. With six start dates to choose from, you can start your MSc when best suits you. There’s also the option for you to pay in instalments, and you may even be entitled to a UK government-backed postgraduate loan to cover the full cost of the course.

Find out more and begin your application.

Six ways to bring customer-centric focus to your leadership style

Some leaders thrive in chaotic hustle and bustle, while others prefer to control and micromanage; some seek the limelight, others keep a low profile. Putting customer needs at the front of every decision is vital for all leadership styles. Customer-centric thinking has far-reaching business outcomes and can affect business transformation.

But how do you go about integrating customer focus day-to-day?

1. Provide direction and purpose

It’s vital leaders give direction on how to keep the customer at the heart of things. ‘Customer-centricity’ needs to be based on a vision of what the company must do. It must be guided by a strategy based upon realistic goals and robust data which provides meaningful and actionable customer insight. Cascading the vision accurately and effectively from the C-Suite down is exceptionally important to succeeding in ‘customer first’ thinking.

2. Put people at the centre of everything

Customer-centric leaders should know how it feels to be a customer, leading to informed and well-reasoned decisions that balance profitability with customer experience. Leaders with a passion for the customer delve deeper: Pizza Hut UK’s CEO, works a shift waiting tables in the company’s restaurants every month, providing real and valuable insight and a direct connection with customers and staff at a person-to-person level.

3. Don’t treat customer perception scores as a vanity measure

Many companies now measure success both in terms of finance and public perception, but to be truly customer-focused, leaders must implement what the data teaches them. Customer-centric leaders don’t treat the data as a pat on the back – or slap on the wrist. They know it’s a way of understanding how the company performs in the eyes of the public, and use it to determine business and operational priorities to provide a better and more successful service.

4. Create a culture where managers, team leaders, and employees are all emotionally engaged with the customer

Customer-centric leaders also understand the importance of measuring the ‘Voice of the Employee’ – and acting on their feedback. Employees must be driven by the overall purpose of customer-centricity, want to go on the journey and believe that they are headed in the right direction. Customer-first leaders therefore need to identify ‘champions’, involving them in the change process and listening to their advice. By building a team that is aligned with your vision and strategy at all levels, not just senior management, customer-centric leaders can create an organisation where every employee is emotionally engaged with the customer.

5. Be in it for the long haul

A major mistake when moving to a customer-centric vision is to assume that once the plans have been developed and rolled out, the work is done. Constant monitoring, evaluation and assessment means that customer focus is constantly refreshed and reinvigorated.

6. Keep on learning

Many leaders do not have the required level of understanding of the principles, tools and methodologies that are required to embed a focus on customer experience in their organisation. They think that they know it all already, or do not deem the subject important enough to warrant their attention. However, a truly customer-centric leader understands that you never stop learning.

Ask yourself: when did you last acquire knowledge on customer experience? Only by understanding the qualities that support customer-centric success can we look to build successful, long-term relationships with customers. Designed specifically for working professionals and ambitious career-changers, the University of York has introduced a suite of online Management and Leadership MScs covering a wide range of topics designed to help students become better leaders.

As all learning materials are delivered 100% online, you can study when it suits you, earning a prestigious Russell Group Masters degree in your spare time, without taking a costly career break, as well as applying what you learn as you go. There are six start dates per year and you can pay-per-module or obtain a UK Government-backed postgraduate loan to help with costs.

Find out more and begin your application.

How might AI affect your future career?

There’s been a lot in the media over the last few years about how robots are set to take our jobs. Creating a credible form of artificial intelligence (AI) has been the aim of many computer scientists for a long time, but there’s still a lot of speculation on whether it will replace human workers.

Two sides of the argument

The emerging consensus is that AI won’t spell the end of employment. There’s no doubt it will alter the careers market, but how specific jobs will change is less certain. AI has the potential to transform existing roles, but could also create new positions in a rapidly expanding sector.

By taking on the menial tasks, AI has the potential to revolutionise jobs by giving the gift of time. A recent survey by SmartSheet showed that information workers spend up to 25% of their week on recurring, manual tasks. Through AI and machine learning, these tasks could be automated, allowing more time to work on other things.

The legal sector is already using this tactic to great effect. Automation means many lawyers and associates no longer have to sift through thousands of documents to find relevant information for cases. Specialist platforms have been developed to use big data and machine learning to compare contracts and point out discrepancies or areas that require attention. It makes firms much more efficient and allows them to take on more work.

Even if AI does entirely replace some positions, the number of jobs needed to create, implement and maintain the technology will far outweigh the losses. However, this creates issues, leaving many unskilled workers unemployed and widening the computer science skills gap.

The need for AI specialists

Research by ManpowerGroup shows that 95% of UK employers believe staffing levels will remain the same or even increase because of automation. Companies are already using AI to make jobs easier, but it’s going to require a range of data and computer science skills to implement it all effectively. These particular skillsets are likely to become highly valuable.

As the number of businesses using automation and machine learning increases, the skills gap increases further. That’s why courses like the University of York’s Masters programmes in Computer Science are ideal for those who want to move into the field and take their career in a new and exciting direction.

The 100% online degrees offer ambitious career changers the chance to retrain in an extremely in-demand field. The programme, which also offers the opportunity to specialise in Cyber Security or Data Science, is delivered fully online so you can study in your own time in your own place, fitting it around other commitments. There is a pay-per-module option, removing the need for large, up-front payments. There are also six start dates throughout the year, which means you can start within weeks and makes obtaining a prestigious Russell Group Masters degree highly achievable.

Find out more and begin your application.

Perfecting the art of timing in financial strategy

All businesses need a strategy and all strategies need to be carefully timed. Heads of Finance have always been critical in determining when to execute strategies to give their company the greatest chance of success. Well-timed financial strategy is key to growing the company and negating problematic issues so that the business can make the most of its current position.

The timing of strategy execution has always been critically important. Changes that affect the whole company or represent a significant shift in process have the potential to damage the business. If you implement large changes without proper consideration and planning, unexpected issues can derail any potential success. But wait too long and you could miss the boat: the opportunity passes or the problem you were aiming to solve has affected your business already.

Getting the timing right

While technology has been an incredible boost to companies over the last 30 years, it’s made it very difficult to ascertain when the right time to roll out a new financial strategy is. Change is happening at a much faster rate than ever before. However, technology has also created direct links between finance departments and almost every other section of the business, meaning that shifts in financial strategy can have instant impacts.

CFOs are now much more closely linked to other departments, which can provide them with a huge amount of information and a deeper understanding of how shifts in procedure or strategic thinking will affect the business as a whole, allowing potential problems to be mitigated. The digitisation of services means that it’s now possible to assess and implement changes much more quickly than before. Updating strategies doesn’t need to take months.

Start the process

There are no rules as to when the time is right to launch large, companywide updates to strategy or process. The likelihood of success has usually rested on the Finance Officer being able to spot the potential benefits or problems in advance and take the appropriate action. Factors such as geographical, political or financial forces external to the company can all affect the timing. Understanding them requires an in-depth understanding of the entire market.

This is one of the reasons why the University of York now provides a 100% online Masters degree in Finance, Leadership and Management, giving students financial and leadership skills to implement shifts in strategy. As all learning materials are delivered online, you have the option to study whenever it suits you, keeping your current role and applying what you learn straight away. There are also options to pay-per-module and begin on one of six start dates throughout the year, giving you a flexible way to gain a prestigious Russell Group university MSc.

It’s never 100% guaranteed that finance leaders will know the perfect time to execute any strategic shift, but the knowledge you gain from this Masters degree about the world of finance and wider business markets, in addition to leadership skills, give you the best chance to make the best choice.

Find out more and begin your application.

There’s no such thing as a ‘natural leader’

One of the discussions that has surrounded the concept of leadership for many years essentially boils down to a ‘nature vs nurture’ debate. Some believe leaders are born charismatic and able to convince others to do what they want. Others believe leadership is a complex and interwoven skillset of learned behaviours that give the individual the ability to eventually lead others.

Whilst some see leaders as simply charismatic, confident speakers, the truth is that strong leadership requires a vast array of skills to get the best out of people. Abilities that intertwine, such as negotiation, compromise, communication and problem solving are some of the most key capabilities. What’s fascinating is that you can see these skills being learned at any nursery or primary school by children discovering how best to work and play together. Children naturally experiment with how to get what they want from their peers, essentially using trial and error to develop what eventually become leadership skills.

A vast array of styles

The usual list of names given as examples of great leaders often includes Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. The more the list expands, the clearer it becomes that no two leaders are the same, which means there’s no ‘one trait’ a baby is born with that predicts them being a leader.

Some young people may more easily identify the skills that translate into strong leadership, therefore making it more likely they’ll naturally transition into a leadership role, however it does mean that these abilities are learned. Furthermore, if they’re learned, they can therefore be taught.

The skills you need

Leadership isn’t all ‘smooth talking charisma’ but in leadership terms, these are actually important and are examples of a number of different skills needed. Firstly, effective communication is required – a leader must be able to explain what they want. It is also likely they’ll need to overcome objections, which means they’ll need strong listening skills. Overcoming objections isn’t a matter of simply repeating yourself, it relies on the capability to negotiate, compromise and, in some cases, develop innovative solutions to problems.

Just as no two leaders are identical, no two employees are identical, so leaders must also learn how to adapt their style to get the most out of everybody, as a one-size-fits-all approach is not a part of strong leadership.

Learning to lead

Whilst it’s clear that it is possible to learn to lead a group, taking positive steps to improve those requisite skills may not seem quite so straightforward. This is why the University of York offers a 100% online MSc in Innovation, Leadership and Management programme, to teach you the skills you need in order to be effective in a more senior role.

As all learning materials are delivered online, you have the flexibility to study in your spare time, so don’t require an extended study break away from work. As you can stay in your current job, you can keep your position and salary and get to apply what you learn to your role as you progress. There’s also the option to pay-per-module, avoiding the need for large, upfront payments and giving you the chance to obtain a prestigious Russell Group university Masters degree in a manner that suits you.

Leadership is a learned capability that doesn’t require being blessed at birth with one particular trait, and there are as many leadership styles as there are leaders – but there’s no reason why you can’t take a jump up the career ladder by learning how to harness your own power as a leader!

Find out more and begin your application.

Innovation isn’t just thinking outside the box, it’s creating a new box!

No matter how small the industry, businesses have always faced challenges. Issues with supply, sales, competitors and technological advancement have been around for hundreds of years and only seem to be getting more acute in the digital age.

The growth of the UK manufacturing sector has been slowing for several years and lots of different factors have been named as contributing to the problem. A strong pound, expensive British labour costs, competition from developing nations and cheaper imports have all played their part, leading to concerns about the future of manufacturing in the UK.

A long history

Great Britain has long been identified as a place that knows how to make things, at the forefront of many inventions that have literally changed the world. The television, telephone and even the World Wide Web were invented by British people, while cars like the Mini Cooper and Jaguar E-Type have become world famous icons of style and quality.

While many people believe that those days are over, Britain is still a country with a desire to design and produce world-changing inventions which enhance modern living. The key to reinvigorating the UK manufacturing sector, however, could lie more in solving the problems facing industry than in creating new products.

Leading the way forward

Good leadership is vitally important to the UK manufacturing sector. Leaders who can create innovative solutions to problems in operations, supply chain, technology, efficiency and process could make a huge difference, not only to their business, but to the industry as a whole.

Recent reports of the death of the high street claimed that brick and mortar retail was on the decline. The leadership shown in the retail sector not only managed to slow the decline, but in some cases has turned around the business and saved entire groups of companies. High-quality leadership has the potential to do the same for manufacturing.

Innovation as a way of thinking

While many think of innovation as a lightning flash “Eureka!” moment of inspiration, having an innovative mindset is actually a teachable skill. With this in mind, the University of York has created a 100% online MSc in Innovation, Leadership and Management to enable people to learn and develop their leadership skills with an innovative and inventive outlook. Core skills such as critical approaches to problem solving and effective communication not only help you to lead and manage a team but can also pave the way to becoming an influential figure in your chosen sector.

As all teaching is delivered online, you have the flexibility to study when it suits you, without taking a career break and sacrificing your current salary. There are six start dates throughout the year, so you can begin as soon as you’re ready and apply what you learn in your current role. The University of York runs online MSc programmes on a pay-per-module basis, removing the burden of large, up-front payments. Gaining a Masters degree from a prestigious Russell Group university while maintaining your career trajectory and being able to show employers an ability to lead, manage, think critically and conceive radical answers to widespread problems could be a real boost to your prospects.

Online learning – what you need to know

The majority of people make a fairly seamless transition from school to college and on to university, going through full-time education with a structured timetable of lectures, seminars and personal study time. Once you leave this environment, the idea of going back can be a little intimidating; even when you know that it could do wonders for your career, the prospect of leaving work and going back to study is a big step.

Thankfully, you can now study for postgraduate qualifications online, including Masters degrees in Leadership and Management from the University of York! This however has its own set of considerations. The benefits are clear – you can study in your own time as well as keeping your current role and salary, but what do you need to do to prepare for an online degree?

Meeting the challenge of an MSc

Obtaining a Masters degree is a challenge, whether it’s online or in person. Although distance or online learning gives an incredible amount of flexibility for when and where you can study; if you’re continuing to work full-time, it will mean you’ll need to work during the evenings or at weekends. Undertaking distance learning online isn’t ‘easier’ than attending an on-campus course, it just allows you to choose when it’s suitable for you to work.

You must also make time for learning. While not having a rigid timetable that demands you attend a particular lecture theatre at a specific time is liberating, making time to study means you get the most out of your investment. Self-control and regular, focussed sessions tend to work better than either dipping in and out or leaving it too long and trying to do too much at once. Online study takes a lot of motivation and a feeling of achievement thanks to successfully completed study sessions can be key to keeping your momentum up.

Keeping your work separate

Many people also find it useful to have a ‘study computer’ that they use for all their learning materials. Although you can study anywhere with an internet connection, it’s possible to lose track of your progress if you were to split your time studying online between your work computer, a tablet and a laptop that you keep at home.

It’s also a good idea to over-estimate how much time you think you’ll need to study, read, watch videos and write. One of the big benefits of distance learning over attending live lectures is that you can revisit the material again and again, picking up on concepts and ideas that you may have previously missed. This not only improves your understanding and therefore your chances of obtaining a better grade, but makes your time and investment worthwhile.

Although the University of York uses the exact same academics and resources to provide online Masters degrees as you would get by working on campus, when you’re distance learning it can feel like you’re on your own. This isn’t the case, but it does mean that you need to use all of the communication channels open to you. Receiving regular feedback is an important part of the experience, despite not being face-to-face.

Getting your Masters degree online gives you the knowledge, skills and qualifications that you need to boost your career, but it’s an entirely different way of working to what many people will be used to. However, with a bit of prior planning and understanding a few practicalities, it can be your springboard to future success.