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Richard Nixon | 14 September 2016

I was recently asked to deliver a short seminar on leadership development and its future. This is a topic that comes up regularly, and it gave me an opportunity to do some research to see what is different or new, specifically in the context and challenges leaders of the future will need to prepare for.

The conclusions I found wasn’t particularly astonishing, so to cut to the chase, here is what Deloitte were saying about leadership development in their 2016 Human Capital trends report:

‘As organizations become increasingly team-centric, the workforce becomes both younger and older, technology catalyses faster change, and business challenges grow more global and diverse, fresh challenges in leadership development emerge. Organizations need to refocus on leadership as a whole to build versatile leaders earlier in their careers, form leadership teams that mix different generations and varieties of leaders, and develop leaders deeper in the organisation.’

There is also a great quote from Grady McGonagall on the development of leaders.

“If leadership is seen as a social process that engages everyone in a community, then it makes less sense to invest exclusively in the skills of individual leaders.”

So there is a growing need to consider leaders, not as individuals but as a community and to base their development as leaders in a collaborative and participative style, with their peers or cross functional partners.

In a report entitled Future Trends in Leadership Development, published by the Centre for Creative Leadership, is the demise of the ‘heroic leader’ and the rise of a new form of leadership a collective one. They make a point that leadership often still refers to ‘individuals’. However, the current challenges facing all organisations are so varied, fast moving and complex it negates the possibility of an individual coming up with the best solutions to these problems. The Financial Crisis in 2008 is an example of a highly complex problem that required unprecedented collaboration to begin to address at all levels of society, government and business.

The Centre for Creative Leadership report also advocated that leadership development shouldn’t be focused just on competency models. Their study says training programs will need to allow leaders to think in a more complex way and develop leadership styles that will be more collaborative and participatory.

This isn’t new, Peter Senge and other thought leaders have been discussing these issues for nearly two decades. In short, what people are saying, and have been saying for some time is that the world is changing, and at a faster pace than ever before. The challenges organisations face are more complex than ever.  You may have heard of the phrase VUCA  (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) use to describe the current state of volatility.

So what does that mean for Leadership development?

It raises the need for people creating leadership development, and procuring leadership development to think more urgently about the context in which they develop their leaders. It’s easy to get sucked into the latest content and thought leadership, to get bedazzled by the new bright and shiny products that promise transformational results. However, if the future of business requires whole communities of leaders to collaborate in a participative style, why do so many leaders go on courses without their peers?

I took a look at some of the major business schools offering leadership development, to see how they addressed this problem. All published articles about how fast paced the world is, and all had articles stating how important it was to mobilise communities of leaders. However, all offered, for large sums ($40,000+) to develop individual leaders, to a high degree of individual competency. You could send leaders who would in the absence of their peers, “develop a unique leadership style that inspires organisational collaboration”. Also their marketing went on to explain that ‘learning experience will be enhanced by the dynamic interchange that takes place among the other members of your group’. While this sounds very comprehensive for the individual, the group is comprised of other individuals from other organisations, not their peers in the business, or from the communities they are working in. While there is no doubt their education will be exemplary, what happens when they get back to the workplace? Are we once again in the context of the heroic leader, who is supposed to transform an organisation? Wouldn’t it be better if there was an opportunity for that dynamic interchange to happen with leaders learning together, who have common challenges in the same organisation?

Although the thought leaders are all in agreement, we need fewer ‘heroic leaders’, it appears there is still a lucrative market that services an individualistic, rather than collaborative and participative approach to leadership development. There is still an important place for learning managerial competency, we would be wrong to neglect skills and competencies. However when we look at leadership, the collaborative and participative approach makes perfect sense in the context of the contemporary challenges organisations and leaders face.

To service the needs of both individual competency and collective participative leadership QA offers the opportunity for both approaches. If you want credible and accredited managerial competency development, our public portfolio has a range of great learning. You can also deploy this to teams in house if you wish too. What we also have is a highly participative leadership development programme called The Nine Conversations in Leadership. A programme that can be deployed to teams of leaders (functional/cross functional) that addresses organisational, team and individual development challenges; all in the scope of an organisational mandate.

Want to know more? Watch this video:

The Nine Conversations is credible transformational programme that engages communities of leaders in developmental learning that is built around the vision and goals of your business or organisation

If you are looking to update your leadership skills, QA offer a wide range of Leadership and Development training courses to help you develop professionally. Our new Leadership Academy offers an intensive learning experience at a high-quality residential venue, allowing you to fully immerse yourself and take full advantage of the learning experience.


Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon

Learning Programme Director

Richard Nixon Is an Associate Learning Programme Director in the, Leadership Management and Business Skills team. He is accredited to work with a variety of leadership interventions, including the Heart of Leadership, Purposeful Teams, 9 Conversations in Leadership, Leading Organisations, Leading Self, Leading Others. He is also a PRISM accredited practitioner, able to conduct 360 feedback sessions, and administer cultural assessments using PRISM. Richard is also a Kirkpatrick accredited practitioner. Richard enjoys working with clients on leadership and organisational issues, delivering and designing highly facilitative events.
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