There’s not a person in the people, leadership or culture space who isn’t currently being challenged on ‘what is leadership’, let alone how to develop it.

There’s also not a CEO, HRD or any other C-Suite Executive who is not acutely conscious that their ability to deliver “leadership”, either personally or through their team, will be a key determinant of the success (or otherwise) of their whole organisation and a significant marker on the success of them as individuals.

Add some context – productivity and cost cutting still rife and everyone barely finding enough resources (money, time, energy, headspace) for lunch, let alone an offsite, – and you have a perfect storm around leadership development. The days of lengthy workshops aimed at capability builds are gone.

Fortunately, we have some other context changes that are driving an optimism around both understanding leadership and also developing it.

  1. We absolutely know what matters in leading people – Purpose, Relationships, and Agency/Flexibility
  2. We can design for humans – And we know that with human centric design we get simple core processes that deliver on promises
  3. We know habits matter – And we design practice that embeds ideas into every day
  4. We can use technology in ways we never imagined – and we should test and learn
  5. We understand that time matters, but not like we used to think it did.

This provides us with a very focused leadership development agenda:

  1. Capability – is built with short, sharp and focused workshops, of just an hour or so, and they can be virtual and/or gamified to support simple, effective and well-designed processes and tools. The “How To” piece is no longer a debate around “leadership” versus “management” but around “basics that everyone must deliver to ensure a great employee and customer experience every time”.
  2. Purpose – Is now told in stories of real life, not mouse-mats and posters. “Development” is about identifying the stories that matter and refining how to tell them.
  3. Relationships – Are about time together, mutual appreciation and empathy. That means you don’t necessarily need time in the mountains, but you do need to spend time talking about what used to be called ‘the soft-skills’. Development that matters is about the right context for those conversations to be effective.

and underscoring all that 

  1. Data – Has given us a razor-sharp agenda of priorities, not the long shopping lists of yesterday. We can correlate feedback from our people, our leaders with capability with performance, and be clearer than ever about what makes a difference.
So, the day of lengthy weekend-stealing workshops may be gone, but they’re replaced with short sharp workshops that lead to better capability and more practice, around things that matter more to your ability to lead. It might be a three-minute virtual reality experience followed by a short team discussion.

If you still want to walk on the beach with your colleagues, never fear there may be some space left but it will be to get to know each other, to achieve a sense of belonging, to master existing working relationships or get incidental exercise and recharge as a group.

And that mountain retreat may still have room to talk about the business and the work you get to do together. To compare notes. But we think developing real leadership is best done quite differently.

If you’re looking to reset and refocus your leadership development agenda, or your people agenda more broadly, mwah. is a great place to start. Get in touch at [email protected] or 02 9267 8453.