Our experience of partnering with for-purpose organisations across the world to find and develop leaders and their teams has confirmed that the leadership task is defined by particular challenges around enabling organisational evolution, supporting staff and team development, engaging with stakeholders, and managing conflict and tension, to name but a few. Add a global pandemic to the rapidly changing landscape in international cooperation and sustainable development, and the need for networked, practical, and bitesize approaches to leadership development is experiencing renewed urgency.
During our recent Knowledge Festival week, we launched the Leadership Development Exchange – a development format for leaders and managers that enables learning from each other’s experience and a highly effective means of crowdsourcing potential solutions to commonly faced challenges. Individuals from more than twenty-five for-purpose organisations across Africa, Asia and Europe came together to share with each other and co-create possible solutions to concrete challenges they are currently working with in their leadership roles.
In small groups of six to eight, we worked through questions as varied as how to deal with a potential conflict of interest among board members, and how to enhance board effectiveness more generally; how to navigate a role transition from CEO to consultant advisor; how to lead across cultures and help diverse teams transform entrenched views into a productive and creative use of differences. The emerging themes and patterns reflect the typical complexity of organisational life more broadly and leadership specifically: How do we work together, and how can we talk to each other better? How can we become unstuck and stay flexible when faced with much complexity and uncertainty and sometimes also distress? How can we approach organisational change as an inspiring evolutionary process that, while it will always provoke anxiety, is ultimately engaging for people? How can we hold the context of the whole organisational system in mind when we think about an individual or a team?
A peer learning format at its heart, our Leadership Development Exchange is facilitated by organisational psychologists and leadership experts who are skilled in the art of helping groups think together – which sounds easier than it is. Even highly experienced, competent and busy leaders can tend to jump to solutions without investing sufficient time in understanding the problem and may be missing the obvious – the infamous blind spot. Our methodology slows down the thinking process intentionally by taking participants through rounds of asking open questions and better understanding the challenge an individual leader is facing, before thinking about possible solutions and practical suggestions. That way, we are able to get beneath the surface of an issue and then use the wisdom of the group to literally crowdsource helpful questions and ideas.
One consistent piece of feedback from a number of participants embodies well an often underestimated experience leaders share, and demonstrates the immense usefulness of this approach to leadership development: “I feel less lonely in my role knowing that peers across the globe are facing the same challenges.”
Our Leadership Development Exchange format comprises a series of six expertly facilitated 2.5-hour development sessions for small groups of up to eight participants, run virtually and typically spread over a 3–4-month period. It is available in two different formats: as an in-house leadership development programme, and as an open-enrolment programme for leaders from different organisations. If you are interested in learning more about the programme and would like to receive our brochure, please contact Susanne Skoruppa (email@example.com) or David Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org) who co-lead our Organisational Effectiveness Practice.