From engaging with the complexity of leadership to transformative leadership development
Thinking about the future of leadership, we need to recognise the following: the context of leadership has and will become increasingly more VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). Similarly important: we must accept that in previous decades we may have tried to allocate leadership roles and responsibilities to just a few outstanding leaders, rather than acknowledging that the complexity of today’s leadership challenges requires leadership throughout the organisation. Thinking about distributing leadership can provide the following perspectives.
In the future, leaders and managers with significant leadership responsibilities will succeed when they orchestrate leadership with and through others. That does not mean that people at the top will become less relevant. They will become important for creating an environment of culture, leadership, structure and processes that facilitates engaging leadership through others and makes it happen in the organisation. This can mean removing practical obstacles and changing processes, such as reward systems.
Leaders and managers will have to acknowledge and learn to provide and receive leadership from different people in the organisation. Traditional hierarchies may be challenged but this will create more mature and sustained relationships throughout the organisation, not fewer.
Within the new realities, future leaders and senior managers may focus on creating and shaping leadership capacity across entire organisations – that is, multi-directional leadership capacity that combines downwards, upwards and sideways leadership capability, engaging and energising organisations.
We are at the beginning of understanding what all this means for new practices of engaging leadership development. What we can see is that to stay meaningful and responsible as leaders and managers, people must develop, refresh, adapt and reflect on their own leadership capabilities. Senior leaders and managers will engage in leadership development throughout their careers and will regularly engage in transformative learning experiences, both in the business school and in the organisational environment, often blending learning between these different settings.
The Henley MA Leadership programme was designed following extensive research and consultation with a wide range of organisations. It provides a safe environment for leaders to develop their leadership capability in order to work in this new VUCA context, and also to receive prestigious, high profile business school qualifications.
Details of Henley Business School’s MA in Leadership programme can be found at henley.ac.uk/maleadership.
Dr Jean-Anne Stewart, Programme Director MA Leadership