Our London Forum, designed for senior decision-makers in Organizational and Leadership Development, and Human Resources, focused on the topic of exploring, "What’s next for leadership and senior team development?". The format was designed to be intimate with many chances of networking and dialogue between like-minded people.  There was a panel discussion with Sheppard Moscow clients Liz Davis (International Finance Corporation (IFC)) and Richard Sharman (KPMG), which was precluded by a talk by Professor Peter Hawkins, then attendees and consultants sat together – café style – to begin a dialogue on what they heard, and their challenges.  It was asked of the consultants, who were hosting intimate dialogue sessions at small tables, to share their insights from the evening.

The following are shares from some of our consultants:

What from the panel discussion really triggered my groups dialogue?

A fascinating conversation arose about the balance between purpose, meaning, and conscious leadership on the one hand, and on the other, hard-nosed business bottom-line focus. Of course, it’s not either or, rather, it’s about integrating both aspects of leadership concern.  Liz, from the panel discussion, described the challenge-based leadership approach taken in IFC, where the challenge is to connect at a human level with clients, putting meaning, purpose and human connection right at the heart of the learning.  To some at the table, this felt rather alien to the organizational cultures they navigate, and the question arose how to help senior leaders to value the skills and mindsets required to be a whole human, leading a human system. An ‘aha moment’ was any of us whose role it is to drive self-awareness, system-awareness and growth in organisations, have got to be very skilled at helping leaders to see and articulate their leadership purpose, encompassing all business results, to all stakeholders.  The role is to be about helping organisations and their leaders to be really clear about the purpose they serve, intentional about leading on purpose and skilled at delivering the impact in line with intention.  The topic of engagement in increasingly dynamic and constantly changing environments was picked up, specifically with regards to engaging mobile workforces within the ‘gig economy’. Also, the unchanging core role of leadership versus the changing nature of leadership, in a changing world. And whether it might be timely to think again about how we talk about this essential organizational capability – the capability to have the consequential conversations that are needed to realise purpose - we’ve come to (out of habit?) call leadership.

From the small group tables, what is the largest takeaway insight?

Clients, from all different scenarios, were all facing a similar challenge in relation to leadership in that what had got them ‘here’ in terms of organisation success; was highly unlikely to get them ‘there’ for future success.  Our confusion on making sense of generational needs and nature.  That talk of ‘millennials’ is too broad brush – it obscures rather than illuminates. For all the talk of sophisticated interventions to connect the disparate parts of the system to create meaning, alignment and engagement, what it most often boils down to is whether or not people can have the conversations that matter, with trust and robustness, in order to enable the team and the organization to make progress. 

What strikes as most interesting in regards to the future of leadership development?

The locus of control for leadership is moving away from the top of the organisation - to leadership from every chair. Leadership is experienced through every day actions, in presence and being, rather than authority and position. The role of leaders is increasingly to be one of servant leadership, enabling others to find their leadership voice. The core role of the leader is to connect needs to resources and capabilities, and to do so in a way that is on purpose and that somehow helps to meet often conflicting stakeholder needs.  It was even contemplated if the term ‘leadership’ was still serving our purpose and perhaps too constraining, and finally the continuing, unavoidable need for immersive, challenge based and action learning based leadership development.  And to deliver this, a need for high quality process consultancy.

Andrea, Deborah and Johnny


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16 Mar 2017


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