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Stephanie Morgan Has leadership development turned into a balancing act?

Leadership is a global hot topic right now. Just think of recent headlines surrounding the gender disparity in leadership, the need for leaders to create a sustainable future, the millennial generation’s demands for inclusive leadership, and the importance of being able to lead in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world.

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It seems that leadership is being pulled in several different directions, leaving L&D dealing with a bit of a balancing act when it comes to creating a learning solution that responds to all of the challenges a leader might face. 

It’s never been clearer to L&D that a ‘one-size fits all’ solution is not going to cut it. Leadership development needs to be specific to the challenges an individual, group or organisation is facing, and needs to factor in all the disruption and uncertainty that comes with being a modern-day leader.

L&D has a responsibility to ensure the following key challenges are represented and responded to in our leadership development programmes.


Soon to be the world’s largest working generation, millennials have created waves in what denotes a ‘good’ or ‘successful’ leader. Freshmind’s research demonstrates that authoritarian, rigid leadership does not sit well with the millennial generation. They are motivated by a more inclusive type of leadership, driven by the desire to make a positive difference within their organisation.

But it’s not just what motivates junior workers that has led to disruptions in leadership. Unlike previous generations, millennials are readier to leave a job role if the leadership on offer doesn’t meet their standards, leaving many organisations struggling to retain talent.

Women’s leadership

“60% of firms had no women on their boards and 50% had no female executives on the C-Suite.” – Gender imbalance: In business at business school

It’s not new news that there is a disparity in the number of women in mid-management positions compared with the number of women in leadership roles. There is a clear drop-off point where women are no longer progressing, and research shows this is more down to company culture than raising a family.

In response to this disparity, businesses are looking to L&D to create leadership development programmes, tailored to meet the challenges and needs specific to women leaders, as it’s clear that traditional leadership programmes aren’t working.

Ample research has shown that leadership programmes are most successful when they create a community of women learners who grow, develop and help each other succeed.

Sustainable leadership

The recent report “Rewiring leadership: The future we want, the leadership we need” from CISL has brought sustainability to the forefront of leadership development. CISL highlights a shift in society relying more and more on business leaders to face challenges such as climate change in place of slow governance and regulations.

The key take-away of this report, is that L&D have a big part to play in ensuring our future leaders are equipped with the tools and skills they need to be successful and support the creation of a sustainable future.

Leading through change and uncertainty

With the fourth industrial revolution upon us, the ability to lead through change or during times of uncertainty has never been more valuable. Businesses need to work with L&D to make sure their leaders are equipped with the skills and tools they need to lead in this VUCA world.

And it’s not just the obvious skills such as resilience, and the ability to cope in high pressured environments that leaders need. It’s more important than ever for leaders to be equipped with emotive skills such as empathy and self-awareness if they want to be successful in the modern business landscape.

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The demands of leadership development are growing at a record pace, and it falls to us learning professionals to make sure our solutions are responding to all of the needs and challenges of a modern-day leader. A lot is resting on our shoulders, from retaining top talent, helping gender leadership equality and supporting a sustainable future. Fantastic leadership development has never been so important! 

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Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning

Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.

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