What Is the Future of Leadership Development?

Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner

Q: What is the future of leadership development?

A: During this year's Forum, we were excited to engage everyone in a creative and collaborative discussion about just what the future of leadership development will look like. With markers and stickers, pens and drawing paper we all participated in The Leadership Challenge World Café where we brainstormed ideas and images of the exciting and ennobling possibilities the years ahead might hold.

As we have discovered during our nearly 30 years of research, the content of what it takes to be an effective leader does not change all that much over time. What does change is the context. So while we are confident that The Five Practices model will continue to be as relevant and powerful in developing the next generation of leaders as it has been for previous generations, the way in which we provide opportunities for learning and practicing will continuously evolve. The delivery tools future generations will use to engage in developing their effectiveness as leaders will surely be quite different than those we know today. Among the changes, two developments offer exciting possibilities: the movement of computing to mobile devices and the evidence that leaders only improve if they engage in daily practice. We know from our colleagues in high technology that in the near future mobile devices will equal or surpass desktop computers as the primary platform for connecting with work and people. Equipped with social media and apps, mobile phones and tablets offer significant advances in the ways in which learners can practice and apply their leadership skills. Just imagine how they'll be able to get a calendar reminder about a commitment they made to act on one of the behaviors in a meeting they have that day. Or, how they'll be able to instantly access an inventory of options on how to handle a difficult leadership challenge they might be confronting. The possibilities are extraordinary.

In fact, there will soon be an app for The Leadership Challenge—a prototype of which was previewed at the Forum. Key features will help leaders keep connected to the practices and learnings of The Five Practices and will be instrumental in supporting the notion that leadership development is a process, not an event. Making leadership tools available—anytime, anywhere—to those who aspire to lead reinforces continual, daily growth. This easy accessibility also promotes another of our key messages: think of leadership as part of what you do, not something else that you do.

Jim Kouzes is the Dean's Executive Fellow of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University (SCU). Barry Posner is the Accolti Professor of Leadership at SCU's Leavey School of Business, where he served as Dean for 12 years. Together they are authors of The Leadership Challenge and over a thirty other books and workbooks on leadership and leadership development, including Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, which was just released this month.

Articles & Stories