What a privilege for Henley to host leadership development conference


Two weeks ago we welcomed around 100 academics and practitioners at the Henley Business School for the 7th Developing Leadership Capacity Conference. A great event for our Henley Centre for Engaging Leadership’s to be a platform for challenging leadership thinking and practicing.

The theme? ‘Pluralistic perspectives of leadership and leadership development.’ Not really surprising when you follow this blog and our work at HCEL…

A very personal choice.

What did I take away from participants, countless conversations, close to 50 presentations and five keynote speakers?

We like our stability (back)

Complexity science is surely a topic for which most humans get up at night excited to learn more – not! However, I have to admit there is something to it. Simplifying Mary Uhl-Bien’s talk in a horrible way here one of my insights.

Organisations and managers throw rigid solutions at complex, multi-facetted, evolving leadership challenges. Those administrative solutions do play a role. However solely creating stability maybe less helpful when it is about creating agility.

Ever done by you? Responded to a growth and innovation challenge with more regulation and control. When did you respond to ambiguous situations instead with more freedom for people?

Unlearning! Really? Isn’t learning tough enough?

Again drastically simplifying, Mike Pedler shared unlearning as an ingredient to develop leadership. In a nutshell: What do you have to leave behind as a manager from your leadership behaviour, habits, attitudes… Want an example? In a room with 35 managers I recently asked: Who really trusts their people? About more than half raised their arms! That is helpful, isn’t it! It means for instance we can provide managers with tools to empower and create autonomy for their people, yet it ain’t happening – as long as the manager is not trusting. Here unlearning comes to the fore. How can I unlearn the long road to trust people? Can we at all?

Then there was this one conversation.

Typical, over a coffee, a few academics, managers, trainers… The topic: Are we connected enough to new forms of working, collaborating, new demands of people at all ages? Point taken! To answer with Jonny Cash: ‘We’ll meet again’

Try this.

Back to unlearning. Write a list of things helpful to unlearn in your personal leadership practice! Take this list to one or more of your peers and employees. What do they think? Anything on their list but not yours?

Happy engaging – stay tuned.


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