Due to the increasing complex problems we are facing as individuals, organizations, institutions, society, the  ‘genius with a thousand helpers leadership model’ is more and more replaced by ‘shared leadership’. This has implications for leadership development.  

Let me start by being ‘the master of the obvious’ by stating that the old idea of having 1 professor or trainer explaining how the world works for several days will be replaced by several professors, trainers, coaches who together with the participants  think, act, reflect on how the leadership of their organization can be increased. The participants are no longer coming from 1 organization, but  represent the eco-system from the organizing organization:  large customers, suppliers, consultants and other stakeholders are also invited. Trying to get the whole system in the room is present in every aspect of the course. If, for example, a 360° feedback instrument is used, not only business connections are invited to give feedback, but also family and friends. In addition, designing a course is more and more guided by the idea of where you want to increase social capital (i.e. quality of the relationships between stakeholders), instead of human capital (i.e. increasing skills & knowledge) in the eco-system of the organization.

A maybe less obvious but even more important part is that the idea of leadership development as an event, as a logical course of few days with a ‘star professor’, is more and more replaced by leadership development as an aesthetic process of months, if not years. Aesthetic learning implies that the different impressions the participant experience are related to each other and form one whole. The creation of this whole is the result of the participants reflection, of their interpretation of themselves and the world that integrates their thinking and emotions, the speakable and unspeakable, the logical & causal with the absurd & indirect1. Practically this means that things like location, atmosphere, energy, rhythm, type of food, authenticity of professors, trainers, coaches, all become much more important.

In sum, leadership development institutes and HRM should no longer sell you individuals but sell you an aesthetic development process for all stakeholders involved.


1 inspired by  Bennyé D. Austring & Merete C. Sørensen (2013). Aesthics and learning. International conference of the future of education. http://conference.pixel-online.net/edu_future/common/download/Paper_pdf/ART07-Austring,Sorensen.pdf

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