The findings from this research provided a valuable insight into the skills that leaders have needed to navigate the challenging terrain of leadership, as well as the experiences that helped develop those skills.
In 2005, faculty at Hult Ashridge Executive Education conducted an in-depth study with over 300 senior managers; managers who, by length of tenure and seniority in their respective organizations, had a wealth of leadership experience. This research explored what knowledge and experience these leaders wished they had gained ten years previously; knowledge and experience that with the benefit of hindsight would have been hugely valuable to their effectiveness as leaders. In addition, the research explored what ‘critical incidents’ these leaders believed had shaped their development – what moments and experiences had taught them the valuable lessons of how to lead.
The findings from this research identified eight key themes in relation to the ’critical incidents’ that significantly aided, and often accelerated their leadership learning journey. These included incidents involving managing others, adapting leadership styles, recruiting, making decisions and times of ‘stepping up’ to a new leadership role. The incidents reported also included times that required a greater corporate awareness, times where work and home life conflicted, and times when they developed greater self-awareness, through making mistakes or taking risks. The research also identified seven key learning themes, including learning about themselves, their strengths, their values and their sense of self, learning about power and politics, the impact they have on those whom they lead, and what they learned about building a career.
The research itself culminated in the development of a new, experiential and immersive program designed to help leaders prepare themselves for the challenges of leadership, The Leadership Experience.
Fourteen years on, Hult Ashridge wanted to understand if the leadership landscape had changed; are the skills required of leaders for the 21st Century the same as they were then, and do similar critical incidents occur that teach these valuable lessons? We were also curious to understand whether the skills required were the same for all ages, levels in the organization, genders or geographical regions.
Read the full report to find out more about Learning to Lead in the 21st Century.