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Leadership Development and Executive Coaching: Reflections from a Summit

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Leadership development was one of the three primary themes identified In preparation for the New Executive Coaching Summit (NECS) held during April of 2022 at a Bed and Breakfast Inn located in Harpswell Maine. Consideration was given throughout this 2 ½ day meeting to the nature of and promotion of leadership development, as well as its relationship to the field of executive coaching. Small group meetings were accompanied by extensive flip chart note taking. Following is a summary of the notes that were taken.

The Challenges of mid-21st Century Leadership

One of the convening concepts at the summit was the presence of a VUCA-Plus environment in the life of most leaders. This environment includes high levels of volatility (V), uncertainty (U), complexity (C) and ambiguity (A) These VUCA elements of our contemporary environment have been noted for many years. Closely associated with these four elements are turbulence and contradiction (hence the phrase VUCA-Plus). Leadership that is to be effective and sustainable during the middle decades of the 21st Century must meet the myriad challenges associated with VUCA-Plus.

The New Mid-21st Century Leader

One of the small groups reflected on the stress associated with this challenging environment. Participants in this group noted that leaders often have “no bandwidth” for the many ways in which these VUCA-Plus challenges enter their life and work. Change curves are abundant and often overlap one another. How does a leader maintain the stamina (both physical and psychological) to address these curves every day?

Another of the small groups took a somewhat different tack. They envisioned what a successful mid-21st Century leader might look like—someone who attacks these VUCA-Plus challenges rather than just survives them. They talked about a mid-21st Century leader being bold and courageous. This person is a Disruptor—someone who is breaking The Rules. They are breaking the Mold of what leadership is and of what can be accomplished in a VUCA-Plus environment. While breaking the mold, these leaders are also creating New Molds. This is quite an undertaking.

The mid-21st Century leader must break the old mold and try out new molds without apology—for they will often make mistakes and will have to re-learn, re-group and re-initiate. In breaking the old molds and trying out the new molds, these bold and courageous leaders are not Bound by Stereotypes nor Cultural Norms. These are absolute requirements in a globalized (flat”) world that is complex and filled with both ambiguity and uncertainty. Even more importantly, new molds are required in an environment that is volatile, turbulent and filled with contradictions.

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