Leadership Development

Katie O’Brien
Network Manager
Leadership and Human Resources Research


At a time when many of the senior leaders in Canada are nearing retirement, the nature of leadership is changing and the need for leadership development has never been more important. The global business environment of recent years has been aptly characterized as “VUCA”—volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Large-scale trends, including globalization, changing demographics, increasingly diverse workforces, and fast-paced technological innovation, have been transforming workplaces at an unprecedented pace. Leaders are being called upon to work “lean and efficient” while also increasing innovation, collaboration, and partnerships in order to remain competitive.

Participants in a recently published survey on leadership development practices identified their top leadership development drivers as:

  • addressing declining levels of leadership capacity;
  • planning for succession and growing the talent pool;
  • engaging and mobilizing employees;
  • managing changing demographics and retirement challenges;
  • attracting and retaining new talent.

Yet, it seems that in challenging economic times, leadership development, which is generally perceived as being critical for the growth and viability of organizations, becomes seen as discretionary. Findings from the same survey on leadership development suggest that when faced with economic challenges, some organizations cut back or reduce development activities. While organizations recognize the value of leadership development in theory, it becomes difficult to prioritize leadership development in practice when faced with so many competing priorities.

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