Leadership and talent development

A strategic and value-based approach to leadership, talent and skills development requires us to challenge and move beyond a programme-based mind-set to learning which is supply-side driven and methods focused.

We need consider strategy, value and innovation in relation to the leadership and talent decisions – that is, the head, heart and hands of leaders and teams. An illustrative framework is provided below using the differentiation of red and blue teams that draws on the work of W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne on blue ocean strategy and other important work such as Carol Dweck, Daniel Goleman, and others.

We need to reflect on how pedagogy, andragogy (adult learning) and heutagogy (self-directed and self-determined learning) is taken up and shaped within institutions and firms; and how these in turn inform, shape and delimit individual, team and organisational development. In this way we can give substance to the term, lifelong learning, in a way that is conceptually robust and not formulaic and mechanical. For example, it can help us avoid misinterpreting and mechanically applying the popularised 70:20:10 ratio of informal, non-formal and formal learning. We need to be clear of the learning outcomes to be achieved and the blend of formal, non-formal and informal learning that fits and meets these outcomes. These forms of learning are not to be seen in isolation and as exclusionary. (Side note, we need to also stand back and reflect on the hype of learning ‘styles’ and ‘preferences’.)

The above reflections force us to shift focus and examine how our respective organisation’s internal capabilities and developmental offerings has evolved and needs to evolve; as well as how its skills development ecosystem (which includes Business Schools) has evolved and needs to evolve.

This is a hard task and it has become harder given our world of exponential change. A world characterised as being volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA), needing vigilance against the spectre of unanticipated business model innovations and disruptions, and that has to brace itself for the impact of the fourth industrial revolution.

The rising interest in ‘design thinking’ within organisations will not address the above and may reinforce the programme-based mind-set and methods focus.


To get to grips with the above task we need to shift focus and critically examine our strategic positioning and capabilities. See for example a case study of leadership development in the South African retail banking sector that provides a concrete example of this and from which one could extrapolate to your firm/context/sector. It illustrates how the design, integration and management of leadership development evolves over time with the evolving capabilities of the respective stakeholders. It also explores emerging and possible innovations: case study.