Leading Organisations of Tomorrow

This research focuses on examples of innovation in leadership development in response to sustainable development. Case studies are based on interviews with HR/L&D and Sustainability personnel across a range of companies including: HSBC, IBM, Ernst&Young, IMC Group, Interface, Sky, Lend Lease.

Key questions addressed by the research include:

  • Why are organisations seeking to embed a focus on sustainability within their leadership development programmes?
  • What are they hoping to achieve?
  • What approaches are they taking and why?
  • What are they learning about what works and what doesn’t? What variables are emerging as key success factors?
  • What are the implications for others?

Key Findings

Why are organisations doing this?

  • The world is changing, leaders need an enhanced skill set for competitive advantage to be maintained:
    • better understanding of emerging markets,
    • better understanding across private / public / voluntary sectors
    • increased understanding of business relevant social and environmental issues
  • New sources of risk and opportunity that need to be understood across the organisation
  • Need leaders to see how the world is changing, have commitment to the need for change, and develop the skills to lead that change
  • It’s about building a durable business; the only way to make this come alive is through people

What are they achieving:

  • Shifts in perspective
    • Greater awareness / different perspective
    • Building relationships and empathy with diverse groups outside organisation
    • Strengthened intent to act
    • Better understanding of business implications and / or company strategy
  • Shifts in behaviour
    • Specific activities or projects
    • More vocal advocates or champions in the workplace
    • Taken on a new role or new activities as part of role 
    • Activities in personal life
  • Key variables influencing success
    • Factors relating to programme design and facilitation
    • Immersion experiences and engaging with diverse groups
    • Ability to speak from direct experience as a result of immersion experience
    • Project-based learning with clear business deliverable
    • Strong role for senior management in programme, especially articulating business relevance
    • Good quality facilitation
    • Length of time / being given space
  • Factors relating to wider organisational context
    • Role of line manager
    • Are key messages congruent with messages from senior leadership?
    • Is broader organisational culture supportive?
    • What’s going on in the broader social context?
    • Giving participants a particular role / identity / additional job title
    • Time and resource
    • Agency
  • Building and maintaining a connected cohort
    • Having someone asking about progress and also giving ongoing information updates, ideas, and facilitating communication
    • Refresher events / reunions
    • Rewarding, recognising and valuing


Download the executive summary here. For a copy of the full report, contact the research department