Mayvin_21st Century Training Journal C21L programme Catherine Howe public-i Action Research Leadership programme

Leadership and Staying Uncertain

What does it take to be a leader in these times? To navigate the opportunities, complexities and wider challenges of the 21st Century context?

In Spring 2012, Mayvin, in association with Training Journal, is launching an Action Research-based Leadership Programme that aims to turn this complexity to the advantage of leaders at all levels in contemporary businesses.

This TJ/Mayvin C21L programme starts in May 2012, and in anticipation of this, James Traeger and Martin Saville at Mayvin are working now with Catherine Howe, Chief Executive of public-i, a company with a reputation for excellence in ‘Using the virtual world to make a difference in the real world’. Catherine is a longstanding friend of Mayvin and shares a very parallel perspective to ours about the changes taking place in the world. She also has a great deal of expertise on the subject, as evidenced by her blog.

Action Research

The intention is to develop a blog that starts the live Action Research on which the C21L programme will draw. This blog will to role model the online reflection that learning leaders will be encouraged to do on the C21L programme, and generate comment trails that build on the discussion. In this blog, we will start by reflecting on three tentative research questions:

  • What is the nature of the context we are in?
  • What does being a leader mean in this context?
  • How do we create an effective environment for leadership to flourish?


This blog feels like a bold step – rather than presenting research findings, fully formed, about how a leader deals with these complex realities, it will be a presentation of unrefined findings, in the true spirit of Action Research. And, as is reciprocal nature of current leadership, the blog will be open to comments and questions as the topic areas and questions develop. In short, we are inviting you to read, reflect against your own experience, and join the conversation. We start from a place of genuine inquiry, not knowing what the answers are, but of clearly addressing the questions these times pose head-on:

  • How far do leaders recognise the nature of the ‘channel shift’ – the mindset change that the web presents?
  • How do leaders deal more effectively with the device-in-hand, instantly communicative, personal nature of leadership?
  • What are the implications of the blurring and bending of organisational boundaries driven by factors such as social networking?
  • What are the capacities leaders draw on to deal with their now ‘always public’ e-persona?
  • How do leaders use the reciprocity and immediacy of communication in and around their organisation, with their stakeholders and customers?


Everything changes

Everything is changing all the time. There is no steady-state; the disruption of systems, processes and culture is the norm, rather than the exception. Meanwhile, leadership programmes have tended to continue to emphasise an ideal that a leader should be aiming for. This ideal constantly recedes. What of a leadership programme that faces the current reality, not with simplistic answers, but with bold and heartfelt intention to inquire, to face and work with uncertainty as business as usual?

The opportunity for leaders

We think there is a great opportunity for leaders who embrace uncertainty, in uncertain times. It is an exciting, often risky prospect. But, as we know, real learning usually takes place on the edge of a comfort zone.

Read our latest thinking on leadership