Investing in Development

Every year huge sums of money are spent around the world on leadership development programmes. Estimates for the United States, for example, suggest a sum of around $14 billion US dollars per annum. Most of this outlay is focused on horizontal development with the consequence that leadership’s ability to operate in visionary, strategic and timely ways continues to be minimal, and workplaces too often remain political, coercive, and unilateral. Change programmes abound and yet little seems to change.

During his fifteen years of sitting on the boards of businesses with multi-billion dollar turnovers, Richard Izard became increasingly frustrated and disappointed with most traditional approaches to leadership and change. He uses this experience to develop organizational change programs that feature an adult developmental approach to leadership and change – as they can make a profound difference.

We start with the presupposition that everyone has untapped potential and that development (vertical and horizontal) is likely to make us much more effective leaders.

Our research and practice consistently show that if developmental stage is ignored or not acknowledged much is lost in leadership effectiveness.


At GLA the majority of us have been running successful leadership interventions from an adult developmental perspective for over 20 years (some of us; Bill & Jane for 40 years). These interventions have had a huge impact precisely because this approach goes to the heart of the developmental capacity we consciously or unconsciously bring into play: our beliefs, values, sense of identity, and ability to engage at an expansive, systems level. It is by working at these levels of insight and awareness that meaningful growth in individual leadership capacity germinates, blossoms and translates into timely action.

From amongst our organizational approaches, consider the following: Story and Developmental theory. Nick Owen blends the power of story telling with insights from the GLP to bring about individual and group transformation.

Story and Development Theory

It has been said that self-development happens when we step back far enough to be able to observe ourselves from a distance. The further the distance the more clearly we can see ourselves (with all our attendant strengths and limitations), and the more clearly we can systemically appreciate our relationships with others, and the world in which we operate. Distance allows us to make meaning in deeper and more inter-related ways; and to see what might be usefully changed.

Of all the tools that allow us to do this, the most common and most sophisticated is story. Human beings not only have the ability to tell stories, but the ability to change the stories we tell. And as we change our stories we change ourselves, our perceptions of others, and the perspectives we hold about the world. The stories we tell construct and re-construct our ‘reality.’ At GLA we use the power of story, told through the lens of action-logics to support individual and group transformation.

Do the stories you tell serve you? Do they help you grow and develop or do they keep you small and stuck? Do the stories you tell connect and resonate with others or do they fail to engage them? Familiarity with the different action-logics offers insights into how people make sense of their perception of reality. And how influencers, motivators and leaders need to carefully choose and shape their stories in ‘language’ and frames that their listeners will respond to and understand. Well-chosen, well-told stories offer enormous potential to deeply connect with ourselves, others, and the contexts in which we operate together.

And of course the desire to listen to and include the stories of others is an essential shift from the exercise of unilateral power towards a more mutually transforming process of collaborative meaning making that sees leadership as a social process in which more rather than fewer people participate in shared and worthwhile enterprises. This way of leading – which favours more autonomous, self-organising, self-managing systems – requires the creation of a culture that encourages curiosity, openness, and much deeper listening to the stories of others.