Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other

“Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

I believe that an organization’s ability to grow and compete is wholly dependent on the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of its people, as performance is the outcome of learning on individual, group, and organizational level. Not providing the right learning initiatives at the right time to the right group may leave the workforce unprepared for critical challenges.

Global Economic Challenges

The challenges of the global knowledge economy are far reaching and fundamentally impact the bottom line. I see a paradigm shift in how Learning & Development will be implemented more consequently as an organizational key strategic asset. The competitive learning organization is focusing learning to increase global competition and to meet far reaching challenges, such as:

  • Financial Challenges: Understand the products, business issues
  • Recruiting Challenges: Attractive learning organization
  • Technology and Internet Challenges: Evaluate technology trends to enable business
  • Customer Challenges: Consult with customers and consider in learning
  • Corporate Knowledge Challenges: Manage company-wide transitions and continual learning

However, new as strategic key asset, Learning & Development should be positioned to meet the “real” leadership challenges that are, especially in mature and increasingly diverse economies, of the following:

Leadership & Culture of the organization

  • Ability to influence and organize “commonly understood” meaning for all the members of the organization

Leadership of international relationships

  • Especially in the context of foreign headquarters / subsidiaries, outsourcing and in-sourcing strategies

Demographic Challenges

  • Maximize the value of older workers
  • Provide opportunities for the youngest talents
  • Integrate a diverse work forces (e.g., women)

Benefits of a Learning & Development Process Cycle

We hear it, see it, and believe it, but still do not act like we’d have arrived in the knowledge economy. Training and learning in organizations is often still product or service focused and rarely used as a strategic process cycle:

Figure: Learning & Development Cycle, adapted from various sources


I have observed the following issues, what is speaking for a clear need to implement effective L&D processes:

  • No appropriate response to learning evaluation results
  • Choosing the wrong training assessment criteria
  • Key stakeholders not involved in the learning needs assessment
  • Lack of transparency around the learning needs assessment outcome
  • Planning doesn’t respond to assessment
  • Not enough budget and senior management commitment
  • Planning takes too long
  • Training participants are not ready and actively engaged pre-, post-, and during the training
  • Implementation/execution of the training doesn’t happen according to plan
  • Not enough emphasis on training / learning evaluation
  • Weak link of evaluation methods and results to desired learning results

4 building blocks of a learning organization


Learning & Development, properly implemented, contributes to a positive ROI. However, it is not only about the immediate effect on monetary profit that justifies an increased leadership emphasis on effective learning experiences. Besides innovation, creativity, and deeper ideas from a more systematically and appropriately engaged workforce in general, it is about improving humans’ workplaces from an intrinsic perspective that is promoting motivation, fulfillment and well-being. Especially cross-cultural challenges represent additional challenges and offer additional opportunities for personal and organizational growth.


Tamar Elkeles and Jack Phillips. The Chief Learning Officer. Driving Values Within a Changing Organization Through Learning and Development. London and New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2007

Elaine S. Potoker. International Human Resource Development. A Leadership Perspective. London and New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2011