In five or 10 years, could leadership development look very different than it does today? What assumptions might be overturned about the who, what and how of leadership development? What ideas could change the way we become better leaders and build our collective leadership capacity?

CCL has been asking these questions, too. In our2011-2012 Annual Report, we examine five big ideas that have fired our imaginations and just might be driving the future of leadership development.

Big Idea #1: Get Your Brain in the Game. What can we learn from advances in neuroscience? How does the study of the nervous system and the brain open up insight into our behavior, our thoughts and our effectiveness? And, importantly, how do we move from “isn’t that interesting?” to actually enhancing leadership development and day-to-day results? For example, our increased understanding of the connections between stress, sleep and brain function, can help us create and use new tools and strategies that improve our ability to learn, choose our behaviors and build long-term resilience.

Big Idea #2: Expand the Leadership Equation. What would the world look like if all people had access to leadership development? What if we brought leadership knowledge and learning experiences to underserved groups anywhere in the world — in our communities, as well as in corporate life? Efforts to expand the pool of leadership to include the young, the disadvantaged and the overlooked are gaining new traction. In business, more organizations are looking for ways to tap into the leadership potential of project managers, individual contributors and entry-level talent.

Big Idea #3: Nurture Your Networks. How are the connections and relationships at work helping — or hurting — your ability to perform, drive change or achieve tough goals? New ways of analyzing networks and relationships in organizations can shed light on surprising facts about information flow, decision-making, trust and energy among groups of people. With that insight, leaders can take steps to improve their personal and organizational networks — and gain impressive benefits.

Big Idea #4: Power Up Nonprofit Partnerships. What is happening at the intersection of nonprofit needs and corporate philanthropy? What needs to change? Unfortunately, the demands of the nonprofit sector have not been met with a greater investment in leadership talent. Many nonprofits are now feeling the pain as their leadership teams work to lead through change and challenge. But some innovative partnerships between nonprofits and corporate funders aim to make a difference.

Big Idea #5: Elevate Coaching Impact. How do you know if coaching is successful? As interest in coaching grows, many organizations are looking to better understand and manage their coaching programs with an eye to results. A new tool is in the works to provide data-driven answers on how to employ coaching strategically and effectively. Over time, the data will provide solid answers to questions such as: What business challenges are best addressed by coaching? What are the best practices that lead to productive coaching relationships? How does an organization find, select and match the right coaches with individuals? What leads to successful coaching relationships at different levels of leadership, or in different industries or in different cultures?

These five big ideas may be on the fringes of leadership development today. And, of course, they will be playing out in the context of fast-paced change and great volatility. What they will mean to you — and to your business, your markets and your future — may not be clear.

What we do know is that we have to keep searching, working together to create new ways to become the smart, inspiring and effective leaders of the future. And these ideas are part of the journey.

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