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Why are we still ‘developing’ leaders?

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Why are we still ‘developing’ leaders?

Leadership development is currently one of the most visible priorities for professional development in modern organizations. Not a single day passes or you can read about it in any business-, management- or HR related media channel. Research shows that industries spend close to $350 billion annually on leadership development and it turns out most of it doesn’t work at all. But one could wonder why do organizations so desperate seek leadership?



Many organisations are still convinced that fixed central leadership is only solution for management & decision making. This conviction logically resulted from decades of industrial age organisation methods in which leaders are supposed to be expert any field, have solutions every issue, have perfect social skills and an indestructible moral compass. An impossible role which inevitably will make them the focal point for conflicts, obstruction & corruption. The latter explains much of the strong focus on leadership development some organisations still exhibit.


But times have changed

As we moved into the new millennium, we left behind the industrial age and with it the management models of that era lost their meaning. Organisations are increasingly confronted with rules, regulations and corporate governance. Leadership today has become as much as ticking boxes on government forms. On the other hand, organizations had to become much more flexible and dynamic because the market demanded more and quicker change. Several digital technologies enabled distributed production. They reduced the need for fixed -, and allowed for more contracted employees. These people worked from all over the world, which reduced the need for large conglomerations of people in one building. Traditional management – by direct supervision – almost totally disappeared. Digital ERP systems took over most of the mundane HR tasks and people became much more self-managing. Individuals and teams, set their own strategies, made decisions, execute work, hire, fire, and compensate themselves without having any managers at all. Remarkably, it seems people flourish under this paradigm.


Beyond leadership development

‎And the next wave is already here: Self-organisation. Autonomous individuals that form collectives, driven by a common goal, engaging in mutual beneficial cooperation. They are called swarm-organisations, holocracies or DAO’s, and there is hardly any hierarchy in these collectives. Yet, there still is leadership, but it is role based and distributed and driven by purpose. Leadership is woven into the very fabric of a self-organising collective. Its capacity to fulfil its leadership potential continuously emerges from the organization itself. Self-organising collectives don’t need charismatic leaders, hero figures, or iron-fisted authority-holders to set strategy, ensure quality, or decide how to spend money. In a self-organising collective, people are empowered and enabled, and remarkably the right people always step up to the plate, at the right time to do the critical work


Develop “know thyself”, objective self-reflection and -reliance

In a self-organising collective, leadership development isn’t a tool focused on “specific individuals”, it’s an outcome of an intuitive self-organisation operating system. An operating system that appeals to the leadership skills that any single human being has and that makes people aware of these skills. It develops the self-reflection and self-reliance of individuals to make them see where their skills create value and where not. It creates the ability to harness the total collective intelligence of the organisation to tackle complex problems and make informed decisions in real-time.


We have supported some of the (culturally) oldest and largest organizations to remove their bureaucracy and learn them to quickly adapt to the new and rapidly changing world we all live in. If you also want to improve the connective -, innovative - and adaptive capacity of your organisation? Then look into the intriguing possibilities of SWARM Organisation.


If you like to know how we do this, just give us call !


Evert Bleijenberg MBA

SWARM Organisation

Handwritten by Author without the help of A

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