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Identity workspaces for leadership development

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Profound changes in individuals’ relationship with their employers and expectations for their work lives have generated an increasing demand for leadership development, while at the same time exposing the limitations of traditional leadership programs focused on the acquisition of conceptual knowledge and requisite skills. This chapter explores how conceptualizing leadership programs as “identity workspaces” helps to meet the demand for leadership in ways that benefit individuals, organizations, and society. Alongside the acquisition of knowledge and skills, identity workspaces facilitate the revision and consolidation of individual and collective identities. They personalize and contextualize participants’ learning, inviting them to wrestle with the questions “What does leading mean to us?” and “Who am I as a leader?” Attention to both activity and identity deepens and accelerates the development of individual leaders and strengthens leadership communities within and across organizations. I describe the conceptual foundations, learning processes, design principles, and professional competences that enable leadership programs to function as identity workspaces. Designing such programs, however, takes more than adopting the methods described here. It calls for revisiting the role of leadership developers as professionals and demands of us the same mindfulness, curiosity, courage, integrity, and social responsibility that we invite leaders to demonstrate.

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