Building a leadership community

Article 18 April 2023

Often at these moments in Spring (and also Autumn), leadership teams head off for a retreat – those intense, intimate moments when a core leadership team can spend time together as people, contracting, collaborating and ideating. The step back from the day-to-day helps to form the human bonds and connections, re-establish the roles and responsibilities, and re-ignite the energy and agency to be the agile, integrated and accountable team they want to be.

But what happens to the top 100 or top 150 in any large enterprise?  How can you engender the same agency and intimacy within a community of people who may never have met each other – or even worked together?

The focus for any such experience should be centred around DIALOGUE – where leaders can come together, to share experiences and learning, discuss the challenges, and together find ways to help fulfil the common strategy and purpose.

Roby Blass believes that ‘less is more’ and you should follow these principles:

  • Focus on dialogue
  • Handle difficult stuff together
  • Address 2-3 big themes only

Typically, in the work we do with large communities of leaders like the Top 100, we employ a few different methodologies. These encourage dialogue and create the experience and safe space where leaders feel comfortable and able to voice and contribute in the best possible way.

WORLD CAFÉ – small groups get together to talk about different topics / themes, and the conversations are rolled up together into a coherent whole. It’s an experience that helps to align conversations and encourage the shifts towards a common goal.

OPEN SPACE – like an ‘unconference’, the community determine the important topics to discuss; and then they split off into self-generated groups, with the help of facilitators, to explore further and develop their thinking.

We’d even suggest that you include dinner and a sleepover as part of the experience – not simply because it’s a nice thing to do, but there is something valuable about people breaking bread together and processing what they have experienced and discussed in that day.

So what can you expect from running leadership experiences like this?

  • A sense of collective prioritisation and alignment
  • Opportunities for participants to contribute to the future of the organisation
  • Leaders feel seen and heard

With such a large group of people, the focus shouldn’t be on a long list of actions post event. This is much more about focus and alignment, energy and momentum.  It’s more important to capture the essence of the experience, say through a video summary of the event, to reinforce key insights, what it felt like at the time and those lightbulb moments.

We see these events very much as compass points for large leadership communities to re-ignite and re-align. Post event, focus on the experience and the continued dialogue – rather than try and operationalise the outcomes – to keep the conversation and momentum going.​​

To read more about best practice for a powerful retreat, take a look at our blog 'Creating space, resetting a team'. For insight into senior leadership teams, head to our blog 'Your senior team's imperitive'.

Sheppard_Moscow_Headshots_142.jpg Roby Blass