A 21st Century Perspective on Management Development

A 21st Century Perspective on Management Development


The purpose of management development lies within its potential to attract, retain and develop people in alignment with organisational goals. But be aware! The 21st Century poses some daunting challenges…

A couple of years ago, in 2005, I enrolled in an intensive management development programme. And I must say, it was quite some learning experience; it gave me insights about personal leadership & -congruence and helped me develop the necessary skills that would effectively guide me through whatever socio-bureaucratic maze I would encounter.

Still, in hindsight, after 2,5 years I was left with an intuitive feeling of emptiness, a feeling of not having touched the essence I was looking for. Yet at the same time I was unable to pinpoint the exact why and how of this feeling. Which isn’t strange.

Introspection illusion

Psychologists have come to the conclusion that our brains are unable to understand deeper motivations and desires, likes and dislikes. They call this the introspection illusion. Whenever you are asked to express your opinion, your challenge is to translate primal part of the psyche into a rational, logical and coherent story through the higher parts of the brain, mostly guided by the prefrontal cortex.  And this is where it goes wrong.  Research after research shows that we simply are unable to explain our own behaviour.

Feedback illusion

Well then, if we are unable to answer these questions about behaviour for ourselves, we might just as well ask other people to explain it for us, right?  A popular instrument to become aware of one’s behaviour is feedback by colleagues, peers or experts. And although it provides a clue on how you act in professional setting, nobody would ever be able to explain the deeper motivations or the true background of that specific action in that specific context in that specific fragment of time. Life, thoughts and motivations are just to complex and non-linear to grasp completely. Using these instruments we are never able to grasp the essence and explain the why. True teachings stem from within as opposed to what is without. 


Major Challenge 21st Century Business: purpose

A major challenge for 21st Century Businesses is undoubtedly their quest purpose. Without purpose, companies will fail to attract 1) people willing to work for them, or 2) people that are willing to express their gratitude by buying their products or services. Now, if we consider purpose to be one of the biggest challenges within business, why then so little attention is being paid to this very subject within management development?

My  feeling of emptiness arose as this single most important question was left unanswered. Even worse, the question wasn’t addressed at all, but was taken for granted (or am I being naive and should I’ve been aware of this before?). Yet I see plenty of people around me struggling with the same question, only few truly found their purpose.

Management development programs should start by asking the purpose question first. Of course, this question often goes beyond the organisational level and might thus intuitively feel out of scope for most human resource- or business managers. But if our companies are on a quest for purpose wouldn’t it be wise to start with the very same people that run those businesses? Questioning them what they want to accomplish in life on this earth? Only then will they be able to evolve as true conscious leaders and managers. Something the world is screaming for at this moment.

Don’t push it!

It isn’t a simple task. How are we to find our purpose when it’s hidden for cognitive processes (see previous post)? When it even is mostly hidden for emotional processes? The challenge with purpose is that it does not allow itself to be pushed. It is patiently waiting to unfold itself when the time is ripe. When you’ve experienced that consciousness isn’t a mind-body fragmentation but that all is one; physical, mental and spiritual. When you have released yourself from emotional or cognitive hindrances.

When you allow yourself an open mind, open heart, but most importantly; open will and the purest of intent.  Only then you’ll allow purpose to flow through.

And Human Resource Managers shouldn’t fear incorporating Eastern techniques such as silence retreats, qi-gong, meditation and shamanism in their management development programs. They enrich the current of palette management development tools, making management development a fruitful exercise to unfold purpose in life, in organisations and to create 21st century conscious business people.