Strengthening Strategic Leadership: A new approached based on experience

Strengthening Strategic Leadership: A new approach based on experience

At Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation we believe leadership involves people playing a clear and inspiring role from the position they hold towards a shared vision of sustainable and inclusive change – change that can be necessary at an individual, institutional and system level.

Strong and strategic leadership is critical to creating new habits and norms which make the change transformational. Those who can play this role need fostering and support in order to mobilise and motivate others towards setting shared ambitions.

Realising potential

Within our programme and capacity development work we identify people that have the ability to be a more natural and social leader. Some already manifest this and some are still unsure in this role. All, however, could make much greater use of their potential if they receive dedicated support in this area. Inter-personal skills, systems understanding and organisational awareness are vital for effective leadership.

Inter-personal skills, systems understanding and organisational awareness are vital for effective leadership.

Being an expert in your own area or having technical skills alone is not enough to be a leader that stands out.

Leadership dimensions

We provide specific training for this group of active and potential leaders to develop the capacity and competencies they require. These cover:

  • content (what do I need to know to gain an overview, how can I make sense of current trends?)
  • personal abilities (how do I recognise my own strength andsystem (how do I understand the system motivation?)
  • system (how do I understand the system in which I’m operating and my role and ability to influence it?).

Individual and network development

Our approach focuses on the unique individual. We therefore offer tailor-made modules focused on leadership and what this entails within the specific context of the participants’ work. We combine science-based understanding, collaborative skills and structured reflection processes to strengthen peoples’ leadership capacities.

These modules supplement the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation courses on topics ranging from food nutrition security to landscape governance. Last but not least, we develop specific training courses on the topic of leadership, bringing together people from different domains who share their experience in leadership roles and aspirations.

Learning from other leaders

Our network of alumni enables them to connect with peers, exchange experiences, feed their vision and have the space and structure to reflect on their leadership role (separate from their content role).

Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation is moving this non-explicit network of potential leaders towards an explicit network of leaders for whom we develop support structures that enable them to take on a clearer and unequivocal leadership role, gain reassurance and find inspiration.

Our approach focuses on the unique individual.


Facilitating collective learning experiences in Tanzania

Together with the Sustainable Food Lab, we co-designed and facilitated a leadership summit in Tanzania in 2016. Aimed at stimulating more sustainable and socially inclusive agriculture, around 100 people, many in influential positions, joined from around the world to represent business, NGOs, government and research. The summit offered a collective learning journey experience, bringing people together who can influence the system in which they operate in order to gain inspiration from others and discover things they can apply in their own contexts. The participants benefited from a continuous discussion on key elements of a common vision and how to stimulate system change.

Where expertise meets leadership development

Our course on Fisheries Governance offers people a range of content-specific topics as well as competence development on governance. A specific module on leadership, communication and conflict management provides participants with more insight into their own leadership style, and increases their ability to be a strategic leader. It also examines ways of driving forward change in the fisheries sector and the leadership needed for this. How do you take leadership, how do you get people to buy into it, and how do you communicate effectively when experiencing resistance to change? How do you get the big fish on the table? This training course recognises how leadership is a universal rather than a local or content-specific topic.