Ideas for leadership development

A major focus of our research, evaluation and consulting involves leadership development.

Some examples of our research in the field of leadership are provided below.

Authentic, sustainable leadership in VET: ideas of women leaders in the Australian VET sector

As the VET sector moves towards an uncertain future, there will be an increased need for effective leadership. But what will be the nature of this leadership?

That question was addressed by a group of thirty women leaders who participated in the VET Women Leaders Forum in the Yarra Valley in mid-2008. Following the forum, twelve of the participants wrote think pieces on leadership. This publication includes those think pieces. The publication also includes a seminal paper by Professor Elizabeth Harman, Vice-Chancellor, Victoria University, on women taking the lead in post-compulsory education.

The think piece authors examined how future leadership in VET could be either authentic or sustainable or both, to enable VET leaders to develop their own workforces and build responsive training organisations.

There are a number of implications of this publication for the VET sector. The first implication is that it is possible for ideas leadership in VET to be wrested away from what one author calls “mainstream thinking”. The second implication relates to future leadership development programs in VET. These programs need to reject once and for all the image of the brilliant, solo, and mostly male, transformative VET leader.

The third implication of these think pieces relates to workforce development programs within training organisations. In future, such programs need to place some emphasis on career planning and succession planning to foster new leaders.

Finally, the think pieces could have important and positive implications for the confidence of VET leaders facing unprecedented pressures. See an excerpt and order here.

New leadership for innovative organisations: models, ideas and strategies

This is a break-through publication on leadership by John Mitchell and Nigel Paine. See an excerpt and order here.

If you are finding motivating your staff increasingly difficult, and if you are looking for ideas to help your organisation take a fresh approach, then this book is for you. The introduction to the book is an ideas map, setting out the models, ideas and challenges for leaders in innovative organisations. The book is organised around seven themes and contains sixteen articles, each followed by stimulus questions for professional reflection and discussion.

The ideas in the book are based on the findings from very recent field research of organisations in Australia, the UK and USA. John Mitchell focuses largely on the education sector and Nigel Paine focuses largely on the corporate sector. The strength of the book is the way in which it demonstrates how leadership and innovation cross these sectors and are a vital constituent of both sectors.

A key point is that it is possible to be proactive and positive as the leader of an innovative organisation, despite the turbulence within your own organisations and your external markets. This book will provide you with confidence in developing your own leadership capabilities and with ideas for continuous improvement of innovation in your organisation.

Women’s leadership in VET: ideas, models and strategies of women leaders in the Australian VET sector

Powerful and unique insights into the minds and hearts and capabilities of Australian VET’s women leaders are provided in this ground-breaking book. The book will be of value to anyone currently in, or aspiring to, a leadership position in VET and to leadership and management teams who are seeking new ideas and strategies.

The book has the potential to not only enrich VET leadership but also to transform it by illustrating effective leadership practices from a vast range of different contexts and in response to numerous challenges.

The commanding capabilities of VET women leaders are clearly identified by the book. The think pieces demonstrate these leaders’ capacity for fresh thinking and the articles show their substantial abilities as strategists, change agents and innovators, as well as their ability to function effectively in the midst of complexity.

However, the overriding characteristic which emerges from this publication is the authenticity of these women leaders. This characteristic of authenticity emerges from the book’s nine think pieces by leading women as well as the twenty-seven articles on women leaders prepared by John Mitchell. See an excerpt and order here.

VET Leadership for the future (Coates, Meek, Brown, Friedman, Noonan & Mitchell, 2010)

This 2010 ACER/LH Martin Institute report paints a picture of what VET leaders do, and of how they can do it best. “Findings from this study propel the need for new conceptualisations of VET leadership” (

The nature, work focus and indicators of effective VET leadership (Mitchell, 2009)

In addition to chairing the national workshops for the ACER/LH Martin leadership project, and contributing to the design of the national survey, John Mitchell wrote a key background chapter for this project, embedded in the final report: “The nature, work focus and indicators of effective VET leadership”.

Position paper on key issues facing VET managers and leaders (Mitchell, 2008)

Earlier in 2008, when LH Martin was in establishment mode, John Mitchell wrote a key paper for the Institute: ‘Position paper on key issues facing VET managers and leaders’. This 20,000 word paper which included interviews with Further Education leadership development experts in the UK concluded that:

“The key issues facing VET managers and leaders, based on the literature and interviews for this paper, include managing complexity, workforce development (both external and internal) and the related area of succession planning, governance, accountability and risk management, international markets, and partnerships and relationships.”

Approaches for sustaining and building leadership and management capability in VET providers (Callan, Mitchell, Clayton & Smith, 2007)

This NCVER report addresses three research questions:

  • What are the current understandings of leadership in the vocational education and training (VET) sector, and what types of management and leadership capabilities are required for the present and the future?
  • What approaches to learning and management development are being used?
  • What is successful and what approaches might be used more often in the future?

To access Click here.

Measuring the impact of leadership programs

Some of our research in this field includes:

  • Evaluator of the impact of the three tiers of management and leadership programs, NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2011-12
  • Mitchell, J.G, Hamilton, M. & Hayman, C. 2004, ‘The comparative value of three different methodologies for measuring the return on investment from a leadership program’, conference paper, Australasian Evaluation Society 2004 International Conference, Adelaide South Australia, 14 October.
  • Mitchell, J.G, Hamilton, M. & Hayman, C. 2005, ‘The comparative value of three different methodologies for measuring the return on investment from a leadership program’, Evaluation Journal of Australasia, Vol.5 (new series), No.1, pp.52-58, Sept.