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The 2021 Annual Dialogue

Raising the Lid on our Learning

18/19 January 2021

Whoever and wherever we are the pandemic is having costs and offering benefits in our lives and work. Across organisations and communities the stories are so varied, each context has nuances and dramatic differences in how we are experiencing the impact of COVID. As one WLD participant described it ‘a cosy catastrophe’ and another ‘the end of our business’.

We hope you have managed to be safe and stay healthy, and found the inner resources you need to be resilient and compassionate in what might be termed the Big Transition or Great Humbling. However you describe it, important questions are being raised and change is accelerating.

Our WLD core team has had its challenges along with everyone else. Our communications have been quiet for some time, but we have emerged renewed and ready to create a new WLD experience for 2021 and we hope you will grasp the opportunity of joining us.


Leadership has been called upon, it is in the spotlight, and its performance is being critically reviewed. The pandemic has amplified stories of success and failure, provided a league table of global leaders in the press and caused everyone to review what is essential, how they are operating and how they want to be in the world that we now inhabit.

As we prepare for the 2021 dialogue we are amidst on-going uncertainty and unpredictability in terms of government and individual responses to COVID, the impact of Brexit, the increasingly present reality of climate change and painful choices about priorities for people and economics.

Great questions and open minds and hearts are at the centre of deep dialogue - and questions abound. Two of the key responses when people are asked ‘what do you seek from leaders today to adapt to a changing world?’ are listening and competence.  Leadership is defined as setting forth, making things happen, but it is also about letting go and letting in. The current times challenge many of us to free ourselves and our organisations from previous ways of operating, and nurture new ways of acting and thinking. It is also about allowing new voices to be heard at the table (or to help throw the table away) to shape greater diversity and vitality, and perhaps focus on the more essential conversations and actions that we are discovering are needed from and for leaders and leadership.

WLD 2021 - an online dialogue

By the time we meet in January 2021, we will have lived through ten months of the pandemic with more to come, the implications of Black Lives Matter, know in part the Brexit deal, have seen or experienced deepening climate challenges, taken stock of the past year and be continuing to live in liminal space (neither here nor there, but on a threshold).

What better time to take a pause, to stop and breathe, to listen to oneself and others, to seek to capture the learning and essence of what has happened and is happening. It will be good to explore the different contexts that leaders are experiencing, to learn from other’s contexts, to recognise that in such times it is better to add more to our understanding than to rush headlong towards narrow and problem-solving responses to complex questions, however tempting that may be.

The richness of the Dialogue comes from understanding and listening to the lived experience of each other; leaders from multiple sectors, diverse backgrounds, different perspectives and beliefs – each connected by wanting to do the right thing and be the best they are able to be for those they serve.

 A Virtual Process – but perhaps not as you know it

Sure, we have all had enough of hour after hour of multiple meetings on Zoom or Teams, screen fatigue, and not addressing the obvious yet difficult issues (the elephant in the zoom). On the up side, we have experience of designing two and three day online processes that are refreshing and energising, reflective and creative. Members of our team are sought after to design and facilitate Board and leadership development, virtual coaching and innovative virtual conversation cafes. So you can be assured there will be breaks, breakout rooms and opportunities for movement and experimentation.

The WLD will provide:

  • Time to engage at depth in small trusted groups

  • Space to walk and talk (Walkie talkies!) – it will be January (have layers ready)

  • Self reflection

  • Creativity, movement and expression to encourage insights and collective sense making

  • Effective sharing of emergent learning and questions

  • Informal conversations over drinks

  • Self managing processes harnessing digital freedoms

  • Opportunities for our leadership hearts to sing (metaphorically)

Initial Questions – to raise the lid on our learning

The WLD will still work with your energy for discovery, and provide time and support to dive into the essentials for leadership that will emerge over the two days. However as a starting point we will be considering:

  • What’s the difference between a good conversation and a great dialogue?

  • What insights and realisations are making a difference to you and your leadership?

  • In today’s world what is the essence of a good leader compared to a great leader?

  • What does a leader need to be and do today to adapt to a changing world?

  • What is here or coming that we ignore at our peril?

If you are an active leader and you're interested in a dialogue based approach to learning please contact us. Places at the dialogue are by invitation only and every year we are open to new leaders joining the process.