Open Source Leadership Knowledge – Enabling ‘Good Leadership for All’

Kuldip Reyatt Stephen Goveia Kathryn Johnson and Arthur Jue

Kuldip Reyatt, Stephen Goveia, Kathryn Johnson, and Arthur Jue

kuldip reyatt

Kuldip Reyatt

katheryn johnson

Katheryn Johnson

In this thought piece, key challenges for the global leadership field/industry are highlighted, some of which, are also raised by others – notably, Barbara Kellerman (see endnotes for ILR links). Now is the right time to put forward thoughts about Good Leadership for All, ideas about Open Source Leadership Knowledge and a realisable strategic vision – all of which, have been progressively developed over the last couple of years. All the associated projects and programs are works-in-progress, and further thought piece and scholarly articles will follow in due course. Meantime, in the spirit of open source, readers are invited to consider how these ideas can be further developed and the strategic vision realised for the benefit of all citizens.

arthur jue

Arthur Jue

stephen goveia

Stephen Goveia

Key excerpts from this thought piece:

Clearly, the current global system of leadership knowledge, education and development is not working… it is not delivering the vast numbers of good leaders needed around the world; consequently, intractable but resolvable national/regional/global leadership issues remain; and certainly, it is not working in the interest of all global citizens.

It often seems that leadership knowledge, education and practice are stuck in a two-dimensional ‘analogue’ mode in what is really a multidimensional ‘digital’ century…

In essence, OSLK will enable citizens to connect, converse, and collaborate on leadership matters and access, learn, create, and share leadership knowledge…

and so, we believe that there can be a groundswell of good leaders and good leadership emerging globally…

Profoundly, OSLK offers the prospect to transform leadership itself, as OSLK is a fundamental part of, and enables, Good Leadership for All. The critical question is ‘what will you do to enable Open Source Leadership Knowledge?

The Changing Global Landscape for Leaders, Leadership and Citizens

Numerous protests around the world confirm that citizens have lost faith in many of their so-called ‘leaders’ in government, in business, and in regional/global institutions. Increasingly, citizen actions are the result of significant leadership failures in addressing the humanitarian, political, economic, societal, environmental and other 21st century challenges that are evident in all contexts and cultures. Bad leadership and the resulting leadership failures can be counted in the escalating cost of lives and livelihoods lost around the world. Consequently, citizens have been voicing their concerns that good leadership is required in all sectors – that it should be oriented towards their needs, not just for maintaining the status quo in the interest of the few leaders and their followers, but in the interest of transforming society for the good of all.

The attainment of leadership has invariably been the goal of narcissistic/despotic individuals and their followers in order to attain power to manipulate the masses for their own interests. It is undeniable that the 20th century’s most destructive dictators initially had popular support because the people at that time believed the propaganda that these dictators were exemplars of good leadership. Traditionally, leadership development has been granted/gifted to the few and favoured ‘followers’ who display leadership potential in the eyes of, and who are expected to maintain the status quo in the interests of, incumbent ‘leaders’. Learning the lessons from history, if more citizens have knowledge of what good leadership really means in the 21st century, then they will certainly be less tolerant of totalitarian ideologies, dictatorships, and bad leadership practice/development.

Throughout history, and for much of the 20th century, leadership has primarily been about the individual leader – a heroic, charismatic, visionary, or gifted man. Latterly, more acknowledgement has been given to leadership being a dyadic relationship between this superhuman individual leader and his, more often than not pliant, followers. More recently, recognition has been given to variations of this, what some now consider to have been a narrow, perspective (although it is understandable given that leadership is still a comparatively young field of study and practice). Examples of these recent variations from the narrow perspective are – the transformational powers of leadership, that indeed leadership may be more complex than a dyadic and pliant relationship, diversity is preferable as in having many more female leaders, leadership can be quiet and hidden, and that leadership is highly sensitive to culture and context.

The dawn of the 21st century has seen an increased consciousness in global citizens being concerned about global and local challenges, which combined with the rise of the internet age, has spawned numerous socio-political transformations in many parts of the world. As the world changes, how leadership is construed is also changing. Progressively, there is widespread recognition that global citizens can and will play a greater part in leadership during the 21st century. Indeed, good leadership is now viewed as being effective and ethical, and it is often a fundamental aspect of global/local and organisational/institutional transformations, in which global citizens and stakeholders play an active role in influencing the decisions and actions of leaders and leadership groups.

The 21st Century Global Leadership Development Challenge

Global and local challenges demand many more good leaders and good leadership practices right around the world. The shortfall in good leaders is affecting economic, societal, and other development in all contexts, cultures, and at all levels. Consequently, citizens are losing faith in the leadership field/industry to deliver the necessary transformations in leadership practice. Nevertheless, the leadership field and industry are ever more institutionalised around a few high profile scholars, practitioners, and institutions such as business schools that are only focused on developing leadership amongst the few in the upper echelons of business organisations. Clearly, continuing with the outdated theories and methods of the 20th century and focusing on the few will neither deliver the necessary good leadership capabilities nor increase the capacity of good leaders that are needed globally.

Valuable insights from leadership scholarship, research and practice in leadership development over the last couple of decades have demonstrated that leaders are both born and made. Additionally, ‘leadership and learning are indispensable to each other’[i]; leadership can be learned over time not only in the classroom, but also fundamentally in practising leadership; leadership practice is influenced by a variety of dynamics and occurs in the complex crucible of context, culture, time and situation. Therefore, leadership learning should reflect the dynamic nature of leadership. It is essential to enable all those born, made, and learned leaders to become better leaders over time. This not only means leadership education for the few elites groomed for leadership, but also for anyone who needs or wants to develop their leadership capabilities in order to transform situations for the good of all.

Increasingly, it is acknowledged that leadership requires life-long learning. Leadership learning is not isolated to attaining mastery of a single discipline, but learning (and scholarship) needs to be multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary. Long ago, Plato envisaged that Philosopher-Kings[ii] would assume leadership and govern the state when they are beyond 50 years of age, once they had gained the necessary knowledge and wisdom to lead. Indeed, the importance of starting leadership education and development as early as possible seems obvious. Yet, the vast majority of managers, who are the most likely to receive any leadership education and development, tend to receive their introduction to leadership when they are in their late thirties and forties. In many cases, formal leadership education and development is delayed far too long; and certainly, informal leadership learning needs to be stimulated from an early age.

Billions of dollars have been spent on leadership development, but the bulk of investment continues to be focused on turning business managers into business leaders… in most cases, unsuccessfully. Citizens also require fundamental knowledge of good leadership so that they can influence leaders, actively engage in the leadership process as applicable to their particular situation and context, and ultimately, develop their own leadership capabilities. Indeed, recent reports by the National Research Council[iii] and the OECD[iv] identified ‘leadership and responsibility’ as part of the core skillset required for life and work in the 21st century. In reality, very few people around the world actually have access to good leadership knowledge or experience good leadership education and development. Undeniably, there is latent leadership ability within the general population, and leadership development for all is needed so that this untapped potential can be manifested. The challenge of developing leadership in masses of people around the world remains unaddressed.

The 21st century is very much about transforming society and institutions so that they are fit for the needs of global citizens. However, it is obvious that the current global leadership knowledge system and leadership development efforts will not deliver good leadership at all levels and in all contexts, nor produce the quantity or quality of good leaders that are required to deliver the necessary transformations across the globe. Therefore, one of the pressing challenges and global imperatives of the early decades of the 21st century is to enable millions of potential leaders and billions of global citizens to have access to knowledge of good leadership, so that they can uphold peaceful and responsible leadership and participate in collaborative and transformative leadership for the good of all.

Good Leadership for All

The changing global leadership landscape and the leadership development challenges of the 21st century highlight a major shift in the leadership aspirations of global citizens and their expectations of leaders. With increasingly open connectivity, access to more information than ever before, and sharing of their thoughts and hopes, global citizens are taking a greater interest in and influencing the leadership that affects their lives and livelihoods. Citizens are now much less pliant to the demands of undemocratic leaders and less accepting of unethical leaders than they had been throughout much of the 20th century and before.

This shift of focus away from the few elite leaders and towards the many global citizens is also affecting the leadership field and industry globally; primarily, highlighting that the 20th century focus on the few will be little tolerated in the 21st century. It often seems that leadership knowledge, education and practice are stuck in a two-dimensional ‘analogue’ mode in what is really a multidimensional ‘digital’ century.

Essentially, leadership is not just about positional leaders atop business and governmental organisations, but leadership should also be recognised as a fundamental human process enacted visibly and invisibly at all levels in all contexts and cultures – indeed, it always has been. Additionally, there is a shift from the single quick classroom-based course approach of leadership development to the acceptance that leadership requires lifelong learning – formal and informal development that is applied reflectively in practice. Unequivocally, these and other fundamental shifts mean that a great revolution in access to leadership knowledge, education and development is required globally.

To answer the clarion calls for good (effective and ethical) leaders and good leadership practices around the world, the ‘Good Leadership for All’ (GLfA) movement is emerging. GLfA is about transforming leadership at all levels, in all contexts and cultures, for the benefit of all. The GLfA strategic vision is to have good leadership pervasive throughout global society during the 21st century. There are three fundamental elements of GLfA:

  • The Universal Declaration of Leadership Responsibilities (UDLR) is about transforming leadership practices
  • The Principles for Responsible Leadership Education and Development (PRLED) are about transforming leadership education and development
  • Open Source Leadership Knowledge (OSLK) is about transforming and liberating leadership knowledge

GLfA portfolio of projectsThese inextricably linked GLfA Projects form the integral core of GLfA and are essential to delivering the necessary transformation of leadership globally.

In addition, the emerging GLfA Programs provide contextual focus and are examples of where and how the GLfA Projects can be applied for tangible and rapid benefits:

  • Promoting Diversity in Leaders and Leadership
  • Good Business and Social Entrepreneurial Leadership
  • Good Board Leadership and Board Leadership for Good
  • Developing Good Young Leaders around the World

More information about the GLfA Projects and Programs will be publicised in 2013/14.

The focus of this article is the compelling need in the 21st century to transform and liberate leadership knowledge globally in the interest of, and for access by, all. Open Source Leadership Knowledge (OSLK) is not only a fundamental part of GLfA, but critically, it also enables the other projects and programs to have an impact globally. OSLK has the potential to allow millions of global citizens to access good leadership knowledge, to begin development of their own leadership capabilities, and ultimately, to benefit the billions around the world through a groundswell of good leaders and good leadership.

OSLK Strategic Vision

It is clear that leaders and leadership groups affect the lives and livelihoods of global citizens. Therefore, it is right that citizens in all contexts and cultures have the opportunity to know more about what good leadership really means, so that they can influence the leadership process and the outcomes that ultimately affect them. Furthermore, if we want more diversity in our leaders and leadership groups, such as more women leaders and those from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, then we need to have more open and freely accessible leadership knowledge for all. Global citizens of any gender, age and from any context, culture, level, position, etc., should be able to access leadership knowledge and begin development of their leadership capabilities when they need to.

With regard to OSLK, we define leadership knowledge as the literature, courses, research, multimedia social learning resources, discussions on social/professional networks, sharing of leadership experiences/stories/wisdom, and other mechanisms and artefacts designed to enhance the understanding of and practice of good leadership. The underlying principles of OSLK are that:

  • Leadership is a fundamental human process that exists and can be observed at all levels in the whole variety of contexts and cultures.
  • Good leadership knowledge and practices are required throughout global society.
  • Leadership is fundamentally an applied phenomenon, so leadership knowledge is created in the field and in academia.
  • In a multimedia world, leadership knowledge is not just contained in leadership books and journals; citizens share their leadership experiences and stories in vignettes via blogs, videos, podcasts, and in the whole variety of forms.

Transforming leadership knowledge globally is not an overnight venture. Therefore, the OSLK strategic vision is not only for the next 5 years but also for the next 10, 20, and more years ahead of the evolving global leadership knowledge system. However, it is obvious that the sooner OSLK development is started and delivered, the sooner an increase in the capability and capacity of good leaders around the world can be achieved. The simple and straightforward, yet powerfully transformative, strategic vision of OSLK is:

OSLK will make fundamental leadership knowledge
accessible and useful for all citizens globally

In essence, OSLK will enable citizens to connect, converse, and collaborate on leadership matters and access, learn, create, and share leadership knowledge. OSLK will:

  • Enable global citizens to access good leadership knowledge wherever they may be, so that they can begin development of their own leadership capabilities whenever required as part of their lifelong leadership education and development.
  • Allow open and free access to an evolving multimedia portfolio of leadership knowledge, education and development.
  • Be a vital channel for leadership educators, scholars, researchers, and practitioners to connect with citizens, and vice versa, in order to transform leadership capability and capacity globally and locally in particular contexts.
  • Create a global collaborative platform that supports emergent ‘communities of practice’ and transdisciplinary connections among scholars, researchers and practitioners.
  • Act as a bridge between creators and users of leadership knowledge and as an intergenerational bridge for the sharing of leadership knowledge and wisdom.
  • Recognise and facilitate collaborative partnerships for delivering social value in the ‘leadership world’ and beyond.

OSLK is not only a disruptive technological platform, but also fundamentally a culture and way of working in the interest, and for the good, of all. OSLK disrupts the dominant protectionist culture of the leadership field and the powerful interests of the extant leadership industry; both of which, are deeply focused on developing the few leaders (primarily in business) and typically benefit the few management education institutions (business schools). OSLK will provide a major opportunity for leadership scholars, educators and development practitioners in all sectors to deliver social value, in that millions could potentially benefit from their knowledge, programs and products.

Current and emerging information, communications and technology (ICT) and social learning media can facilitate and significantly accelerate the achievement of the OSLK strategic vision. We believe that developing the OSLK platform, which would be based on integration of several technologies and focused on providing free access to leadership knowledge, will be transformative in all sectors globally. For instance, suitable algorithms could be designed to filter the global leadership knowledge that is spread around the internet, so that leadership knowledge can be made equally useful for the citizen as it is for the leadership expert.

Accelerating Transformation of Leadership Knowledge and Learning

In the early part of the 21st century, the technology revolution continues unabated and is having a considerable impact in the areas of enabling people to connect, converse and collaborate globally and locally. This technology revolution is affecting all aspects of society – with technology-enabled advancements driving innovations from healthcare, financial services and shopping through to electronic voting, self-publishing, online learning, and beyond; undeniably, technology is pervading many aspects of life, living and learning.

Technology is also fundamentally transforming leadership. In particular, leadership in the 21st century increasingly means more openness; this is a result of more connectedness between leaders/followers/stakeholders, widespread availability and rapid access of information, individuals being able to organise themselves into powerful groups, increased transparency and upholding of responsibilities, and many other aspects of the leadership process being transformed by technology. Indeed, citizens who are not in the dyadic leader-follower relationship, but are affected by that leadership in some other way (e.g. customer/client, stakeholder, etc.), are now able to influence the leadership process through advocacy and other collective actions via social networks, social media, and other open technologies. This transformation of leadership practice will continue as new technologies emerge throughout this century that ultimately transform life and living.

What about technologies that contribute to more openness in the leadership knowledge, learning and development areas? As leadership is an applied phenomenon that happens ‘out there’ in the world, a conservative estimate is that learning via formal (closed) programmed/instructional/classroom methods may only account for about 5% of the knowledge required to be a good leader. It may well be that 95% of the required leadership knowledge is gained through informal (open) learning methods that are instigated by the learner. So how are technologies opening up and transforming or have the potential to transform leadership knowledge, learning and development for the benefit for all?

In essence, OSLK means enabling citizens to connect, converse, and collaborate on leadership matters and to access, learn, create, and share leadership knowledge. So, let us consider some of the transforming technologies in these categories:


Social networks (e.g. Facebook, Google+, Sina Weibo) and professional networks (e.g. LinkedIn) are enabling people and professionals to connect right around the world. People connect with others for a variety of reasons – keeping in touch with family and friends, because they are likeminded about a particular subject, or they may have common interests. This emerging ‘social world’ also means that individuals can source knowledge and learn from their peers.


Social/professional networks, voice over internet protocol (VOIP), instant messaging, and other internet-based services are enabling people around the world to instantly start and be involved in the whole variety of conversations. For instance, Skype allows people to connect with others around the world and converse on matters via voice and/or video for free. Virtual group conferencing and telepresence services are enabling groups to converse. These technologies are also useful for mentoring and coaching purposes in leadership development.


Once they are part of a group, which may be global in its reach, individuals can have greater influence on leadership matters that concern them. Crowdsourcing enables collective ideas to be generated by exploiting the ‘wisdom of the crowd’, and resources can be accumulated and shared. In addition, action can be taken collectively and action learning facilitated. It is also possible to hold online workshops, by bringing people together from across physical, virtual and imaginary borders.


With web browsers on a variety of mobile devices, it is now possible to be anywhere, search for and access knowledge from around the world. Cloud-based applications and online file stores mean that information in the whole variety of multimedia forms can be shared virtually. Knowledge does not only exist in book form or have to be housed in a physical library in a single location anymore – as Wikipedia demonstrates knowledge can be accessed anywhere and anytime.


Previously, use of technology for learning has meant automation of the classroom through e-learning, podcasts of lectures and blended learning. Now, a variety of formal and informal learning experiences are possible, which need not be anchored to a physical classroom. Simulations, webinars, serious gaming, and other technology-enabled learning can offer richer learning experiences when also combined with virtual mentoring and coaching. The advent of Open Education Resources (OER), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Open Social Learning, and the increasing number of mobile learning apps, mean that an unlimited number of learners composed of a diverse range of demographics can participate in learning experiences in a variety of contexts right around the world.


Leaders, followers, and citizens are now able to create leadership knowledge by telling their stories through wikis, blogs, podcasts, photos, videos and other media. Altogether, this multimedia practitioner knowledge adds richness to the global leadership knowledgebase. Developments in citizen journalism, self-publishing, and user generated learning also mean that anyone can share their leadership experiences by creating media that may be useful in leadership learning.


The real value of social and professional networks is realised when people share their knowledge, experiences, and learning. Peer-to-peer and collective sharing via Twitter and other related technologies mean that knowledge can be shared instantly from one particular context with people the other side of the world.

New technologies are emerging all the time in each of these and other areas that have the potential to affect leadership practice, knowledge, learning, and development. It is difficult to be precise about how technologies could affect the leadership industry/field and global citizens in the coming decades. Nevertheless, what is sure is that leadership will continue to be affected in many ways, as will other aspects of life. In particular, as further open technologies emerge, new opportunities will be available to transform leadership practice and learning.

Overall, open learning offers significant potential for transforming education for learners and for education institutions worldwide. In the last few years, institutions such as MIT (OpenCourseWare[v] and MITx[vi]) have offered open access to some of their courses, with some offering certification in certain subjects if programs are completed to satisfaction of the institution. Now we are seeing the advent of the Massive Online Open Course (MOOC), which offers free courses on an industrial scale – with an indefinite number of potential learners. If MOOCs, such as Coursera[vii], become pervasive then certainly this would lead to a fundamental disruption of education systems around the world; not least, leadership education systems, most of which are designed on the principles of payment for access and a premium for exclusivity.

Currently, technology is not anywhere near fully utilised in addressing the critical shortfall of good leaders and good leadership required around the world. The key question that has to be asked is… where are the technology-enabled innovations in the leadership field/industry that will transform leadership for the good of all?

Principal Components of OSLK

We envisage that OSLK will be a web-based platform, so that anyone with a computer, phone, or other device that has a web browser could access leadership knowledge from anywhere around the world when they need to. A suitable web address will be adopted so that OSLK can be easily found. The OSLK web site will enable an ecosystem of open and free products, services, and applications that will be focused on developing good leadership for all.

OSLK will have an intuitive contributor/user interface with three core components – a knowledgebase, a multimedia social learning pod, and a social/professional leadership network. Other components will be added in time as new technologies, products, and services emerge. Together these components will enable citizens to connect, converse, and collaborate on leadership matters and to access, learn, create, and share leadership knowledge.

oslk components‘WikiLEADia’ Knowledgebase

A tremendous amount of leadership knowledge located in physical and digital vaults is still inaccessible. As time passes, an increasing amount of general knowledge is being made available online. Some examples are the Digital Public Library of America[viii], Europeana[ix], New Library of Alexandria[x], Baidu Library[xi], Wikipedia[xii] and Google’s[xiii] digitisation of out of copyright texts and cataloguing of current texts; it is not only current published knowledge, but also the decades old ‘gems’ that could be valuable to citizens seeking good leadership knowledge. Unlike the physical knowledgebase of the ancient Library of Alexandria, which was lost to humanity when the library was burnt down, the modern knowledgebase is digital, virtual, and accessible by all around the world.

As leadership is a fundamental human process, leadership knowledge is being created everywhere all the time. Clearly, citizens engaged in a lifelong leadership learning journey, not only need academic knowledge, but also practice-originated leadership knowledge. In addition, experienced leaders, followers, and citizens need to be able to easily share their tacit leadership knowledge and their accumulated wisdom, which would otherwise be lost to the world. Therefore, OSLK will contain a multimedia knowledge base – ‘WikiLEADia’; it will not be just a repository, but smart analytics and search algorithms will be designed to tap the vast and ever increasing global leadership knowledge available on the web, so that it can be made useful for all.

‘ULearnULead’ Multimedia Social Learning Pod

Learning of all sorts is now happening online through formal learning (designed courses/programs) and blended learning that incorporates a mix of learning methods. However, the Internet is ideal for informal learning – where the learner traverses a journey from one piece of information to another via searches and links in order to gain a multi-perspective understanding. The vast bulk of online learning happens informally and citizens search for knowledge that will help them to learn about particular subjects and to understand their world. Individual learning can also be significantly enriched through social interaction with other learners who may be located across the other side of the street, country, or the world. With the ever-decreasing cost and increasing power of mobile devices, and the advent of Open Education Resources[xiv] (OER), more citizens are keen and able to use their technologies for learning purposes.

It is envisaged that OSLK will contain a multimedia social learning pod – ‘ULearnULead’. This will offer a more intuitive learning experience, and enable access to relevant and rigorous leadership knowledge. The learning applications will include resources from leadership education and development practitioners globally; these will include webinars, simulations, serious games, MOOCs, etc. In addition, user-generated and peer-to-peer learning will be enabled. The inclusion of online mentoring/coaching will enable citizens to harvest the expertise of an unlimited number of leadership practitioners globally; this will mean that citizens will gain a richer leadership learning experience than would have been the case otherwise.

‘OpenSpace’ Social/Professional Network

OSLK will include a social/professional network. ‘OpenSpace’ will provide a virtual environment for citizens to connect, converse, and collaborate on leadership matters and enable social learning. OpenSpace will not only be a network for connecting but also a place/space where leadership things (knowledge, learning, plans, actions, other leadership artefacts, etc.) can be co-created, shared and enacted. OpenSpace will be a platform that combines existing and emerging social/professional networks that are used by citizens around the world.

OpenSpace will also enable groups focused around specific leadership topics. For instance, numerous groups around the world are focused on the development of women leaders. OpenSpace would enable a place/space for these and other groups to collaborate and co-create in order to share learning with the objective of transforming leadership globally

Additional Components

OSLK will grow organically and the OSLK ecosystem will evolve over time. As new technologies and leadership development products and services emerge, additional components will be added to OSLK. This will mean that OSLK will be able to provide an evolving platform that will be a leadership development partner to citizens during their lifelong leadership learning journey.

An early addition to OSLK is likely to be an annual online open leadership conference themed around GLfA. This open conference will mean that an unlimited number of citizens will be able to learn about the latest leadership scholarship, research, education and development, focused on good leadership for all – citizens will be able to consider innovative practices and hear insightful leadership stories from around the world.

Some Issues to Consider in Developing OSLK

The major issue for OSLK is whether a leadership field and a leadership industry, which are born out of limiting access to leadership knowledge and development exclusively for the benefit of the few, would be able to shift focus towards good leadership for all. After much discussion with leadership scholars, educators and practitioners over recent years, we believe the answer is probably yes, as there are those well-meaning leadership practitioners that take a broader perspective on what good leadership means and seek to answer the fundamental question – good for whom? Accessing good leadership knowledge and leadership development content is essential for the success of OSLK. We believe that there are many leadership practitioners, groups and organisations around the world willing to share their knowledge – some in part, and others in full.

The OSLK leadership knowledgebase will not contain all the leadership knowledge that exists in the world. This is simply because some creators and owners of leadership knowledge use it for commercial purposes and may be unwilling to lose profits and control. Nevertheless, there are many who will see the opportunities in having the products of their leadership research and innovation accessed by not just a few hundred people, but accessed by and for the benefit of potentially millions. Likewise, there are many who will understand that utilising a Creative Commons[xv] license would provide sufficient protection over the source of the leadership knowledge or product.

Is the limited release of leadership knowledge good enough? It really depends on the quality of what is made open and freely accessible for all. We all know that the leadership field/industry contains a tremendous amount of meaningless ‘pop literature’, and there are numerous leadership development products that are merely retitled under the ‘leadership’ banner for branding purposes in order to benefit from the mystical aura artificially constructed around the leadership phenomenon. This is where well-meaning and pragmatic leadership scholars, researchers, educators, and development practitioners can add tremendous value by providing some guardianship, as per Wikipedia, over what OSLK contains.

A critical issue, not only for open leadership knowledge, but also for all open knowledge, education and development is reaching the ‘technologically deprived’ – particularly, in the developing and underdeveloped worlds. There are global initiatives, some led by the United Nations[xvi] (UN), that are focused on enabling access to online education. For example, the One Laptop per Child[xvii] (OLPC) project has been running for several years; OLPC and other projects are enabling technologically deprived children to access online education and other learning resources. As costs are lowered, the ‘digital divide’ between the haves and have-nots narrows, and increasing numbers of citizens access knowledge via their mobile devices, then the noble purpose to involve global citizens in leadership learning on a massive scale becomes ever more attainable.

Making OSLK Happen

There are two distinct and yet integral systemic aspects to delivering OSLK:

  • a culture shift within the global leadership field/industry towards more openness
  • a technological infrastructure that enables OSLK globally

Both will require many champions globally who advocate the benefits of making leadership knowledge open and freely available, as opposed to it being exclusively stored and accessed privately. Clearly, the success of OSLK will depend largely on the willingness of leadership practitioners, groups, organisations, and communities, to collaborate on the development of OSLK and to share their leadership knowledge openly. Essentially, actions to make OSLK happen will be required at individual, collective, and systemic levels globally.

OSLK is a constituent part of GLfA. At the same time as OSLK is being developed, work will also be undertaken on the other GLfA Projects and Programs. To gain the full transformational impacts in the global leadership field and industry, it will be essential to develop and launch the projects in tandem; as such, it will be important to maintain integration between UDLR, PRLED and OSLK. In support of integrating the work on all of the projects and programmes, an annual GLfA Day will be held, which would bring together participants and potential interested parties to discuss and share ideas and experiences with regard to GLfA and OSLK.

Whilst the OSLK idea has been evolved with the good-heartedness and advocacy of a few like-minded people to date, the transformation of this meaningful idea into something tangible and useful globally will require other resources – in particular, technological expertise and funding. We recognise that in order to make OSLK happen, strategic partners and funders from around the world are essential. For instance, whilst there is on-going convergence of technologies, no single technological solution exists that fully enables OSLK. However, we believe that the combining of suitable technologies and learning resources is feasible to enable access to a platform of leadership knowledge, learning and development for all. It is clear that OSLK requires the bringing together of strategic technology partners and knowledge providers from around the world.

As OSLK is an open solution, open development and resourcing techniques would be utilised. Certainly, the more people that contribute to the OSLK idea and development, the better would be the result. Therefore, crowdsourcing through social networks during the conceptual design stage would help tremendously. OSLK is for everyone, so crowd funding could also be a means to part or wholly fund the OSLK development. Despite that, OSLK will still maintain the fundamental principle of providing free and open access to leadership knowledge to whoever needs it anywhere around the world.

The Chinese proverb[xviii], “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand”, highlights that when people are able to see and use OSLK they will be able to understand the potentially massive benefits. A prototype OSLK would enable prospective contributors and users to try out and assimilate the potential benefits of OSLK. Utilising accelerated development techniques like prototyping will mean that financial costs and risks in developing and launching OSLK can be minimised. Therefore, in the near term we are looking for strategic partners who can provide technological expertise and/or seed funding to develop an OSLK prototype.

Call to Action for the Good of All

Clearly, the current global system of leadership knowledge, education and development is not working … it is not delivering the vast numbers of good leaders needed around the world; consequently, intractable but resolvable national/regional/global leadership issues remain; and certainly, it is not working in the interest of all global citizens. Indeed, Barbara Kellerman has written persuasively about ‘The End of Leadership’[xix] In our view, with greater understanding of the human condition, the ever increasing leadership knowledge, and the advent of new technologies that are transforming leadership practice and learning, it is probably just ‘the end of the beginning’ of what leadership in the 21st century will eventually become.

A global, strategic, and systemic transformation of the leadership field/industry is now much needed for the good of all. We believe that OSLK would be integral to a new global leadership knowledge, education and development system. OSLK is not only about technology enablement, but also about changing the dominant culture of protecting leadership knowledge in the interest of the few. As such, OSLK presents multi-level and integrated challenges and opportunities for all scholars/educators in the leadership field and for all practitioners in the leadership industry. Actions that contribute to the opening of the global leadership knowledgebase for the interest of all are now vitally imperative.

There is currently some haphazard development of openness in the leadership field and industry. Some enlightened and socially responsible leadership practitioners are already exploring the potential of ‘going open’ and are utilising Creative Commons licenses. These few pathfinders intend to share some of their socially valuable knowledge and products with leadership learners at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ to transform what are otherwise considered to be intractable situations/problems in particular contexts. It is challenging to develop OSLK, but the benefits for global citizens and the prospects for building a better world are potentially massive. The OSLK strategic vision offers accelerated development and greater momentum towards opening the leadership field/industry in order to help more people sooner across the world.

As James MacGregor Burns noted, transformational[xx] and transforming[xxi] leadership are much needed around the world. OSLK offers opportunities for citizens to develop their own leadership capabilities and to engage in the transformation of leadership in their particular contexts; and so, we believe that there can be a groundswell of good leaders and good leadership emerging globally. In the 21st century, the global imperative is to have good leadership as pervasive as mobile technologies – indeed, with OSLK, the two go hand-in-hand. Profoundly, OSLK offers the prospect to transform leadership itself, as OSLK is a fundamental part of, and enables, Good Leadership for All. The critical question is ‘what will you do to enable Open Source Leadership Knowledge?’


Invitation from the Authors:

Imagine a world where anyone can access leadership knowledge at any time anywhere around the world, and the impact that this would have on transforming leadership for the good of all. The ideas, advocacy and support of numerous people around the world will be required to realise the OSLK strategic vision and we invite you to be part of the co-creation process

We invite your comments and please share this article with anyone who may be interested in OSLK. Please join us and submit your comments at the GLfA LinkedIn group:

We particularly welcome any ideas that you have about potential solutions and technologies, potential funders and/or strategic technology partners around the world that might be able to contribute seed funding and help in building an OSLK prototype.



[i] John F. Kennedy – quote from speech prepared for delivery in Dallas the day of his assassination, November 22, 1963

[ii] Philosopher-Kings – see Plato, Greek Philosopher (427 BC – 347 BC), Book VI of The Republic

[iii] National Research Council – Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century –

[iv] The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – source of 21st century skills – OECD report –

[v] OpenCourseWare –

[viii] Digital Public Library of America –

[x] New Library of Alexandria –

[xi] Baidu Library –

[xiv] Open Education Resources –

[xv] Creative Commons –

[xvi] United Nations, Global Technology Initiatives:, UN Mobile Learning Technology Concept Development

Mobile Technologies and Empowerment: Enhancing human development through participation and innovation

UNESCO ICT in Education:

Open Education Resources

[xvii] One Laptop per Child –

[xviii] Chinese proverb – attributed to Confucius, Chinese philosopher & reformer (551 BC – 479 BC)

[xix] Kellerman, B. (2012). The End of Leadership. New York: Harper Business.

Also, see book review and Barbara Kellerman interview:
* Couto, R. A. (2012). A Review of Barbara Kellerman, The End of Leadership. Integral Leadership Review –

** Volckmann, R. (2012). Fresh Perspective: Barbara Kellerman and the Leadership Industry. Integral Leadership Review –

[xx] Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row

[xxi] Burns, J. M. (2003). Transforming Leadership: A new pursuit of happiness. New York: Atlantic


About the Authors

Kuldip Reyatt is leading the development of the ‘Good Leadership for All’ ideas, projects and programs with several co-leaders from around the world. He is Founder/Director of Strategic Visioning Partners and former board member of the International Leadership Association. Kuldip works across sectors with board/strategic leaders to transform individual executive, leadership group, and organisation-wide performance. His prior career involves senior management in ‘Blue Chip’ corporations and international management consultancies, and he served as board member and company secretary of a UK charity that provides pro bono consultancy to NGOs focused on alleviating human suffering and deprivation. A board/strategic leadership practitioner-scholar, qualified in Company Secretarial Practice, Finance, and Marketing, with an MBA from a leading UK business school, he is at the final stages of his doctoral research into Board and Strategic Leadership Influences on Strategic Visioning. Kuldip regularly presents at global leadership conferences, with several leadership articles and a book ‘Board and Strategic Leadership for the 21st Century’ in the pipeline, his work is already published in ‘Emergent Models of Global Leadership’, ‘Leadership: The Key Concepts’, and ‘Leadership Development outside China’.

Kathryn E. Johnson served as the Chief Executive Officer of Health Forum for twenty-five years and retired January 1, 2002. She is the Co-Founder of the Center for Global Service and an active consultant on global health issues.She has served on numerous Boards, including chairing the Boards of the Institute for Research on Learning and the American Society of Association Executives. She is a former W. K Kellogg Foundation Fellow. Currently, Ms. Johnson serves on Boards of the UN’s World Food Program-USA, Global Women’s Leadership Program at Santa Clara University’s Business School, the Health Technology Center, Samueli Institute, Omni Med, and RENEW. In addition, she serves on advisory boards of:  MedShare Western Council, LIVING GOODS, and WE CARE SOLAR.

Dr. Arthur L. Jue is a global organization and talent development consultant with extensive executive experience in Fortune 100 companies. He serves on multiple corporate boards, including Meriwest Credit Union, ARC Leadership Group,, and He holds a doctor of management in organizational leadership and an MBA with emphasis in technology management. Arthur attended BYU and earned a BS in marketing with a music minor from SJSU (valedictorian). In addition, he has participated in executive programs at the London Business School, Harvard, and Oxford. He serves on the editorial board of multiple publications and is chair-elect for the Academy of Management’s MSR executive board. Dr. Jue has written extensively, including Leadership Moments, Scholarship Pursuit, and his latest work, Social Media at Work: How Networking Tools Propel Organizational Performance. He has served on the faculty of several Universities, including international faculty of the Center for Leadership, Innovation, and Change at the Indian School of Business. Arthur serves on many nonprofit boards, including the Boy Scouts of America Santa Clara County Council, SJSU Business Alumni Network, Gomasu Foundation, and Tongan Leadership Academy. He is an artist, violinist, film producer, former New Zealand missionary, and Eagle Scout.

Stephen Goveia has a long history of successfully establishing start-ups and restructuring complex businesses globally. He has served as a corporate officer and management consultant to numerous healthcare, tech and educational companies. As CEO of Sybersay, he raised several rounds of capital, and developed/licensed a number of patents to the healthcare industry. He also introduced the first Bluetooth noise cancellation headsets to the mobile devices market. Stephen was a Founding Partner of Madeira Ventures LLC and Sr. VP of Larry Ellison and Michael Milken’s private equity firm, Knowledge Universe, overseeing human capital, real estate, and M&A integration as the firm grew from a few to 14,000 employees, 50 companies, 2 IPOs and several secondary public offerings. As VP of Sega, Stephen helped spearhead its growth to $1.4 billion in revenue with 55% share of the global video game market. He was a key contributor to Coopers & Lybrand’s Sand Hill Road Venture Management consulting practice and began his career with Levi Strauss & Co., where he established the company’s overseas operations in Europe. He has served on several high tech and non-profit boards, has been a facilitator with the Alliance of CEOs, and is a frequent lecturer on entrepreneurship.