4 | Developing Leaders Issue 36: 2020 A s much as we may want to, 2020 will be a year we will not forget. As I write in late November, the mood music is shifting, there is light appearing at the end of the tunnel, and we can hope for a materially better year ahead of us. The vaccines against Covid-19, while yet to be fully signed-off, give every indication of being far better than anyone could have originally hoped for, and the political turmoil in the US seems to be ordering itself, at the executive level if not the grassroots, which bodes well for a more integrated approach to global problems. So, what conclusions can we draw from 2020? And specifically, what does it tell us about leadership, organizations and learning, the core themes of this publication? The answers cannot be adequately dealt with in a few short sentences, but the headlines are worth noting. The East handled the pandemic better than the West in terms of suppression – early indications are that the experience in Asia with the SARS virus a decade ago allowed both administrators and wider populations there to act quicker, and adopt appropriate behaviours more effectively. There is a suggestion that more command economies were better placed to direct behaviours in a crisis too, than laissez-faire ones. However, so far, it has been the West that has produced the innovative vaccines at an extraordinarily quick pace – and using essentially new technologies. No mRNA vaccines, the science behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, had been approved for humans before this month. The resources and innovative capacity in the West appear to have enabled swift solutions to appear. All this is a boon for the concept of management development – even if the crisis itself has been damagingly disruptive to the sector. The purpose of business school education is to prepare leaders for both known and unforeseeable challenges ahead; this is done through a wide variety of means – from the classic Harvard case-studies, to action- and experiential-learning and much else in-between. SARS shows that having experienced EDITOR’s LETTER Positives From a Year We'd Like to Forget a crisis enables you to perform better in the next one – practice really helps. While the strong focus on collaboration and diversity of thought, along with heavy R&D budgets, has enabled innovative solutions to appear tremendously quickly; open-minds, experimentation and co-operation are necessary to be agile and innovative. These two are not always natural bedfellows, but it is in achieving a balance between them that good leadership sits. Giving clear, structured direction while allowing safe places to experiment, learn from failure and support that endeavour. If we can do that collaboratively and collectively then we will be in a stronger place. This magazine issue touches on many of these themes – the Sustainable Leadership piece from a team at Russell Reynolds kicks us off, and Kate Lye’s focus on resilience follows. We offer perspectives on learning online from Warwick Business School; Leadership Capital from Linda Ginzel at Chicago’s Booth School of Business; and the power of Expansive Thinking from Lisa Christen and Rolf Pfeiffer. And we close with a break from our usual themes with a look by Paolo Quattrone, of Manchester Business School, at how Italy emerged from post-war economic crisis and what lessons we can learn now from that in ‘building back better’. As always we love to hear from you with your thoughts, reflections and ideas – please get in touch at With best wishes to you all for a better, stabler and learning-rich 2021. Roddy Millar | Editorial Director