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Windsor Leadership Dialogue 2016

An independent forum facilitated by honorary custodians


For senior leaders from a range of different organisations to exchange views on the type of leadership needed to sustain a successful future, and to recognise that they all have an important contribution to make and something to learn from others."


To listen respectfully to others, to cultivate and speak your own voice, to suspend your opinions about others – these bring out the intelligence that lives at the very centre of ourselves – the intelligence that exists when we are alert to possibilities around us and thinking freshly.


Dialogue is a journey, a journey that is open to each of us. And it has the potential to create change that can impact on all of us."

How to get involved

The 2016 annual Windsor Leadership Dialogue, limited to 29 participants, will take place on 25 – 26 January 2016 and will again be held at St George’s House, Windsor Castle 
The Custodian Group1 endeavours to ensure a balance of participants more towards active leadership roles in organisational contexts, than those more focused on developing individuals and organisations as consultants.
Attendance to the Dialogue is by invitation only but, if you are a Senior Leader and feel you or a colleague could be part of it, do talk to us about our next offer; it is a unique opportunity to develop one's self, applied practice, and the wider work context.  You can contact one of the custodians as below or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.


The Custodians

Audrey Birt  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Nick Ellerby This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

John Knights This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Eirian Lewis This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

See their bios at the bottom of this webpage.

A Changing World Changes Leadership

Since the first WLD twelve years ago, we have all experienced a fast-changing world that holds implications for leadership. For example, hierarchical reporting is being affected by the easy and rapid availability of information via the internet and mobile devices. This accelerates change in and of society, generating new expectations about democracy and social order. Future generations are unlikely to tolerate traditional models of leadership and will seek different paradigms and less management-dominated work relationships.

The new sciences of complexity and chaos theory (the ‘butterfly effect’) have clarified and challenged our understanding of the increasingly complex situations that leaders encounter and need to surmount. And the latest neuro-science research helps explain many default behaviours including the phenomenon of hubris to which some leaders succumb.

These and multiple other changes in leaders’ environment require a reframing of what we mean by today’s and tomorrow’s leadership, such as:

  • Ways of making things happen that draw on each person's contribution and influence.
  • An approach that steps away from traditional hierarchy where the few determine the direction of the many.
  • A perspective that values the whole person, beyond mere skill, behaviour and job description.
  • Seeing the whole system, not reducing it to its parts, and understanding systemic risks, failure and performance.
  • Holding a moral purpose and negotiating difficult ethical dilemmas.
  • Elevating leadership’s purpose to being of value and doing the best for the world, rather than simply being the best in the world.


Reflect for a moment on those who reach the top of organisations. Many are not good leaders. Organisations tend to confuse career success with work effectiveness. They choose people who are good at managing themselves, their career progress and their image, those who may be better at getting to the top rather than good when at the top. Such leaders may focus insufficiently on delivering benefit to their employer’s stakeholders. Their egos may be driven by power, prestige, recognition or reward which guide their decision-making, even though they are remunerated by the organisation to act in its best interests! Yet many organisations still think of, identify and develop leadership talent in the same old narrow, individual-centric way. Training and education for managers (e.g. MBA programmes) are slow to adapt.

We recognise that all leader and leadership-related practices need to come under a fresh spotlight. The Windsor Leadership Dialogue aims to release some of the energy and potential for change and development.

Summary of the 2015 Annual Event - Held 26/27 January.

Collaborative Leadership in a World of Increasing Complexity

The 2015 Windsor LeaderShape Dialogue (WLD) was interested in addressing and impacting on leadership in a world of increasing complexity. Whether through re-inventing our worldview, focusing on individuals in practice, developing an organisation’s leadership processes, or harnessing deep systemic change, the Dialogue explored the distinctive yet often interconnected questions which each person brought with them.
Key benefits for the diverse participants related to the nature and potential of the self as change agent, the leadership role, the leaderful organisation and/or systemic approaches to improving the environment we operate within. The world has changed fundamentally over the last 20 years fired by the internet and the growth of mobile communication. These in turn have impacted the speed of technology development, social change, globalisation and the emergence of the developing world.
At the start of the Dialogue those participating chose one, two or three contemporary themes to focus upon. The choices reflected the participants’ context and interest. Themes not chosen in 2015 can be considered again in future years together with new topics that emerge. The list of themes which the dialogue considered this year included:


  • Given the complexity that is emerging, is there such a thing as leadership as we have understood it?
  • To what extent is the world in a macro-shift, representing a substantially new reality, challenging us to change our worldview and how we work within it?
  • How does the dynamic between collaboration and competiveness need to change, and what are the implications for the individual, the organisation, particularly in connection to our behaviours, principles and values?
  • How do individuals ever begin to navigate the interconnectedness of our changing world as well as the changing ‘map’ of our world with insight, wisdom and confidence?
  • What is the role of the individual and what is the role of the collective?


Here is custodian John Knights' Blog following the event. John is also Chairman of LeaderShape

Whilst this was a unique dialogue event, we recognise that those involved may also decide to build it into their annual reflection and development process as an ongoing leadership-based learning community.

How the Dialogue is conducted

We believe that the role of the WLD is to provide opportunities to engender a paradigm shift.

  • Our tested and adaptive, yet ambitious, approach to the Windsor Leadership Dialogue (WLD) enables participants to consider what’s really important, step back and deepen thinking and, determine the key themes, hear different perspectives, and take the opportunity to discover and unfold what might really make a modest or even significant difference. Not everyone gains what they hope for and expect, but that unpredictability and uncertainty can hold surprisingly rich learning.
    From time to time many of us feel ‘in over our heads’. Having time to slow down, take a breath and learn with and through others helps renew and stimulate new possibilities and opportunities.

    Ingredients of a successful dialogue include:
  • Sustaining an environment of learning and insights.
  • Continuing the annual rhythm.
  • Striking a balance between the internal and informational.
  • Embracing both individual development and systemic improvement.
  • Maintaining St George’s House and Windsor Castle as an ideal location to:
        •    give space for reflection
        •    provide a safe and confidential environment
        •    offer opportunities to challenge one’s thinking and practice
        •    bring challenge and stimulation from a range of colleagues and experiences.
  • Enabling emergent possibilities and new initiatives that may be expanded beyond the WLD forum.
  • Balancing diverse attendance in terms of gender, experience, public and private sector, practitioners and advisers, employed and self-employed.
  • Limiting participants to 29.
  • Encouraging leadership networks and new collegiate relationships.

We use various approaches including mindfulness, contracting, small working groups, plenary sessions, reflection and review, and mini ‘expert’ inputs from attendees themselves.Sessions are professionally moderated, primarily by members of the new custodian group. John Knights is 2015's guardian of the overall direction of the process, while Audrey Birt, Nick Ellerby, and Eirian Lewis all act as moderators and facilitators.

The administration of The Windsor Dialogue is managed by Eirian Lewis with the support of his company, TEAL Consulting.We attract a diverse mix of people. A majority directly lead their organisational world; they include board members or senior post holders of organisations. The balance of attendees comprises experienced leadership advisers, coaches, educators and development practitioners, some of them freelance. Others are thought leaders and writers, pushing boundaries and aiming to influence emerging practice by fostering new forms of leadership in particular fields and specialisms.Those who attend the Dialogue are presented with, and asked to contribute provocative questions, exploring and reflecting on these with others who share a sense of inquiry, willingness to learn, and are open to fresh ideas about leadership.

Ground Rules

  • Attendees must be available for the whole period of the Dialogue.
  • Chatham House rule of confidentiality.
  • Absolutely no sales pitches.
  • Open to listening and learning – bring questions rather than answers – though we want attendees to have opinions of course!


There will be a broad theme each year, without being prescriptive about the detailed content of the Dialogue, allowing its focus to emerge with input from those attending.

Historical Context – Developing the New Chapter

The following provides brief background information for anyone interested in the recent history of the WLD, which was first established in 2001 as an annual residential event held in St George’s House and historic meeting rooms within Windsor Castle.
The event was developed as a partnership between the Church of England, The Industrial Society, the Centre for Tomorrow’s Company and the Windsor Leadership Trust. Chris Talbot, a senior civil servant and HR consultant, was its long-term convener.
Since its inception WLD has encouraged like-minded, and sometimes unlike-minded individuals, who may meet on the programme and share common interests or areas of inquiry to develop these and shape new clusters of activity and development opportunities. Many previous participants have formed ongoing dialogue processes with those they meet at Windsor Castle.
The Dialogue has benefited from a diverse representation of sectors, organisations and perspectives in the individuals who participate. Sectors have spanned national retail businesses, government departments, international leadership development communities, business schools, institutes, regulators, social enterprise organisations, third sector, armed forces, health and social care, art and media, religion, law and criminal justice, and many more.
In 2011 the organising role was combined with that of Chairperson and passed to Robin Field-Smith, who brought many years of commitment to leadership thinking and practice with a background in public service. Stephen Adamson continued his invaluable role in holding the facilitation lead.
In July 2013 Robin managed an effective transition to a new group who are passionate to sustain the WLD, build on the original aim (see above and evolve a new chapter relevant for the 21st century’s second decade and beyond. A new custodian group was formed of Audrey Birt, Nick Ellerby, John Knights, Eirian Lewis and Bill Tate, each as volunteer contributors who had all been participants over a number of years. They shaped and facilitated the 2014 WLD which prototyped a different approach which was very well received by those participating.

The Custodian Group 

The following paragraphs aim to offer a flavour of their background and interests
Audrey Birt is an independent Coach and Consultant with a particular interest in health and social care and heartful leadership. She has extensive senior executive experience and was previously the Director for Scotland of Breakthrough Breast Cancer and the National Director for Diabetes UK Scotland. Audrey is the Chair of the Health and Social Care Alliance and was a founder member, is in the board of The WELL a pioneering charity inspiring change in health and care, and also a trustee of the Edinburgh Gestalt Institute. She sits on the Quality Alliance Board of the NHS in Scotland as the third sector representative. She has worked as a champion for person centred health and care with the Scottish Government and is currently a champion for the Health and Social Care Academy in Scotland. Audrey’s professional background is nursing, having worked as a nurse manager and in service re-design. She has an interest in gestalt in organisations and in enabling wellbeing in people, communities and populations. She is a regular blogger covering leadership, wellbeing and health and social care as well as her personal experience of breast cancer.


Nick Ellerby is an educator pioneering whole person learning, and implementing inquiry and human relations approaches to deep culture change. Nick is co-director and practitioner within a 25 year experiment developing a UK peer based learning organisation with a global influence. Senior Advisor to the UNGC/EFMD Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative and co-facilitator and designer of the International Innovation Collaboratory inquiring into emergent forms of learning for leadership with international business schools and global companies. Nick works in Europe, Asia and the Americas. He is author of Discovering the Temperaments and Peer Learning in Organisations, co-author of A Guide to Authentic Collaboration, and contributor to A Call to Engagement: Globally Responsible Leadership, The Collaboratory and Learning for Tomorrow.

John Knights’ business life changed when in 1998 he had the serendipitous opportunity to learn to coach other Chief Executives and started to understand the real issues around leadership. Developing ‘excellent leaders’ became and remains his passion. John, chairman of LeaderShape, is an experienced senior executive coach and facilitator, and an expert in emotional intelligence, transpersonal leadership and neuro-leadership. He has been a senior executive in major international corporations, a serial entrepreneur and lecturer at Oxford University. He is author of The Invisible Elephant & The Pyramid Treasure, co-editor / author of Leadership Assessment for Talent Development and has written for HR Magazine. He is now focused on growing LeaderShape into a global organisation.


Eirian Lewisis the Managing Director of TEAL Consulting, and is an experienced consultant and facilitator specialising in systems thinking, leadership, process improvement and change. His focus is the delivery of improved business performance to achieve competitive advantage through people and processes. He has considerable experience in leading and co-creating change to raise business performance. He is particularly interested in transformational leadership, collaborative working and its implications for leadership, and in a time of constant change what can systems thinking offer leaders.








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