Revisiting Responsible Leadership

October 2016 - A time travel experience covering the past, the present and the future, from 2001 into the emerging digital age.

The Ulysses* Network of over 120 partners started 15 years ago.  A revolutionary journey towards responsible leadership. 

At the Ulysses Event 2016 some of them came back to discuss responsible leadership and explore what helped and hindered them.  We shared success stories and learning. We discussed the current day context and what is required going forward to enable their and others Responsible Leadership.

Project Ulysses

* “Ulysses,” was a ground breaking leadership programme for key Talent, integrating service-learning. Participants spend some time in teams working in developing countries in cross-sector partnerships with NGOs, social entrepreneurs, or international organizations.  The pillars of learning were of Diversity, Sustainability and Responsible Leadership.

In 2001 Ulysses was launched to explore a new model of leadership for global networked organizations. At the turn of the millennium and long before the words “agile” and “VUCA” described the need to navigate complexity and speed, the Ulysses project embarked on a journey to explore a new leadership paradigm, fit to meet the challenge of building global fluid knowledge organizations and sustainable brands.

Ulysses became a voyage into the unknown, a journey to the edge of leadership "where no leadership programmes had gone before” [1].  The quest was to find the essence of leadership for the 21st Century. Over a period of 8 years, about 120 successful leaders, age 40 to 50, participated in the 3 months leadership journey. For many it would not only change their view on leadership, it would change their lives.

For the leadership and learning experts in the Ulysses Lab it was the unique opportunity to develop a blueprint for a new format of leadership learning, accompanied by a longitudinal study with INSEAD to assess the success of the new approach.

Beyond the comfort zone - what the Ulysses participants experienced

Following an intense preparation phase and foundation programme, 'Ulyssians' travelled to the end of the world, including to places like Africa, India, East Timor, Belize or Paraguay, far out of their comfort zones.  They joined the fight of NGOs against HIV/AIDS, Poverty, Hunger, Child Abuse or Post-War Reconstruction. In remote and deprived locations their search was for a new quality of leadership, based on purpose and trust-based relationships. Equipped with new tools and frameworks, a blueprint for a new way of 'being' and supported by a remote coach, they left in teams of three to learn by helping others to achieve their purpose.

Many came back changed. Like Ulysses on his 20-year-Odyssey across the then known world, they had mastered many adventures to return with new insights and wisdom.

In 2016 participants have come together to reflect and share their lessons learnt. 

[1] Designing the Smart Organization: How Breakthrough Corporate Learning Initiatives Drive Strategic Change and Innovation, Roland Deiser, 2009.

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