Learning together: a cohort approach to organizational leadership development

Janice Sharlow (Deloitte & Touche Inc., Edmonton, Canada)
Paula Langenhoff (Planning and Administration, Alberta Health Services, Edmonton, Canada)
Aslam Bhatti (Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Toronto, Canada)
Jude Spiers (Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)
Greta Cummings (Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Publication date: 2 October 2009



The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the formation of the Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) and to demonstrate how the program was collaboratively tailored to meet the organizational and developmental needs of leaders in the organization, using a learning cohort approach for implementation.


This paper describes how the LDI was designed, implemented, and assessed through its various stages of formation. Beginning with theory, a learning cohort approach was envisioned to not only bridge organizational departments by bringing leaders from all divisions to learn together, but would also be more sustainable in the long term. A participatory action research study was used to enhance program development and to ultimately explore the effectiveness of the LDI.


The LDI was critical to developing leadership and management competencies/skills, organizational networking, relationship building, and fostering a philosophy of leadership as collaborative visionary practice toward a common goal.

Research limitations/implications

The conceptual framework of the LDI using a learning cohort approach may provide an approach for further development of leadership programs in other healthcare organizations.

Practical implications

The LDI demonstrated how internally developed leadership programs can be an effective approach, with evaluation and application of research findings to continually improve and enhance the program, when resources are limited but the desire to learn is not.


The LDI program is a peer based, cohort approach established through a conceptual framework based on advanced leadership theories and practices.



Sharlow, J., Langenhoff, P., Bhatti, A., Spiers, J. and Cummings, G. (2009), "Learning together: a cohort approach to organizational leadership development", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 317-328. https://doi.org/10.1108/17511870910996114

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