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Does strategic leadership development feature in managers’ responses to future HRM challenges?

Riitta Viitala (University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)
Susanna Kultalahti (University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)
Hilpi Kangas (University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




Recent academic discussion depicts leadership development (LD) as an important tool for supporting the implementation of an organization’s strategy, maintaining ongoing development of the organization, and building capabilities that are essential for the future. However, the role of LD in reality depends to a considerable extent on how human resource (HR) managers and other top managers perceive LD and its importance. In this study, the purpose of this paper is to examine how LD manifests in HR managers’ and other top managers’ views on the future challenges of HRM. Accordingly, the authors reason what the findings indicate concerning the strategic role of LD in managers’ minds.


The topic was approached inductively. The qualitative data were collected from 473 Finnish HR managers and 276 other top managers, using a web-based brainstorming tool that adopted ideas from social media platforms. All of the informants are part of the top management team. The material was analysed using content analysis.


The findings were a cause for concern. They show that top managers do not very actively consider either leadership or LD when asked to consider the HR challenges of the future. In addition, when they did so, the ideas of LD were mostly traditional and individual-centred. Only a few of the informants connected LD to business needs. The comments mainly reflected ideas of heroic leadership and training.


The study advances the understanding of the perceptions of LD decision makers in organizations, but also suggests that more research on the topic is needed. In addition, the study shows that more discussion would be required between academics and managers to deepen the common view of the content, potential, and reality of LD.



Viitala, R., Kultalahti, S. and Kangas, H. (2017), "Does strategic leadership development feature in managers’ responses to future HRM challenges?", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 38 No. 4, pp. 576-587.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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