The vision for the Leadership Vanguard alumni community

As a new wave of leaders conclude their year as Vanguard catalysts, Unilever’s Hanneke Willenborg and Woodside’s Gareth Wright, both pilot-year catalysts, share a sketch ‘manifesto’ for harnessing the power of the alumni community – of which they are co-chairs.

The Leadership Vanguard’s second year is drawing to a close. As members of the pilot-year alumni, we’ve been following the programme with interest and pride, both in terms of witnessing how the initiative has grown as well as the progress of the current catalysts and the pilot projects that emerged from their work this past year.

Such is our commitment to the Leadership Vanguard, in fact, we’ve sought ways to keep it alive within the alumni community – namely by convening this group as alumni co-chairs.

When we founded the alumni community, we set out our vision, mission and purpose:

  • VISION: A global community of future-fit leaders, working together to reinvent growth.
  • MISSION: To build a strong and influential community of future-fit leaders, connecting current Vanguard catalysts with alumni, as well as with globally-renowned business leaders and change-makers.
  • PURPOSE:To connect and empower collaborative leaders working across industry, sectoral and geographical boundaries to reinvent growth.

The pilot-year alumni formed a close bond – and an easy one because we were in it together from the start. But welcoming the new wave of catalysts into our network is our first chance to broaden our pool of future-fit leaders.

So how can we transform our vision for the alumni community into reality? What role can the 2016 catalyst cohort expect to play in this future-fit leadership movement?

This blog sketches some possible commitments that could form something of a manifesto for the future. It also suggests some immediate actions we, as alumni, can take.

Our hope is that we co-create a Leadership Vanguard ‘manifesto’ for launch towards the end of next year, ready for the 2017 catalysts and that we all commit to.

To picture what our community could become in two or five years’ time alone – as we welcome the annual participants from the global programme as well as catalysts from possible geography and partner specific programmes – is to glimpse the potential and power of the Vanguard.


1. Stay connected

As co-chairs, we call on our pilot-year alumni to build our community by – as a first concrete step – connecting with the year-two catalysts about to complete the first part of this journey. Our ambition is that all alumni – past, present and future – consider themselves as one powerful combined force for changing the face of leadership. Cross-pollination is key.

The first and simplest was to keep connected is via our LinkedIn group. Here, we can retain and grow our connections to alumni, catalysts, and like-minded leaders and change-makers. We can continue our conversations on leadership, collaboration, wicked problems: the conversations that challenged our perspectives and elevated our thinking during our Vanguard year. We’ll keep abreast of current-year content and progress. And who knows what relationships and initiatives might develop here?

The second way is to forge groups within partner organisations to support current-year catalysts, and spread the Vanguard’s progress and philosophy beyond those directly participating. We’re privileged to have been chosen for the programme by the Vanguard’s partners, in terms of the investment in us as individual and networked leaders. But our organisations and CEOs are also counting on us to infect our workplaces with new thinking and new commercial opportunities.

Thirdly, we must think outside the box when it comes to keeping in touch. Some of us will move onto new things. Some don’t use social media. Partners will come and go. Our thinking and interests will continually evolve. How can the alumni be creative and bold in connecting the dots?

2. Champion progress

Seven pilot-year alumni participated in the London and New Delhi Exchanges, plus the wider community has played its part via session calls, in-partner support groups, peer-to-peer coaching and as active members of the wider Xynteo Tribe.

As we see pilots like ‘Village of the Future’ go live; as we seek investment from the purposeful capital community for the high-potential 2016 pilots; as we cross-pollinate across years, meetings and other moments, there are a multitude of ways for alumni to champion progress.

As pilot-year catalyst Bart Kuppens from Unilever recent said: “Would it not be great if five or ten years from now there’s a raft of initiatives? That prospect still energises me tremendously.”

Perhaps we should particularly commit to identifying, nurturing, championing and making real the highest-potential pilots? We could pass pilots like batons across catalyst intakes, avoiding ‘reinventing the wheel’ from year-to-year and focusing on quality over quantity.

3. Grow the partners

There is strength in numbers. As alumni, we want to contribute to the search for new partners and the retention of existing ones in order to continually grow and bolster the Vanguard network.

4. Influence the future of leadership

Many of us experienced a shift in mindset and leadership approach, thanks to the Vanguard. But what if Vanguard leadership was already ingrained among tomorrow’s leaders? Let’s forge relationships with the globe’s leading business schools and build a leadership legacy.

5. Create a movement

In five years’ time, the Vanguard itself, together with these emerging threads from those who’ve progressed through it, will knit together into something with real reach and impact. For instance, we could develop regional chapters that support and advance future leaders, with a greater focus on the local context, while still integrating with the global programme and alumni activities.

It’s important to state in our sketch manifesto that our ultimate aim is to create a movement: not a fixed-state ‘club’ for simply a growing pool of leaders.

Let’s use this blog as a means to bring year-two and the next cohort of catalysts into our tribe, and to spark debate on our starting commitments.

We look forward to building this alumni movement – together.

The Leadership Vanguard is, perhaps, the only initiative on the planet where senior leaders from across industries and around the world collaborate intensively to incubate commercial solutions to the problems that threaten the future of growth. For more information, click here.

This blog has also been published by Gareth direct on LinkedIn.