Skip to main content

As it turns out, the perfect “20/20 vision” metaphor for the year of COVID may be the biggest misnomer ever for this past year.  For most of us, it was often hard to see ahead through the fog of the pandemic and we are all hoping that 2021 offers much-improved visual acuity about what is on the horizon for executive development.

We made it through 2020 with remarkable resilience and are grateful for the amazing support leading to almost-full registrations for our portfolio of leadership programs that we adapted to distance learning via our online delivery platforms.  As we head into our planning season, this post will no doubt become my initial thinking in our planning process – I like to start with a compass rather than a map – so hopefully I will at least get the direction somewhat correct, if not the destination. 

We are anticipating and planning to continue delivering programs virtually for at least the rest of the annual cycle – which typically wraps up at the end of June.  As we look forward to the fall, my best guess is that we will continue to be offering executive and leadership development using virtual delivery methods until the end of 2021 – and then the question is: is virtual delivery here to stay?

Based on what we have learned in 2020, it is becoming very clear (20/20 clear?) that the future of executive leadership development will be forever changed by this past year – and in my view for the better.  We have (I have) learned a lot in 2020 – perhaps more than I learned in my first 8 years as the Director of Telfer Executive Programs.

So, what will our executive development program offerings look like in 365 days?  Let us try to picture January 2022 with a clear horizon and hopefully the chaos of the pandemic finally in the rear-view mirror. 

Will the virtual learning experience become even more engaging in the virtual space than it was in the classroom? 

I am seeing creativity and innovation emerging from our faculty and facilitator community (and from partners and peers across the globe). Our facilitation and design teams have designed and created virtual executive development programs to be equally (or more!) engaging and clearly linked to the practice of leadership in the workplace.  Bite-sized learning that can be immediately put into practice are impactful when the learner is sitting at the same workstation that they use in their daily practice of their leadership. We never want to lose sight of the value of the physical classroom for some elements of learning.

Will the flexibility of virtual learning emerge as a preferred method of integrating learning plans into the daily work schedule of the participants? 

Participants in our programs are expressing how much they appreciate the flexibility and ease of integrating learning into their home and workplace schedules. In many ways you could say that a barrier has been broken in the world of executive leadership development. We are planning to offer options in the future for some participants to experience a virtual version of our flagship programs and have others participate in a hybrid model that would include core elements in-person and in the classroom.

How will our community of practice be changed by the possibility of engaging experts from around the globe – and not only those that can make the trip to our classrooms?

Perhaps this is another barrier of that has been broken by the pandemic that will not be able to be “unseen” as we transit to a new world in 2022. In early 2020 we announced that we became members of UNICON, the Global Consortium for University-Based Executive Education. I intend to look to  our global Telfer networks as well as the UNICON community to help us sharpen our focus on growing our community of practice to also include more speakers and subject matter experts from outside of our region.

So, my vision (I must say our vision – my leadership and my vision are so heavily influenced by so many wonderful colleagues at Telfer) is making me excited about the future. The disruption of the pandemic is causing innovation in the executive development world. The direction is clear – we are not anticipating going back – there is a new world of executive development emerging and we are embracing it.

Glen Orsak
Director, Telfer Executive Programs

Published on January 12, 2021

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels.


© 2020 Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa
Policies  |  Emergency Info

alert icon