Traditional approaches to leadership development have concentrated on training individuals in new knowledge and skills. The impact of this kind of approach is unclear.

This note suggests an alternative approach which occurred to me during research carried out amongst civil society leaders in Malawi. I was struck by the similarity between the behavioural change processes that leaders went through and some key elements of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Twelve-Step process.

It appeared that to take on a more empowering approach to leadership, leaders had to overcome an engrained habit or ‘addiction’ to autocratic decision-making. Such a comparison may have radical implications for the design of leadership development programmes.



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