Leadership Transformation for an Emerging New Era

Rethinking leadership to drive creative and innovative organisational and digital transformation in an AI-driven digital, climate change and sustainability era.

Dates: May 15th – 16th, 2024 

Venue: Virtual (online)

The 2nd Annual Conference will be jointly hosted by the School of Leadership and Management at Arden University and the Faculty of Business and Law, University of Northampton. The conference will run virtually (online) over two days under the above theme.

The conference is taking place against the backdrop of important research revelations of systemic corporate failures in the UK, urgent and simultaneous global challenges associated with AI, climate change, sustainability and inclusive growth.

A Chartered Management Institute (CMI) (2023) research report revealed that most respondent corporate managers (82%) were ill-prepared to lead and manage as they did not have formal training; CMI coined the term “accidental managers” to describe them. A report by McKinsey Sustainability (2023) unveiled that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) constitute over 90% of global businesses and contribute 50% to global emissions (Sullivan, 2023). Yet, SMEs often lack the financial capacity and expert capabilities to act on climate change to decarbonise. Often, organisations are bedevilled by a lack of scalable strategic frameworks to address sustainability and climate change challenges signalling a gap between intentions and actions, attributed to reliance on outdated leadership and management practices (Farri et al., 2022).

Hence, it is necessary to address whether large Multi-National Companies (MNCs) fully understand their reliance on SMEs as part of their supply chains and their obligations to improve creative resilience in their supply chains by investing in adaptations in vulnerable SMEs. Leadership transformation must precede any other form of organisational transformation to achieve success. Hence, the focus should be on transforming leadership to transform organisation. There is a growing perception that transitioning from an era of individual leaders to one of networked collaborative leadership teams is necessary to drive inclusive transformation and growth (Smet et al., 2023). As world leaders take a cautious approach to these issues, should scholars and the corporate world follow suit? A report from McKinsey & Company (Banholzer, M. et al., 2023, p1) advises otherwise:

Companies that err on the side of caution…during turbulent times, may survive to see another day, but often fail to achieve their full growth potential.

Thus, this year’s conference aims to unravel the concepts and practices of leadership and management by assessing whether the old approaches are still fit for purpose. In this context, this year’s conference seeks to address the following over-arching question:

How should we rethink and reconfigure leadership practices to devise and effectively implement holistic and scalable sustainable strategies in a digital era amidst global sustainability and climate change crises?”

Effective strategic management is paramount to ensure the convergence of the new and old, the expected and unexpected; economic, social and environmental ideas and opportunities to meet the simultaneous demands of the turbulent global environment. Hence, Scholars and practitioners should seek opportunities to build partnerships between MNCs, SMEs and local communities to maximise carbon reduction and enhance inclusive growth outcomes for all stakeholders.

In addition, organisations should address their workforce skills by determining whether they have the “right” digital, green and social skills required to implement the leadership and digital transition. It is also abundantly clear that there are no clear and straightforward answers to this enquiry. We expect the Conference 2024 to unpack these dilemmas and inspire creative and innovative ideas to develop appropriate scalable frameworks for embedding responsible management ethos that address the aforementioned global crises.

The conference will draw upon real-world corporate practices, conceptual and empirical scholarly narratives from multiple stakeholders to build a holistic view. By triangulating evidence from multiple sources including business, academia, non-academic service providers and students, the conference hopes to stimulate a constructive, creative and innovative dialogue that addresses current and future leadership challenges in a fast-changing environment. Thus, the conference aims are multi-faceted to reflect the multiplicity and simultaneity of challenges organisations face.


Call for Paper 15th and 16th May 2024.

Prospective authors/speakers are encouraged to contribute to and help shape the conference through submissions of their research abstracts, conceptual opinion papers, Pecha Kucha presentations (TBC), and e-posters. Also, high-quality research contributions presenting original and unpublished results of conceptual, constructive, empirical, or theoretical work on the below themes.  

Specifically, the conference aims to:

  1. Provoke an introspection into the current state of affairs in corporate leadership in the context of AI and digital technologies amidst global crises.
  2. Inspire constructive debate and develop practical strategies to transform leadership approaches as an enabler for holistic organisational and digital transformation.
  3. Explore how leaders can leverage AI and digital technologies to deliver the requisite skills to shape the future of work and navigate the transition.
  4. Unravel/probe the perceived relationship between inclusion, sustainability and growth (Madgavkar et al., 2023) to develop holistic and scalable frameworks for seeking and exploiting opportunities for building partnerships between MNCs, Public Companies and SMEs to optimise inclusive growth outcomes for society.

1. Harnessing Digital Strategies in Strategic Management and Leadership

  • Exploration of the current state of industry and HEI corporate leadership and management: How can we learn together and address the challenge of accidental managers?
  • Leadership in the era of AI: How can leaders leverage AI for effective strategic decision making?
  • Rethinking leadership strategies, visions and missions amidst uncertainty and discontinuity.
  • AI tools to enhance creativity, innovation and digital society connectivity: Cyber security and creative resilience. 

2. Developing scalable, sustainable strategies in the digital age to address climate change and drive sustainability and inclusive growth ethos.

  • Sustainability and Climate change: How to lead amidst uncertainty and calls for holistic, responsible and inclusive sustainability.
  • The ESG dilemma-policy generation, implementation, measurement and reporting.
  • EDI Leadership in the digital and sustainability era: how to build authentic EDI, workplaces and voices.
  • Is it time we pay more attention to degrowth instead of growth as an authentic philosophy for a sustainable society?

3. Partnerships, Students and SMEs as agents for Digital transformation.

  • Global value chain: domesticating the GVC to move SMEs in the developing world from the periphery to the centre (KTP)
  • Social entrepreneurship and CSR.
  • Trans-National Education (TNEs) Leadership transformation: levelling the playing field for successful win-win inclusive growth outcomes.
  • The future of SMEs workplace in the context of AI

4. Circular economy: Is it the panacea to current global crises?

  • Zero waste practices in communities, cities and supply chains and manufacturing.
  • Challenges facing HEIs in delivering circularity.
  • Can Leadership 5.0 address global crises?
  • Rethinking entrepreneurial leadership for a circular, regenerative and fair economy.

Please ensure your submission meets the conference's strict guidelines for accepting  Abstract Papers.

  • Case Study/research presentations (20 minutes presentation + 5 minutes Q&As)
  • Digital Pre-record (asynchronous)
  • Interactive Workshops (30 minutes up to 1 hour)
  • Posters
  • Discussion Panel (30 minutes)
  • Pecha Kucha (TBC)
Abstract Submission Deadline:10th April 2024
Notification of Acceptance:14th April 2024
Full Paper/ Presentation/Poster submission: 12th May 2024

Proposed Workshops

  1. Market Research Society (MRS) University Road Show-Workshop: Evidence-based leadership and value-driven data strategies (Confirmed).
  2. Deliver the right skills to navigate climate change and sustainability transactions (Sulitest) (TBC)
  3. Panel dialogue (Author, Industry and Academic Experts): Harnessing digital strategies in the AI era (Topic - TBC)
  4. Guest Author Speaker Panel discussion (TBC).

Banholzer, M. et al. (2023) Courageous growth: Six strategies for continuous growth outperformance, McKinsey & Company. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/courageous-growth-six-strategies-for-continuous-growth-outperformance (Accessed: 10 January 2024).

Chartered Management Institute (CMI) (2023) Taking responsibility - why UK plc needs better managers. Available at: https://www.managers.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/CMI_BMB_GoodManagment_Report.pdf?_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9hyKEpMqTNDQ6RpZpJcC1Y82Uh2baaTxp4gHlfdzO1FSwlT33m6lCNYRVumuXS4rmdwrul (Accessed: 10 January 2024).

Farri, E., Cervini, P. and Rosani, G., (2022) How Sustainability Efforts Fall Apart, Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2022/09/how-sustainability-efforts-fall-apart (Accessed: 10 January 2024).

Madgavkar, A. et al., (2023). From poverty to empowerment: Raising the bar for sustainable and inclusive growth, McKinsey & Company. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/mgi/our-research/from-poverty-to-empowerment-raising-the-bar-for-sustainable-and-inclusive-growth?cid=eml-web (Accessed: 10 January 2024).

McKinsey Sustainability (2023). COP28: Inclusivity, McKinsey & Company. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/sustainability/our-insights/sustainability-blog/cop28-inclusivity?cid=sust2023-soc-lkn-mck-mck--12%2F23-i1a--bam-ip&linkId=253863759 (Accessed: 10 January 2024).

Smet, A.D. et al., (2023). New leadership for a new era of thriving organizations, McKinsey & Company. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/new-leadership-for-a-new-era-of-thriving-organizations (Accessed: 10 January 2024).

Sullivan, R., (2023) What does COP28 mean for small businesses?, McKinsey & Company. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/Videos/video?vid=6342600356112&plyrid=IzQolWCsY (Accessed: 10 January 2024).

Arden University and University of Northampton