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A few years ago we started a practice of setting up leadership groups in the communities of practice that we work with. We are sharing a document we’ve produced about this practice which you can download at the end of this post.

The practice goes like this: everyone at a meeting belongs to a leadership group – and each group stewards one part of the learning process of the whole group. In this way leadership of the community meeting is distributed over the entire event.

Leadership here is seen as an act of service, that is, not leadership in terms of telling others what to do, but helping the group develop itself as a learning partnership. We’ve seen these groups lead to some transformational turn-arounds in group dynamics and the learning potential. (Notwithstanding the times they flopped – which led us to learn a great deal!)

We gave playful names to the groups in the spirit of making it a fun and inventive way of leading the process: agenda activists, community keepers, critical friends, social reporters, external messengers, value detectives.

Over the years we’ve come to see that these groups can work well in lots of different contexts including group meetings, conferences, and long-term community development. Anywhere, that is, where there is an intention for collective learning.

We’re now preparing to study the practice as it is being used on a course for owner-managers at Lancaster University Management School. Our inquiry is to find out if and how they develop the social learning capability of the cohort over this coming academic year. We’ll keep you posted.

Let us know if you use or develop the leadership groups. This chapter for download is going to be one chapter in a handbook we are producing for facilitators, conveners and coordinators of social learning. We’ll publish each chapter as we get it done and integrate feedback in the final version.


  • about leadership groups more broadly
  • practices we have developed around leadership groups
  • descriptions of each leadership group
  • facilitation tips
  • sample instructions


You can download the full text in PDF format here:

Download leadership groups (V2) 

See also

One of the roles – social reporter – is a branch from some early work (2006) that Bev did with David Wilcox on using social media and the web for capturing the content of meetings and events. At that time we wrote a social reporting toolbox. David also writes about it on his blog here.