Disciplines of social learning leadership

What does a social learning leader do?

A lot of our work in the last few years has been focused on developing the capability of various types of social learning leaders, including community and network leaders, systems conveners, sponsors, and enablers at various levels of scale.

A strand of our current writing is to articulate the central disciplines of social learning leadership. A social learning leader is someone who is paying attention to these disciplines.

A discipline is not a recipe, a process, or a best practice. We are not sure these exist for this kind of work. Rather a discipline is a way to bring rigor to an art. It includes the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself if you’re responsible for a social learning space, the perspectives you can take, the methods and tools you can apply, the pitfalls you should avoid, and the ways you can assess the quality of your work.

The figure lists the current disciplines we have identify and are working on. The list is still somewhat in flux, but it will give you a good idea of what we are trying to do.

Our aim is to publish these disciplines as a handbook that will be useful to people who take social learning leadership in their contexts.

And here is the text on the visual, if you can’t see it:


  • Relevance: what is our learning partnership about?
  • Accountability: how is accountability negotiated?
  • Value creation: what difference are we making for whom?


  • Voices: who needs to be involved?
  • Power: how can learning trump power?
  • Leadership: how to foster distributed leadership?


  • Engagement: how to work together on issues of practice?
  • Imagination: what images inform and orient learning?
  • Alignment: how to achieve effectiveness at scale?


  • Continuity: how to enable ongoing learning loops?
  • Boundaries: how to make boundaries into learning assets?
  • Scale: how to maintain a multi-scale perspective?

2 thoughts on “Disciplines of social learning leadership”

  1. Dear Etienne and Bev: I am currently working on a project for my doctoral dissertation that is attempting to capture the emergence of leadership within a faculty-led CoP operating within the “landscape of practice”. This is an inter professional initiative between two higher educational institutions working together to enhance learning objectives through experiential learning in a clinical simulation environment. I have read (and reread) your latest book and found it very inspiring. However, I am still struggling to find or put together the ideal operational framework to capture the emergence of leadership in this context. I am wondering if you may have some advice to share. Kind regards, Will.

  2. Hi Will… Thanks for letting us know about your project. Certainly for us it would be interesting if you used the leadership groups (https://www.wenger-trayner.com/resources/leadership-groups-for-social-learning/) as a lens to understand and promote the emergence of shared or distributed leadership in the context of a community of practice.

    We are starting to map the social learning disciplines listed in this post to the leadership groups, but this is a work-in-progress that we are exploring in our certificate program. We don’t expect the write-up to be done until some time in 2016.

    All the best with your project and let us know how it goes!

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