The challenges organizations face today are complex and multi-faceted, and developing skills as a learning leader requires broad exposure to interdisciplinary ideas. Developing these skills is the challenge at the heart of the annual Learning Leaders conferences hosted by the Learning Guild.

The road to learning leadership

Learning 2023 continues this mission. The conference supports learning leaders in L&D and other departments with accountabilities for learning in their organization. "Learning leadership" also includes employees and managers who are accountable for supporting how the enterprise understands itself as a "learning organization."

Everyone in those categories needs to understand different perspectives and to spark effective solutions according to their levels and roles. Those solutions must address many issues requiring interdisciplinary approaches, various ways of looking at problems, and valuable insights that help create effective solutions. Learning leaders who have access to a wide range of knowledge and experience, both their own and those of colleagues, can combine those perspectives in order to develop comprehensive strategies for addressing organizational challenges.

The role of the Learning Guild

From its beginning in 2002, the Learning Guild has promoted the development of learning leadership through three areas of activity:

  • Content: Articles, publications, and references written by experienced practitioners
  • Conferences: In-person and virtual (online) presentations and networking by subject matter experts, including developers and vendors
  • Online Events: Multiple group meetings and networking, live online and recorded events

Most readers of this article are already aware of all three areas. In this article, I will concentrate on the Learning Leaders 2023 conference, which differs from other in-person and virtual conferences that the Guild hosts.

Learning Leaders 2023

This Guild conference prepares leaders for the organizational and business challenges they will meet from 2023 to 2027 and beyond. Scheduled for December 4-7 in Orlando, Florida, this event will take your leadership career to new heights. What follows is the blueprint for this year's Learning Leaders conference.

Pre-conference workshop December 4, 2023

The day-long, co-located pre-conference workshop Three Pillars of Learning Leadership (separate registration required) delivers three crucial skills critical to success in the next five years: strategic thinking and planning, business enablement, and using data to drive performance.


Four keynote speakers will provide examples of leadership in learning and development roles.

  • Phil Hansen, multimedia artist, speaker, author, innovator: Opening keynote. Creativity Within Limitations
  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr., professor, filmmaker, author: 
    Insights into the Qualities and Experiences that Shape Leaders
  • Keelan Leyser, magician, mentalist, digital illusionist, optical illusion expert: Unlocking Your Untapped Creative Power
  • Deborah Roberts, acclaimed television journalist, author: Closing keynote. 
    The Transformative Power of Educators and Learning Leaders


Concurrent learning experiences, December 5-7:

  • December 5: 51 sessions
  • December 6: 47 sessions
  • December 7: 16 sessions

There are DIY learning experiences every day:

  • Monday afternoon Networking event
  • Innovation Gallery Tuesday and Wednesday: Industry-leading learning technologies and solutions providers
  • Scheduled opportunities for networking: Morning walks, Breakfast Bites, Lunches, refreshment breaks, Speed Networking, Sponsor Receptions on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, and an EPCOT excursion on Wednesday night (separate registration required)
  • Random opportunities for networking: If you're awake and not in a session, you can be networking!
  • Members of the 2023 Thirty Under 30 Cohort will attend the conference, and two will present sessions on the program. The Cohort's presence makes international networking possible at the conference.

That's a lot of opportunities for learning! How is learning leadership strategically important?

The strategic importance of learning leadership appears in many ways in the Learning 2023 Learning Leaders Conference. Here are some of the manifestations, in no particular order:

  • When employees see a clear connection between their personal development and the organization's strategic success, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their roles. Learning leadership as a goal within an organization's L&D function can foster a culture of continuous learning and growth that positively impacts employee retention.
  • In some industries, regulatory changes, compliance requirements, or cybersecurity threats can pose significant organizational risks. Learning leaders can help mitigate these risks by designing and delivering training programs that ensure employees are well-informed and compliant with relevant regulations and security protocols.
  • Connecting learning to business strategy is essential for talent development and succession planning. Learning leaders can identify and nurture high-potential employees who align with the organization's strategic direction. By providing targeted development opportunities, they prepare individuals for leadership roles critical to achieving strategic objectives.
  • Learning and development programs often require significant time, money, and personnel resources. By aligning learning with business strategy, learning leaders can demonstrate these programs' return on investment (ROI) more effectively. They can show how learning initiatives contribute to achieving strategic objectives and, in turn, justify the resources allocated to them.
  • In rapidly changing markets, organizations must be agile and responsive. Learning leaders should ensure that their learning strategies include ongoing skill development and upskilling to keep the workforce adaptable. The organization can stay competitive and seize new opportunities as they arise.
  • When learning initiatives align with the company's business strategy, they become a means to achieve specific objectives such as revenue growth, cost reduction, market expansion, or innovation. Learning leaders play a pivotal role in ensuring that their learning programs support and drive these strategic goals.
  • Many strategic initiatives involve organizational change. Learning leaders can help facilitate and support these changes by developing learning programs that equip employees with the necessary skills, knowledge, and mindset to adapt and thrive in the new environment. This can include training on new technologies, processes, or cultural shifts.

The unique role of the content of the Learning 2023 Learning Leaders Conference

Learning leaders serve as a bridge between learning and the organization's strategic direction. By aligning learning initiatives with business strategy, they help the organization thrive in a competitive landscape, navigate change, and build a skilled and engaged workforce capable of achieving its long-term goals. This alignment is essential for the organization's effectiveness and relevance of learning and development efforts.

Ultimately, having a broad knowledge and experience enables learning leaders to make informed decisions that will improve their organization's performance.