The ISL Story

Providers of Executive Development and Organisational Transformation since 2001

In 2001, Geoff Lorigan, then Associate Dean of the Auckland Business School and head of the MBA Programme, founded The Institute for Strategic Leadership (ISL). The inspiration for the Institute came from an observation that MBA’s produced outstanding managers but did not focus on producing exceptional leaders.  He considered that leadership has the most profound influence on organisational success.

The first Strategic Leadership Programme (SLP) was run in October 2001. Since 2001, the Institute for Strategic Leadership has organised over 150 Strategic Leadership Programmes and Leadership Step-Up Programmes in New Zealand and Australia. ISL currently has over 2800 Alumni and growing. 

There is no other executive development programme in New Zealand that can count a Governor-General, Prime Minister, 2 Mayors, the founding CEO of New Zealand’s largest company, 5 Chiefs of Defence, 2 Commissioners of Police, 3 Vice Chancellors and several leading CEOs of large New Zealand enterprises taking on the world. The Programmes are without peers in New Zealand and have been compared to those delivered by Harvard, Stanford and INSEAD. 

The Strategic Leadership Programme has become truly international in its impact, with Alumni including 3 Australian Vice-Chancellors, the CEOs of UNICEF Australia and Red Cross Australia, and CEOs of large organisations in UK, Singapore, Canada, Australia and the Pacific.

In 2010, Geoff introduced the Four Character personality profilers. The tools that ISL and other organisations used at that time didn’t tell the full story, were not integrated, were unnecessarily complex and were not user-friendly or intuitive for time-poor executives. SmartLeader Diagnostics was born. Originally focussed on meeting the needs of the Programmes, SmartLeader Diagnostics has developed to be a comprehensive, integrated and insightful set of diagnostic tools at a leader, team and organisational level.  They are used by ISL for Programmes, Workshops, Team and Organisational-level diagnostics with a growing number of practitioners being accredited to use the tools within their own organisations and clients.

Besides the business and public sector, numerous New Zealand not-for-profit organisations have benefited by participating in the programs and from the live cases at Strategic Leadership Programmes. On each Programme, ISL writes a case on a New Zealand, and occasionally Australian, not-for-profit organisations. This, the ‘live’ Strategic Case Study, is a hallmark of the Strategic Leadership Programme. This is done at no cost to the not-for-profit organisation. The case is distributed to the participants during the programme and they have 48 hours to produce a strategy to the Board and CEO of the not-for-profit based on the case materials. This can have a profound impact on the chosen not-for-profit organisation, which have benefitted from a conservatively estimated $11 million worth of free consulting time from some of New Zealand’s most talented public, private and not-for-profit leaders. New Zealand not-for-profit organisations that have benefitted from being a case on the Strategic Leadership Programme include:

Te Runanga o Ngati Awa, Kidscan, NZ Heart Foundation, Unicef, World Vision, Canteen, ChildFund, Girl Guides, Ronald McDonald House, Returned Services Association, Northern Rescue Helicopter Trust, Surf LifeSaving NZ, Presbyterian Support Northern, Royal NZ Foundation for the Blind, The Sir Peter Blake Trust, IHC, SPCA, Project K, The Christchurch Arts Centre, Water Safety New Zealand, NZ Drug Foundation, Plunket, Outward Bound, Diabetes New Zealand, Halberg Trust, Hospice West Auckland, Waipuna Hospice, Anglican Care Waiapu, Enterprise New Zealand Trust, Big Buddy, YWCA, Clown Doctors, Assistance Dogs NZ, Centre for Multi-Cultural Youth, Big Brothers Big Sisters of NZ, Auckland City Rotary, The PACE Centre, Gold Rush, Back-Up, Shine- Te Kakano Tumanko, Star Jam, Snow Farm, GC, Central Otago Pinot Noir, Crime Stoppers, Stars, Turning Point – Alcohol and Drug Centre, Time for Life Hospice NZ, Sport Wellington, Foundation for Youth Development.

ISL is also a strong believer in unleashing the potential of young people; a belief Geoff has held since his time at Otago and Auckland Universities and continued to role model at ISL.  ISL has, over the years, provided over 40 graduates with their first job or an internship experience that has been pivotal in their careers. Geoff’s belief in the value of diversity has seen team members from New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, France, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, Russia, India, Sri Lanka, China and USA. ISL has provided a young, diverse team opportunity of a lifetime that have led to extraordinary careers.