New leadership programme sends career and personal development into higher orbit

Primary page content

A leadership course tested by Paralympic coaches, International Space Station personnel, and NHS leaders is now launching for anyone who wishes to gain greater success and fulfilment by inspiring and guiding others to develop the best in themselves.

Image shows a woman in the 1940s wearing sunglasses and holding binoculars, to symbolically illustrate purpose and leadership

The Purposeful Leadership course transforms the latest psychological, sociological, and biological research into a set of practical skills that leaders can use to help people imagine a meaningful future that they can strive to achieve together.  

Participants will quickly learn that they can use these life-enhancing skills to see more possibilities for overcoming the psychological and practical barriers that inhibit the professional and personal growth of colleagues, friends, and themselves.   

Purposeful Leadership is an eight-week, interactive course delivered by app.

Professor of Psychology and Management at Goldsmiths, University of London, Frank Bond, said: “This technology allows business leaders and entrepreneurs to immediately capture how skilfully they are dealing with challenging situations, implement potentially better solutions, and then to record their outcomes, in almost real time.

“Such dynamic and adaptive learning strengthens leaders to act more boldly in working with people to overcome difficult situations, so they can still deliver on their promises across all areas of their life, not just at work.”   

The app’s content was created and tested over the past five years by Professor Bond and Dr Jonathan Dowling at the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, along with psychologists and technology experts at 29k, a non-profit organisation. 

29k’s unique mobile platform brings together experts from a wide range of fields to produce a highly useable and effective app that anyone can use to enhance the skills that give meaning to their life, no matter what it is they do. 

Staying ALIVE

The course is based on a psychosocial model of human behaviour change, successful living, and personal fulfilment called ALIVE (‘Actively Living Interconnectedly and Vitally Engaged’), which is based on a substantial research programme led by Bond and Dowling.   

Research on ALIVE shows how important it is for people to relate and work with a more open, adaptive, and ‘sense-making’ approach to life. Such an engaged stance to life is infectious and informative. It can help people to establish the solid personal connections they need to become successful leaders. 

Over the past two decades, Bond and his team’s research has been influential in informing government policy on organisational stress and performance. Their work has shown how organisations and their leaders can enhance business benefits, while promoting employee flourishing and health. 

ALIVE highlights those requisite skills, which are now applied in Purposeful Leadership training, most recently with elite professionals. Bond and colleagues have successfully tested Purposeful Leadership in two complex interventions; one that enhanced the performance of the European Space Agency’s mission-critical personnel; and the other that improved the Olympic medal success of the British Paralympic Association table tennis team. Other studies by Bond have improved the performance of other elite athletes, and even elite classical musicians in Europe and the United States.   

From 2010, Bond consulted with Team GB and ParalympicsGB to train sport psychologists as part of a new approach to developing effective leadership skills that promote a cohesive and involved group of team members. This work created a more open and effective relationships between coaches and players, and a significant increase in the number of medals won by table tennis players (and other UK athletes) at the Rio Olympics. 

Bond and colleagues have also worked with key personnel at ESA, including spacecraft communicators, biomedical scientists, and engineers at their Astronaut Training Centre. They worked with these teams to ensure improvements in mission-critical areas such as communication, planning, and operations. Their work facilitated and constituted a wide-ranging organisational change initiative at ESA. 

Consistent with PL training, Bond worked with ESA to provide employees with greater autonomy, or ‘job control’, so they could use their expertise to better communicate with, and probe the mood of, astronauts. This created a more satisfying environment for astronauts, which helped them to more effectively accomplish their duties in the complex and highly dangerous environment of the International Space Station.  

'Live and learn as a leader' through 29k

29k’s innovative platform delivers the Purposeful Leadership course content, a crucial element of which promotes peer-sharing and peer-learning. Unique to this course, such peer-to-peer interactions are not a ‘nice to have’. Instead, as demonstrated at ESA, the stronger connections that this involved-learning establishes amongst trainees is critical to develop and consolidate their learning experience. Trainees have weekly opportunities to connect with each other in small groups to enhance both their overall learning and to cultivate the communication skills that tend to separate successful leaders from merely mediocre ones. 

Uniquely, Purposeful Leadership trainees receive weekly notifications via their smartphones. Thought of as ‘quests’, or ‘ways to approach everyday leadership situations’, this enables trainees to ‘live and learn as a leader’ on that day, and tune in later to their experiences of doing so.

Bond and Dowling’s research has shown that this highly interactive and ‘real time’ learning is key to maximising people’s ability to develop their own style of effective leadership that reflects and enables them to lead with a sense of purpose and understanding. 

Purposeful Leadership consists of eight lessons, one per week, beginning with an introduction to “mastering the magic of leading by tuning in and taking responsibility”. As the course progresses, trainees will explore how to engage others in pursuing purpose as they accomplish their goals; building influence and trust; learning to question your prior assumptions about yourself and others; socially interacting for what matters to you and your group, such as pursuing shared goals; imagining possible futures and planning for the road ahead, all while remaining laser-focused on how you can do this more skilfully for purposes that matter to you.

This course is unusual in that it draws together the fragmented fundamentals and gold standard approaches to effective leadership and unifies them in the ALIVE model.

Professor Bond said: “This coherence, rarely attempted by leadership experts, allows trainees to more easily and skilfully see how they can succeed in the pursuits that they undertake. It allows them to tie together theory and practice, so that they can use the former to inform how they can best approach novel situations that no textbook has an answer for. Learning to tie together such evidence-based theory and practice is critical to successful leadership, but it is rarely taught on many courses, usually owing to time constraints. On our course, this approach is fully baked into what we teach. 

“As leadership is such a critical skill that runs through every aspect of our lives, from planning a family holiday to running a multinational company, people can lead in so many different situations and in so many different ways.”   

“This course aims to transform people’s ability to lead in an effective way that is comfortable to them. They can then use this authentic approach to apply the knowledge they are learning, so they can lead in any situation  they are asked to step-up to, even if the words CEO, director, or manager aren’t in their title.”  

Students can choose to enrol in a certified course through Goldsmiths Short Courses or take the course on their own by downloading the 29k app for free. 

About the 29k Foundation 

29k is a non-profit foundation that works to strengthen mental health and increase the quality of people's decision-making in order to contribute to a more socially and environmentally sustainable society. 29k was initiated by the Norrsken Foundation and the Ekskäret Foundation and co-created with some of the world's leading researchers, philanthropists, and tech entrepreneurs. The foundation has produced a global platform that transforms the most effective psychological methods into meaningful individual experiences.

For more information, visit