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Leading with purpose in L&D: Stella Lee

Digital learning has been key to helping employees and businesses adapt over the last few years. Due to their critical input, L&D teams find themselves in an exciting position. Hear how Stella Lee, founder of Paradox Learning, wants everyone to grasp the opportunity of greater influence to lead with purpose. Explore how to be a learner advocate with thoughtful L&D thinking.

Leading with purpose podcast

Top tips to make sure L&D leads with purpose

Don’t have time to listen now? Here are some top tips from Stella:

  1. Grasp the opportunity to influence: Use your increased credibility to move away from traditional L&D thinking. Play a wider role in your organization.
  2. Lead with purpose: Refocus the conversation on purpose. Explore the employee experience and uncover their real needs and barriers to performance.
  3. Be your learners’ advocate: This isn’t just about creating better learning experiences. It’s a continuous process that supports employees throughout their careers.
  4. Make your design thoughtful: Get inspired by thoughtful interaction design. Take your thinking beyond technical designs concerns to focus on intention.

1. Grasp the opportunity to influence

Learning and development have been key to supporting employees through the recent years of dynamic change. From new ways of working to ‘The Great Resignation’, L&D has proved essential to helping businesses respond effectively. And this has changed the way the wider business and key stakeholders view L&D teams.

Stella sees this as a great opportunity for organizations to move away from thinking of L&D as only responsible for training. From recruitment and retention to new tech and privacy, it’s time to explore the wider role you can play in an organization. If it impacts the employee experience, L&D should be in the conversation.

“I’m excited that L&D has the opportunity to do a little bit more. To think outside the box from just more traditional training…And to look across the organization, and all the different places we can actually add value.”

2. Lead with purpose

Being part of business conversations is just the start. You need to use your increased credibility to create a positive impact for employees across your organization.

For Stella, it’s all about refocusing the conversation on purpose. After all, you won’t create an effective solution unless there’s a need for it. Whether you’re discussing new tech or employee retention, you need to understand the real business context. Explore the employee experience. Uncover their business barriers. This will move the business away from short-term fixes to long-term solutions.

“Get yourself informed and educated about these issues. It’s important to ask the right questions, and position yourself and your team within the context of the company…You don’t want to procure a piece of learning tech and it’s not addressing the key challenges: Is this actually doing us any good from my L&D perspective? Is it meeting the needs of the organization?”

3. Be your learners’ advocate

Recent years have seen people disengage and leave organizations in huge numbers. Of course, pay plays a part. But it’s often more about the lack of development opportunities. In this landscape, taking a people-centered approach is more important than ever.

Stella explains that this isn’t just about being employee focused to create better learning experiences. You need to advocate for learners. Support employees throughout their career journey, not just at one point. Make learner advocacy a continuous process.

“Think about how you can advocate for your learners. Ask why is this useful? What’s the purpose we serve by introducing by using this data, by buying this LMS, by implementing this program. I really think that we have an opportunity to influence in a broader way…and from a learner centric perspective.”

4. Make your design thoughtful

Influence isn’t a one-way street. Stella’s human computer interaction background has shaped how she puts people and purpose at the center of her work. Thoughtful interaction design takes her thinking beyond technical concerns to focus on intention.

Stella’s thinking has also been influenced by the privacy by design framework used in software development. It starts with users’ privacy as default and puts this purpose at the center of all work.

“We can do thoughtful L&D. It’s [about focusing on] the intention that you talk about.  Thoughtful L&D from a data driven decision making perspective. Thoughtful L&D from a technology selection and implementation perspective. Thoughtful L&D from a leadership development perspective. There are so many pockets [we need] to think about.”

A quick recap

After years of rapid change, L&D has emerged with more credibility than ever. Stella has four strategies for using this to create greater impact in your organization:

  • Grasp the opportunity to influence your business
  • Lead with purpose in all your conversations and decisions
  • Advocate for your learners’ needs throughout their career journey
  • Apply thoughtful L&D thinking in every area of your organization

Want to find out more? Check out the full podcast.

About Stella

After over 20 years of experience in the digital learning, education, and technology field, Stella founded the consultancy firm Paradox Learning. Whether she’s working with large enterprises or tech start-ups, governments or non-profits, her focus is always on the learner.

You can find out more and get connected with Stella Lee on LinkedIn.

On Stella’s listening and reading list

Find out which podcast and book are currently influencing Stella’s thinking.

Radical AI podcast

The ethics around the use of technology is more relevant than ever. This podcast gives Stella insight into the latest thinking around everything from surveillance to artificial intelligence.

Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, Ruha Benjamin

This book explores how emerging technologies can reinforce white supremacy and deepen social inequity. Stella recommends it as a really interesting read.

Looking for more reading tips? Check out our books blog.

Join the conversation!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast, so feel free to get in touch on Twitter @learningatlarge with any questions or queries. You can also email Kirstie, our podcast host, at As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Learning at Large in your favourite podcast app and leave us a 5-star rating if you enjoyed it.