Shedding Light on Leadership Competencies in a Minority Language Context in Canada’s Francophonie (outside Quebec)

Innovative research on “Leadership in a Francophone Minority Context” shed light on the extraordinary set of leadership skills that must be developed in order to carry out the mission of an organization in a Francophone minority language context and to ensure the sustainability of their community in this particular context.

Marie-Helene Gaudreault

Partner, Boyden Ottawa
Partner, Boyden Ottawa

Ottawa, Jan. 26, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Boyden, a premier leadership and talent advisory firm with more than 70 offices in over 45 countries, shares the first research of its kind into ‘leadership in a Francophone minority context,’ conducted by linguist and leadership talent expert Marie-Hélène Gaudreault, Partner at Boyden Canada, based in Ottawa.

“With an early interest in sociolinguistics, experience in advising organizations in both a majority language context in Quebec and in a minority language context in Ontario, and through my work in executive search, I have acquired an understanding of both linguistic contexts that drive my curiosity about the specific challenges, contextual factors, and personal requirements for leadership in minority Francophone organizations,” explains Marie-Hélène Gaudreault. “To my knowledge, this is the only research that exists about leadership skills to ensure the success of organizations in a minority language context. A greater understanding of these factors, coupled with the professional and personal capabilities of leaders, is essential to future-proof organizations in the Canadian Francophonie and to ensure the sustainability of the Francophone minority community itself, which needs these organizations to be able to live and evolve in French.”

Gaudreault’s research is based on 80+ interviews with Francophone senior managers across Canada (outside Quebec and therefore working in a minority language context) to understand success factors for leadership and shifting competencies, and to identify robust recommendations for leaders and boards in their leadership succession planning and future proofing. Findings also provide advice for the next generation of Francophone executives and policy makers across key sectors such as education, healthcare, and the arts.

“What I discovered during my interviews is that the particular context in which managers in a Francophone minority context evolve requires them to develop specific skills in order to meet the challenges they face and adapt to this particular context. For example, Francophone organizations in a minority context generally have less human and financial resources, serve a decentralized population often spread out over a vast territory, are often linked to politics, and/or are protected by legislation.”

Across every political context, geographic location, and demographic, Gaudreault’s research reveals many similarities among Francophone leaders in minority language contexts across Canada and all sectors. Here are the 10 most frequently cited leadership skills for carrying out the mission of an organization in such a context, showing the need for comprehensive personal attributes well beyond technical capabilities.

1. Collaboration and benevolence

2. Versatility and humility

3. Diplomacy and political acumen

4. Openness and inclusion

5. Flexibility, adaptation and creativity

6. Listening to and reflecting on the community

7. Lobbying and influential leadership

8. Vision and excellence

9. Communication and language skills

10. Resilience and positivity

One of Gaudreault’s research subjects commented, “I was thrilled that this area has become a focus for subject matter expertise. A number of my peers have trodden paths in leadership that have been exceptionally demanding from a professional and emotional perspective. Leaders in the Francophone minority context have proved their resilience for decades, to bolster and maintain our community and ensure that it continues. It’s not easy, but exceptionally rewarding.”

In 2022, her expertise within the Francophone community in a linguistic minority context earned her the position of Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Université de l’Ontario français (UOF) for the establishment of a new Bachelor of Management program that will specifically develop the skills of the future leaders of organizations operating in a linguistic minority context.

Read the full report (in French only), Leadership in a Minority Francophone Context, by Marie-Hélène Gaudreault.

About Boyden

Boyden is a premier leadership and talent advisory firm with more than 70 offices in over 45 countries. Our global reach enables us to serve client needs anywhere they conduct business. We connect great companies with great leaders through executive search, interim management and leadership consulting solutions. Boyden is ranked amongst the top companies on Forbes’ Americas Best Executive Recruiting Firms for 2021. For further information, visit


  • Marie-Helene Gaudreault
CONTACT: Chris Swee, CMO Boyden [email protected] Joanna Goncalves, Global Senior Director of Marketing Boyden [email protected] 

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