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An identified gap in the higher education sector is the development of leadership capacity for teaching and learning. Significant funding has been allocated by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) to support the development of academic leadership in higher education. The outcomes of this initiative will ultimately improve the student experience as a more scholarly approach to the many aspects of teaching and learning is adopted. One project funded by ALTC supported four universities to develop and trial a framework for leadership capacity development. Five critical factors for success were identified including authentic learning activities that were situated in real contexts; formal leadership training and professional development initiatives; engagement in reflective practice including opportunities for dialogue about leadership practice and experiences; and activities that expanded current professional networks. In this paper we specifically examine how authentic learning environments enabled leadership capacity development and informed assessment practices within institutional and national contexts.