Informal leadership learning can be described as development through experiences where managers learn, grow and undergo personal change as a result of the roles, responsibilities and tasks encountered in their jobs (McCauley & Brutus, 1998), and so reflect emergent and accidental events rather than a deliberate and consciously planned approach to development.
A significant group of researchers have identified that leadership and management development occur primarily through developmental experiences and relationships. These researchers have not sought to distinguish between leadership and management.
As a consequence the review of extant informal management development literature will draw insights interpreted to be related to leadership learning.
The impact of relationships and experiences occur at a very young age, shaped by parents and teachers. From a relational perspective, parents act as role models (Anderson, 1943) providing value standards, such as work ethic (Bass, 1990) or the value of education (Gibbons, 1986).
The influence of, and relationship with, a strong maternal authority was seen to be influential (Bass, 1990). For example, research on 30 CEOs, selected because of their business success, were found to have strong parental role models; again in most instances these role models were their mothers (Piotrowski & Armstrong, 1987).
Children who were in leadership roles in teams appeared to be associated with parents who set high standards and had achievement expectations linked to discipline accompanied with parental warmth (Klonsky, 1983).