For example, work by Avolio and Luthans (2006) identified the importance of ‘trigger moments’, Bennis and Thomas (2002) highlighted ‘transformative experiences’ that shifted an individual’s identity, and Janson (2008) identified the significance of ‘leadership formative experiences’ – often attached to emotional incidents.
All three studies anchor leadership learning to events and all three are aware that such events are only part of the story – difficulty lies in seeking to explore the gradual and imperceptible learning that occurs through the routine and mundane activities of everyday leadership acts.
McCauley, Moxley and Van Velsor (1998) synthesized their understanding of prominent processes of leadership learning and suggested that developmental experience is shaped by three elements:
- Assessment – understanding the need to change and how this can occur.
- Challenge – an opportunity that is perceived to be developmental.
- Support – an environment that encourages development.
The authors suggest that within the framework of assessment, challenge and support, learning through experience can be organized and enhanced by creating a variety of rich developmental experiences that are further heightened through developing an individual’s ability to learn within an organizational context.