Leadership Development: Reflection Rather Than Training?

Reflection vs TrainingDrawing on Conger’s (1996) and Burgoyne et al.’s (2004) concerns about the efficacy of leadership training, and linked to Day (2000) and Drath’s (1998) argument for leadership development to be oriented towards social systems, should formal leadership development emphasize education more than training?

The complexity and idiosyncratic nature of contextual learning limits the appropriateness of ‘how to’ training methods of leadership (Barker, 2001). Rather, a reflective and educational accent might enable managers to understand their social phenomenological relationship with leadership and compare this to other models of leadership from which they can make relevant connections to their specific context.

Such a reflective pedagogy may give greater emphasis to learning how to lead through making sense of self, related to situated experience. Enabling an individual to surface, make sense and differentiate the quality of the informal experiences occurring in the context of their everyday activities, appears to be a critical catalyst to individual leadership development (Cunliffe, 2001).

Such a capability may greatly increase individual recognition of developmental environments and developmental experiences (Davies & Easter by- Smith, 1984) – recommendations for the development of educative practice are elaborated later.

A key development issue appears to be helping people to learn from experience (Day, 2000; Velsor & Guthrie, 1998; McCall, 1998; Conger, 2004). With respect to ‘high-flyers’, McCall (1998) argues that the most significant common attribute of these people was the talent that they had for learning from their experiences.

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