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Action Learning In Leadership Development Education Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 3361 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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From recent study leadership is personal trait (Stogdill, 1948; Goleman, 1998) to a focus on the process and relationship between leaders and followers (Bass, 1985; Burns, 1978) leadership is a function of the entire collective process of all the personality traits. Leadership is developed by continuous steps of learning that is it cannot be developed at a time. It is developed through processes of learning. (Barker, 2001; Drath, 2001) Leonard, S. and Lang, F (2010) says that action learning for leadership development. He describes action learning is being used increasingly now days as a main method to build leadership skills and improving leadership behavior. He also describes different skills of leadership like cognitive skills, relationship skills, and self management skills are developed through action learning

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As described by the Reeve, S. (1999) described the importance of working in group in action learning. He describes that successful action learning creates good adult/adult relationship, respect, control of the learning experience, encouragement of cooperative and cohesive attitudes within the set, trust, confidence over ones own self and the cycle of learning towards its reflection. In groups people begin to value others opinions, suggestions are made about processes, methodologies and sources.

Serrat, O. [1] (2008) explains the process of action learning generates discipline to work within action learning steps which helps the individual to develop its personality traits. In action learning process he describes individual’s personal development, challenges, self confidence, help people to communicate more effectively, build leadership competences and organizations really feel the benefits of the outcomes of action learning.

Henderson, I. (1993) describes action learning as a link in management development He describes action learning as a main link in management, that without it effective development of the management cannot be possible. He described the phenomena that every job required specific demand, and these demands are fulfilled only when the person know the essential features of management work. This can be done through parasitizing in action learning.

Esons, S. and Kramer, R. (2007) describes the process that how the knowledge gained by action learning is used to develop leaders.He describes the processes through which action learners learn the abilities of a leadership behavior. He further describes the problems of transferring the knowledge in action learning which a major hindrance in leadership development. That includes the process of unlearning person’s previous norms and believes etc

Roberts, C. (2009) defines the leadership levels as an action learning approach.

Author explained that leadership is developed through mutual respect, trust, social awareness, and personal skills that are well gained by action learning. Like these all are traits of personality which a person learns through the process of action learning which makes him a leader.

Rapid I [2] (2010) describe the importance of action learning in leadership development.

He emphasizes that for leadership development it is important for the individual to have the capability to put learning into action.

Jay a conger and Ginka Toegel (2001) also describe action learning as a pathway to leadership development. According to the authors action learning develops those skills in a person which develops a pathway to the leadership behavior.

Robert, L. and Verna, J. (2003) explained action learning as a process of reflecting ones knowledge. They explained that process of action learning’s knowledge by gaining new knowledge and experience by coworker’s opinions and options. Through this entire individual learn and resolve real business problems. It also allows participants to answer questions.

Cho, Y. and Egan, T. (2010) describes the state of the art of the action learning research.

In the paper the authors describes the need for balance between action and learning through current state and the quality of action learning. It provides the information about action learning process


Action learning:

Action learning is a process by which a person study, analyze and implement his/her actions to improve the performance and the decision making process. It’s the process of solving the problems.

In action learning the size of group members varies from 5-7 which is called action learning sets. The meetings involve action learning usually takes place once in a month, but in some cases it may happens in once a week or even daily depending upon the course of work. Action learning sets work on a problem through questioning, which include deeper understanding. It provides a structured way of working that provides the discipline to work with in action learning sets. Action learning sets are primary focused on individual learning.

Action learning program involves:

The set: It involves a group of 6-8 people who meet regularly.

The projects: Each participant works on a task.

The set advisor: A facilitator who helps he group to work and learn together.

A set advisor is appointed to manage and help the learning. Learning sets are different from team because it focuses on individual learning rather than on combined objectives of a group. The set advisor is a part of the set but has some responsibility to create a learning by encouraging, challenging and focusing on learning. Every set will decide its own working way; usually a meeting involves a series of individual time where every individual takes its time to present the issue.

This normally involves:

An update on actions as compared from the last meeting.

Presentation of current issues or problems

Further pathway for future actions.

In this other individuals will work by listening and questioning to help them to decide actions to take.


“The meaning of a message is the change which it produces in the image” [3] 

Nowadays due to advancements in cultures and climate of the organizations, concept of leadership that it resides in one or very few individual at top level of the hierarchy, must change. Leadership ship capacity must reside in every individual as human capital to collective capital. Development of leadership is a step by step process, which starts from individual level to collective level.

Following are the few principles of leadership:

Know ones self and seek improvement for ones own self.

Be proficient

Search for the responsibilities and take the responsibility of actions

To make sound and timely decisions

Know other people and strive for their well being

Keep other workers informed about changes in the organization

Train the people as a team not just like group of people

Use the full capabilities of the organization

Critical analysis:

Action learning in leadership development:

The relation ship of action learning and leadership as

Action learning leads the individual to leadership.

“Action learners engage new ideas by asking questions to frame and reframe the presenting problem. Unlike conventional problem-solving approaches, action learning is a process of finding”

Action learning is used as a primary method for building leadership skills and for the improvement of leadership behavior. Action learning can be adapted to develop leadership behavior identified by individual action learning team members,

A common approach to leader development in 2003 employs an experiential process that starts with an assessment of an individual leader’s current competencies, strengths, and weaknesses to identify gaps between his/her present state and the ideal. Mostly the activity of leadership development for managers takes place outside the organization.

Action learning makes analysis and reflection to the group as members learn from each other. The changes implemented in the organizations are called actions. The basic principle of action learning is to change the thinking of individual. Those who will never be able to change their thinking will never be able to change the organizations processes and will never become an effective leader.















The power of action learning develops skills of questioning, listening and implementation. The process of action learning as a path way to leadership behavior is described by the following model

Above model describes the concept of how action learning helps in the development of the leadership development. As described through the above model action learning effects

Individual level

Departmental level

Organizational level

These involve a person to question about the quarries at all the above levels. Similarly learning is also concerned about three levels of a person in action learning. Same discussed in the process of the implementation or reflection which also held at three levels after action learning.

At the end all these behavior improvements at all levels lead to improvement and lead to an effective leadership development.

Action learning involves following:

1. Questioning:

Action learning is a process of experiential learning in which individuals learn by including programmed knowledge with questioning insight. Questions are more important than the answers. At first individuals involve them selves in new ideas by asking questions to frame and reframe the presenting problem.

Good and reasonable questioning provides knowledge. As the high quality questions provides following benefits:

It opens our minds from solving the queries in our minds which hinders the way to the solution.

They slow down the process of thinking and make us to think about new options.

They knock our emotions by questioning what is going inside our minds and motive to take action.

2. Learning:

Action learning is designed to learn from experience through actions and reflection of that action. It allows individuals to analyze and evaluate or the process of how individuals worked, and taking personal and individual learning from the process. In action learning groups can provide an effective setting for learning. it is the learning as transformation.

Deep questioning helps us to learn what is not known, as this the opportunity to learn. Through action learning individuals learn how to change their mindsets- their own and their fellow groups. In action learning the problem or the scenario provides the individual to learn the knowledge about the real time problems and will provide the individual the opportunities to think about the problem and its consequences from all angels

3. Implementation/Reflection:

Action learning involves implementation of solution of the problems. Actions are tested against the limits of the real organization culture. It also provides the insights to the individual about all the possible outcomes of the solution implemented.

By complete learning through action learning individual learn mutual adjustments between small groups which leads to the organizational change in structural process and development. This all represents an effective leadership behavior because of team learning and system thinking.

Reflection is more than evaluation that is changing the mind of the individual from gaining new knowledge. The focus on real problems in action learning emphasize on reflection all are the main reasons for knowledge and skill training. That is the concept that action learning unlearns the wrong ground base of a person and builds new ground base knowledge which is a good reflection of ones learning.

Following is the table which shows prominent points in which action learning helps in leader ship development:


Helps the individual to create both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills to collaboratively work on real problems and develop knowledge and more delegation.

Action learning helps in developing the new knowledge, skills and abilities and relational skills development. Skills and habits of questioning, listening and reflection.

Helps the individual to learn how to unlearn, as action learning provides the opportunity to solve the real problems. This will helps the individuals to unlearn their fears, puzzlements, Institutions, meanderings, habits, values, assumptions and beliefs.

Helps the individual to exploit the opportunities for further knowledge, skills and abilities

Action learning creates the abilities of diversity in individuals which helps him to create connections and shared meanings across the bounders

Help the individual to use positive form of performance management.

Group/departmental level:

Helps in implementation of carrier ladder.

Improves communication skills as an effective leader.

As in the group individual better know by action learning how to built high performing team, to collaborate more effectively.

The individual work as an effective leader by transferring the knowledge of process solved an urgent problem today, workplace problems tomorrow.

Helps in exploration of the opportunities for further networking development.

Organizational level:

It allows the individual to cope up with the departmental changes allover leads to the whole process change of the organization that is because of good leadership due to action learning.

It develops problem solving skills, system thinking, creativity, flexibility that will lead to leadership development within the organization.

Action learning makes the individual to support innovation with in the organization which leads him to the leadership behavior.

It allows the individuals to support participations and of corporate culture that can handle change with in the organization of other people that leads to a good leader.

Implications and applications for Human Recourses Development:

There are number of implications and applications like

It is important to identify leadership development competences that has been used in the action learning program, and have to develop opportunities during the meeting to discuss individual’s personal learning and planned purposes.

When every one in the organization is working in specific environment, the atmosphere in which leaders accepted their deficiency and need for improvement results opportunities for others to grow.

Action learning provides an opportunity for important and effective leadership development with less outside costs.

Action learning can be built on global challenges faced by the organizations.

The knowledge provided through action learning which leads to leadership development, invokes the organizations to make training programs for the employees to make them effective leaders.

Problems in action learning for leadership development:

Help us to learn how to UN-learn:

After questioning the main thing in action learning is the behavior to learn how to unlearn that will leads to the leadership. Unlearning involves two types of behavior:

Personal insight, norms and believes:

Personal insights are based to the capacity to learn about what we already learn. This includes the knowledge of a person based on his norms, believes, fears, assumptions and habits.

Personal taken for granted insights, norms and believes makes his base line for new information and experience weak. These may hinder the way to get new knowledge and to believe in new options of overcoming problem. This may confuse the individual between the new knowledge and previous. Thus in action learning it is must to unlearn the previous taken for granted norms, believes, habits, fears etc of the individual to make strong base of new knowledge

For this action learning must organized in a way that it makes a proper ground work so that new information can easily be assimilated. This will lead to the foundation of effective leaders.

Organization culture.

Some times the existing organization culture is so strong that it’s nearly impossible for the individual to implement that practice gained in the action learning to organization.

In this situation the organization must provide opportunities to the individuals so that they practice their knowledge in the organization to develop enhance their leadership capabilities.

Organization must provide all h opportunities to the individual to implement its learning in practice so that the process of organization change and a person can implement its leadership qualities into practice.

Moreover the organization must provide the frame work or ground work to implement learned knowledge into practice.


Action learning plays a very effective role in leadership development. Action learning helps the leaders apply their learning. Action learning provides the knowledge, skills abilities at individual level. It provides the confidence on ones self to take the decisions and to work in risk situations. It helps the individual to unlearn its taken for granted norms and values and further it helps individual to deal with problematic situations and its options. Moreover it develops the listening and questioning skills which improves the knowledge, skills and abilities. These all are the insight abilities of a person to be a leader.

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This will lead the individual to communicate and work effectively within a group. This will help the person to make decisions with in a group by mutual participations. At departmental level effective participation leads to the leadership behavior. As in action learning people work in sets of 5-7 people who have to meet after decided time interval, so in that learning process individual will better create a knowledge to work within a group while working on problems individually by taking decisions from all other coworkers.

To make decisions and communicate effectively, within groups will make the performance increases all over the organization. It involves the individual to participate at corporate level and to handle change within organizations which leads to leadership behavior.

Action learning makes the person to develop skills that prepare him for the leadership role on the job. The focus of action learning is to help managers to solve organizational problems. Action learning is it self a change strategy at organizational level which requires leaders involvement and support.

Action learning gives power to experience persons to apply their knowledge, solving the problems, increasing the confidence and company’s efficiency.

Action learning also encourages individuals to focus on smaller number of skills that are important and relevant to them. Action learning also provides the learning environment that allows the development of any leadership skills. Furthermore it provides real problems and their practice that are necessary for leadership learning to occur.


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