Dr Michael marquardt1

The Power and Effectiveness of Action Learning in Developing Leaders

Dr Michael marquardt2Organisations are faced with the growing challenge of increasing the capabilities of their leader with less time and financial resources to do so. In addition, a new wider array of skills and competencies are needed by leaders in the 21st century, particularly the ability to solve complex problems, to build teams and to change organizational culture. Perhaps the ability to ask great questions is the most critical kill for leaders today.

Most leadership development programmes, however, whether corporate or academic, global or domestic, are infective and expensive. The weakness of traditional leadership development programmes are caused by a number of factors, most notably, (a) teachers and not practitioners are the purveyors of the knowledge (b) a separation exists between the learning and action, (c) very little learning is transferred to the workplace, (d) the business environment is changing so fast the knowledge gained from the programme is too slow and inadequate, and (e) the absence of reflective thinking in the education progress. As a result, business schools produce individuals who are technologically literate and able to deal with theoretical problem-solving models, but are essentially distances from the human dimensions that must be taken into account. Such developing programmes provide little of the social and interpersonal aspects of the organisations and tend to focus on tactical rather than strategic leadership.

As a result, organisations are beginning to look at new, less traditional way of training their managers. Action learning has quickly emerged has the fastest growing and most effective tool in creating strong leaders who can avoid responding to today’s problems with yesterday’s solution while tomorrows challenges engulf us. A recent issue of Business Week describes Action learning development programmes introduced during the past 125 years. A 2008 study by ASTD indicated that 63% of all executive leadership programmes in the US used Action Learning. The Corporate Executive Bored noted that 77% of learning executives selected Action Learning as the top driver of leadership bench strength.

Dr Michael J. Marquardt is President at the World Institute for Action Learning

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