Learning Leadership in the Lab of Life

Do you need to develop leadership skills in that newly promoted supervisor or that seasoned manager who is moving into the executive suite? One instinct (and often a good one) is finding training relevant to the skills the individual needs to develop. Training is helpful, but sometimes, the best learning comes directly from the lab of life, also known as the real world.

However, just dropping that new leader into a “stretch” assignment and expecting him or her to learn on their own and succeed often turns into a failure of monumental proportion. Those of us in the training and development field can partner with upper management to help support that new leader during their developmental assignment to maximize the learning outcomes, not just the accomplishment of the project.

Frank Guglielmo and Sudhanshu Palsule offer some advice in the newest issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine. The best learning opportunities have four distinct components:

  • Novelty – Whether it is the context, scope of responsibilities, substance, or skills, there must be elements of the developmental assignment that are new. These new features will stimulate new learning, connections, and insights as the leader moves through the project.
  • Opportunities for Innovation – Learning rarely happens as a result of tight constraints. One of the intentions of a developmental assignment for new leaders must be the freedom to try out new approaches and experimentation.
  • Inherent Feedback – With experimentation comes success . . . and failure. A process of developmental feedback must be built into the assignment if learning is to occur.
  • Learning Mindset – Finally, everyone must keep in mind that the assignment was given for one primary purpose–learning. While the workplace applications are critical and tied to business outcomes, the original intention was for leadership learning and development. Everyone involved must keep a learning mindset for this to be an effective leadership development approach. Done well, this learning mindset can carry into future aspects of leadership development encouraging a leader as “learner” rather than “knower” attitude.

Contact MSEC training and development experts for more insight of developing leaders in your organization.