Leadership Development

Leadership Development: Holes in the fabric of traditional learning methodology01 Apr

Emerging leaders today emerge from leadership development programmes with skills in the various modules they have completed, but without the advanced capability of seeing the big picture of how business works as an interdependent system.

In fact in today’s world, even system’s theory is no longer a set of interdependent elements that can be sustained by a mathematical formula that maintains a sustainable relationship between the system and its environment. The notion of chaos has created a turbulence that threatens to continuously destabilise organisational systems. How then do emerging leaders, equipped with this constrained skills set based on traditional, linear thinking in business science, deal with a world that laughs in the face of linearity and predictability?

What we don’t teach our students is firstly how to resolve problems in community. Today’s problems are way too complex to be resolved by one person. Interdisciplinary community involvement provides a platform for multiple inputs and the generation of new knowledge necessary to provide new solutions to new challenges. It exploits enriching Gestalt theory where what emerges from the interaction is greater than the sum of its parts.

We don’t teach our emerging leaders to think critically, to argue and to dialogue at the deepest levels, which will provide a platform for the emergence of innovative solutions. We definitely do not introduce the notion of context and transience into problem solving that is characteristic of the 21st century.

Where you have constant change and transformation, solutions to problems often only have a short life span. We teach students to rely on precedent way too much rather than being comfortable with a transient solution that is integrated into the specific context of a specific problem. Old fashioned management teaching says ‘fix a problem once’ but we need to teach our students to have tolerance to deal with recurring issues that may not necessary ‘stay fixed’ because of the continuous transformation in our environment.

Our leaders emerging from development programmes have no idea of how to enter into deep discourse in the resolution of problems. They do not know how to talk to people in a way that draws out their best creative thinking. The art of reflection is seldom brought into play, yet most of the dialogue models that have integrity in solving complex problems, emphasise this reflective space as crucial in the process.

We are generating leaders that have fixed, linear mindsets, who rely on outdated methodologies to apply to complex problem solving situations. We teach them skills, but leadership in the chaotic postmodern context is about so much more than the simple application of learned skills.

It is little wonder that our emerging leaders are ill-equipped to grapple effectively with the leadership challenges of the postmodern world. We need a change in learning paradigm, one that matches and supports the complexity of the world in which our emerging leaders must live, work, and make a difference.

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Dr. Elaine Saunders – Industrial Psychologist

Phd in Leadership Development
Author of Assessing Human Competence
Specialising in online competency-based assessment tools, leadership development and performance counselling
Based in Sandton, Johannesburg

My key areas of intervention revolve around helping individuals to achieve their potential in the work context. To this end, my consulting practice comprises of three key applications which are related. These are the application of competency-based assessment in recruitment and leadership development, counselling as it pertains to performance, wellness and the recovery from trauma, and leadership development coaching.

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