Leadership development: Learn by doing

November 8, 2017 by Wally Bock

Leadership development programs should help aspiring leaders learn leadership by doing leadership. Learning leadership is more like learning to ride a bike or learning to swim than it is like learning history. You won’t learn much if you don’t do much.

Leadership development programs should have lots of doing

Taking on developmental assignments should be the key way that aspiring leaders develop into effective leaders. There’s just no other way for that development to happen. No trying, no learning. There are some serious challenges hidden in that last phrase.

Developing leaders will make mistakes. Your program needs to treat those mistakes as a price you pay for future competency. The test of a leader’s development is not whether he or she gets it right the first time. Learning to lead is a lifetime endeavor. Your program is just the start.

Leadership development programs need more than just doing

Developmental assignments are key, but there must be more than doing. Courses and reading should help aspiring leaders learn what to expect and begin to formulate their personal leadership style.

There should be support for the aspiring leader as he or she tries on the leadership role. Mentors, coaches, and peers can help developing leaders learn from their experience.

One powerful way to learn leadership is to create a habit of reflection. Your leadership development program should help aspiring leaders learn to reflect and learn how to get the most from their experience.

The train of thought that led to this post began with the article “Taking Care to Prepare Leaders: Lessons from DaVita Kidney Care.”

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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  • I think learning by doing is key–if included with the other types of learning mentioned (mentors, reading, etc). People learn best in different ways. For me, I like watching someone or having someone coach me through how to complete a task. I learn better that way. Others learn best by reading and then writing out what they’ve learned. Incorporating all learning methods can ensure everyone grasps the principles needed to successfully lead.

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