Leadership Is Developed through Education and Experience “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

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Leadership Is Developed through Education and Experience

  • “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

  • ~John F. Kennedy

The Action-Observation-Reflection (AOR) Model

  • Leadership development is enhanced when the experience involves three different processes:

    • Action – what did you do
    • Observation – what happened; results and impact on others
    • Reflection
    • how do you look at it
    • how do you feel about it
    • could I have done it better
    • what have I learned from it

The Spiral of Experience

Colin Powell and the A-O-R Model

  • Action

    • Powell’s multiple calls for the parachutists to check their lines.
  • Observation

    • Powell’s shocked realization of the potentially fatal accident that would have occurred had he not double-checked the static lines.
  • Reflection

    • The lesson that Powell drew from the experience: “Always check the small things.”

The Key Role of Perception in the Spiral of Experience

  • Experience is not just a matter of what events happen to you; it also depends on how you perceive those events.

  • Perception affects all three phases of the action-observation-reflection model.

  • People actively shape and construct their experiences.

  • Distortion of what one hears or thinks they here

  • What you thought you meant vs what you REALLY meant

  • Line 10 people up in a row …………

Perception and Observation

  • Observation and perception both deal with attending to events around us.

  • We are selective in what we attend to and what we, in turn, perceive.

  • Perceptual sets can influence any of our senses, and they are the tendency or bias to perceive one thing and not another.

  • Factors that can trigger a perceptual set:

    • Feelings
    • Needs
    • Prior experience
    • Expectations

Perception and Observation (continued)

  • Stereotypes about genders, race, etc., represent powerful impediments to learning since they function as filters which distort one’s observational abilities.

  • We all have biases, although we are usually unaware of them.

  • We only become aware of our perceptual sets when we spend time reflecting about the content of a leadership training program or a particular leadership situation.

Kelly’s Theory of Attribution

  • Consensus – Other people’s behavior is the same as the person we are judging.

  • Consistency – The person we are judging acts the same way at all times

  • Distinctiveness – The extent in which a person behaves in the same manner in other contexts

Perception and Reflection

  • Reflection deals with how we interpret our observations.

  • Perception is inherently an interpretive, or a meaning-making, activity.

  • Attributions are the explanations we develop for the behaviors or actions we either do or observe.

  • The tendency to overestimate the dispositional causes of behavior and underestimate the environmental causes when others fail is called the fundamental attribution error ( he didn’t win because he didn’t practice)

  • Usually explains others actions in terms of internal vs external causes ( late for work = lazy)

Perception and Reflection (continued)

  • Self-serving bias is the tendency to make external attributions for one’s own failures, yet make internal attributions for one’s successes (blame vs brag)

  • Actor/observer difference refers to the fact that people who are observing an action are much more likely than the actor to make the fundamental attribution error (I think he failed because he is stupid/ I failed because he didn’t help me)

  • Reflection also involves higher functions like evaluation and judgment, not just perception and attribution.

Stereotypes, Prejudice, Guilt by Association

  • Stereotypes - belief that all members of specific groups share similar traits and behaviors ( Since the group that Bennett is in is weird, then Bennett must be weird)

  • Prejudice/ guilt by association – the unfounded negative emotions towards people belonging to a particular stereotyped group (I don’t like Bennett because he is a Professor)

Perception and Action

  • Research has shown that having expectations (positive or negative) about others can subtly influence our actions, and these actions can, in turn, affect the way others behave.

  • A person’s expectations about another may influence how he acts toward her, and in reaction to his behavior she may act in a way that confirms his expectation.

  • The self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when our expectations or predictions play a causal role in bringing about the events we predict. Predictions, hopes and fears become reality ( I think I am going to flunk Bennett’s class!)

  • Tendency for someone’s expectations about another to cause that individual to behave in a manner consistent with those expectations.

The Role of Expectations in Social Interaction

Reflection and Leadership Development

  • Reflection (the most neglected of the A-O-R model) provides leaders with a variety of insights into how to frame problems differently, look at situations from multiple perspectives, or better understand subordinates.

  • Leaders often do not have time to ponder all the possible consequences of their actions or reflect on how they could have accomplished a particular action better.

  • Has to do with time management and we all make excuses

  • I used to create alone time every afternoon for 15 minutes, close my eyes and THINK.

Single and Double-Loop Learning

  • Single-loop learners seek relatively little feedback that may significantly confront their fundamental ideas or actions.

    • Individuals learn only about subjects within the “comfort zone” of their belief systems. (don’t want to confront reality; “dreamers”)
  • Double-loop learning involves a willingness to confront one’s own views and an invitation to others to do so, too.

    • Openness to information and power sharing with others can lead to better recognition and definition of problems, improved communication, and increased decision-making effectiveness (a leader needs to know him/ herself before understanding others; allow push back, critique)
    • 360’ evals, culture surveys, strength/ weakness discussions, etc



  • All “looping” means is that a leader knows his/ her own strengths and weaknesses (limitations), is confident and reacts accordingly when interfacing with people.

Thinking Frames and Multiple Perspectives

  • Thinking Frames refer to the tactics and the strategies people use to organize their thinking and to construe the meaning of events.

  • The development of multiple perspectives may be one of the greatest contributions a formal course in leadership can make to a leader’s development.

  • One key to leadership success is having a variety of tools to choose from and knowing when and where to use them.

Leadership Development through Experience

  • Factors that make any given experience potent in fostering managerial growth:

    • The people you work with
    • The people you work for
    • The people you are responsible for
    • The environment you work in
    • The situations you are confronted with
    • The characteristics of the task itself
  • People who become leaders in any field tend to first stand out by virtue of their technical proficiency. NO

  • Leaders emerge or are selected for leadership roles on the basis of their competence or proficiency in their primary role requirements. NO

Changing Requirements for Success

The People You Work With

  • A boss can be a powerful catalyst for growth. (GOOD OR BAD ONE)

  • Working with others who have different backgrounds, perspectives, or agendas can often be a growth experience.

  • Working with problem subordinates can stimulate managerial growth.

  • Both mentors and mentorees benefit from having the relationship.

  • Having a mentor can result in more career opportunities for the mentoree.

Developmental Tasks

  • Leadership development can be enhanced if the environment one works in is changing, dynamic, uncontrollable, and unpredictable.

  • Projects involving strategic planning and projections into an uncertain future can be challenging intellectually and can contribute to a leader’s development.

  • The best development opportunities are those that stretch individuals and allow them to test themselves against new and difficult tasks.

  • The risk of possible failure is a strong incentive for managers to learn. (Take risks; take risks; take risks)

Developmental Opportunities

  • Organizations may not provide the same development opportunities for all their members.

  • There is a striking difference between large and small organizations in the opportunities they offer.

  • The sheer size and impersonal nature of some organizations does not provide the soil in which a young person’s leadership can grow.

  • Mentor


  • Higher placed people

  • Long lasting relationships

  • Helps in career advancement

  • Get involved in higher placed situations; meetings, etc

  • Access to sr mgt easier

  • Longer lasting relationships

Making the Most of Your Leadership Experiences: Learning to Learn from Experience

  • The learning events and developmental experiences that punctuate one’s life are usually stressful.

  • Being able to go against the grain of one’s personal historical success requires an unwavering commitment to learning and a relentless willingness to let go of the fear of failure and the unknown.

  • To be successful, learning must continue throughout life, beyond the completion of one’s formal education.

Anatomy of a Learning Experience

Leadership Development through Education and Training

  • Research has shown that:

    • Education level or academic performance in college was positively related to future managerial success.
    • Educational programs generally have a positive effect on leadership development.
    • Formal education and training programs can help one become a better leader.
  • The content of different leadership programs varies considerably, depending on the target audience.

University Courses in Leadership

  • Spitzberg (1987) estimated that over 500 colleges or universities offer some type of leadership training program.

  • The topics covered in most leadership courses include how personality traits, cognitive abilities, values, behaviors, motivation, group dynamics, communication, situational factors, and different theories of leadership can all be used to describe the leadership process.

  • Some courses provide individualized feedback through:

    • Case studies
    • Role Playing
    • Simulations and games
    • Lecture

Leadership Training Programs

  • There are numerous leadership training programs aimed particularly toward leaders and supervisors in industry or public service:

    • Seminars/ workshops
    • Case studies
    • Role-playing exercises to improve leadership skills
  • Programs for midlevel managers often focus on:

    • Improving interpersonal communication
    • Oral-communication
    • Written communication
    • Tips on time management, planning and goal-setting

Leadership Training Programs (continued)

  • Leadership development in the 21st century must occur in more lifelike situations and contexts.

  • Leadership programs for senior executives and CEOs tend to focus on strategic planning, public relations, and interpersonal skills.

  • The best way to guarantee that a leadership program will be useful to you or your organization is to adopt a systematic approach to leadership training.

Building Your Leadership Self-Image

  • Leadership develops through experience and formal education.

  • Not everyone wants to be a leader or believes he/she can be.

  • Some people believe that even if they want to be leaders, they may not have what it takes.

  • Experiment and take a few risks with different leadership roles.

Characteristics of:

  • Successful leader Derailed leader

  • Ability to develop/ adapt Inability to adapt

  • Ability to establish excellent Poor working relationships,

  • interpersonal skills non communicative

  • Ability to create an effective, Cannot create a cohesive

  • open, communicative culture team environment

  • Non authoritarian Authoritarian

  • Consistent performance Inconsistant

  • Ambitious Overly ambitious


10 Commandments of Leadership

  • Treat everyone with respect and dignity

  • Set the example for others to follow

  • Be an active coach

  • Maintain the ABSOLUTE highest standards of honesty and integrity

  • Insist on excellence and hold everyone accountable

  • Build group cohesiveness and pride

  • Show confidence in your people

  • Maintain a strong sense of urgency

  • ALWAYS be available and visible to your staff (everyone)

  • Continually develop yourself to your highest potential; then, and only then will you be able to develop other people to their highest potential.


  • One way to get more out of your leadership courses and experiences is through the application of the action-observation-reflection model.

  • Be aware of the role perception plays in leadership development.

  • Education and experience can contribute to your development as a leader by enhancing your ability to reflect on and analyze leadership situations.

  • Successful leaders are those who have “an extraordinary tenacity in extracting something worthwhile from their experience and in seeking experiences rich in opportunities for growth.”

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