LEADERSHIP IN A LEARNING IN A LEARNING ORGANIZATION A Learning Organization can be defined as an organization where people continually expand their

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    A Learning Organization can be defined asan organization where people continuallyexpand their capacity to create the resultsthey truly desire, where new and expansivepatterns of thinking are nurtured, wherecollective aspiration is set free, and wherepeople are continually learning how to learntogether (Senge, 1990).

    Learning organizations use sharedleadership principles to maximize theirresources and develop leadership capacitywithin individuals. The organization can bedescribed as one that learns continuously andtransforms itself. Current literature onleadership development characterizes theleader as a coach, facilitator and guide.Images of leadership have shifted fromexpert, director, and controller to catalyst,information sharer, and coordinator.Leadership in learning organizations is basedon cooperative and collaborative partnershipapproaches.

    Individuals and their actions are the basisof a learning organization. The culture ofthe organization, including its history,vision and mission, and both official andinformal policies and procedures, forms thecontext for individual activities and theirimpacts.

    Senge described five disciplines:1.) Systems Thinking;2.) Personal Mastery;3.) Mental Models;4.) Building Shared Vision; and5.) Team Learning as the foundation of a learning organization.

    A similar view is expressed by Watkins &Marsick, 1993. Some basic characteristics arethat learning takes place in individuals,teams, the organization, and even thecommunities with which the organizationinteracts. Learning is a continuous,strategically used process - integrated with,and running parallel to, work. Learningresults in changes in knowledge, beliefs, andbehaviors. Learning enhances organizationalcapacity for innovation and growth. Theorganization has embedded systems tocapture and share learning.

    A comprehensive view of a learningorganization is that it is an organization inwhich learning begins at the level of theindividual, proceeds through the level of theteam, and is internalized, codified and storedat the level of processes and systems so wellestablished that everyone who comes incontact with them is able to participate inthem in a consistent manner.

    Ten Action Steps you can take as anindividual are to:1.) Assess Your Learning Culture;2.) Promote the Positive;3.) Make the Workplace Safe for Thinking;4.) Reward Risk-Taking;5.) Help People Become Resources for Each Other;6.) Put Learning Power to Work;7.) Map Out the Vision;8.) Bring the Vision to Life;9.) Connect the Systems; and10.) Get the Show on the Road(Kline & Saunders, 1993).

    1998 Printing

    Part 9 of SeriesHD:Katey\Newsletter\Shared Leadership


    Earnest, Garee W. and Gunderson, Gail(1998). Leadership for LearningOrganizations; Workshop for the Associationof Leadership Educators Pre-Conference,Charleston, SC.

    Jones, Jo M. (1998). The Ohio State University,quoted in Earnest and Gunderson.

    Kline, P., & Saunders, B. (1993). Ten Steps to aLearning Organization. Arlington, VA: GreatOcean Publishers.

    Senge, P.M. (1990). The Fifth Discipline: TheArt & Practice of the Learning Organization.New York: Doubleday Currency.

    Is not a label but a philosophy to embrace;

    Nurtures new and expansive patterns ofthinking;

    Sees reality objectively;

    Has the capacity to multilaterally create andfocus upon a shared picture of the future;

    Has the ability for a team to synergisticallyproduce extraordinary results throughcoordinated action;

    Is a workplace safe for thinking;

    Gives rewards for risk-taking...withoutintelligent risks, success becomes impossible;

    Is a powerful link between personal masteryand organizational success;

    Creates empowered teams that share, grow,and learn together;

    A Learning Organization...

    Has a full awareness of the power andrelevance of systems thinking;

    Results in changes in our knowledge, beliefs,and behaviors;

    Enhances an organizations capacity forinnovation and growth;

    Turns crisis into opportunities;

    Has a norm energy, passion for the future,and capacity to take risks;

    Frequently asks What if.... questions;

    Will envision possibilities and alternativescenarios;

    Will be looking for people excited aboutthinking through all aspects of what is atthe present and what could be in the future.

    (Jones, 1998)

    Cooperative Extension ServiceK-State, County Extension Councils, Extension Districts, and U.S. Department of AgricultureCooperating. All educational programs and materials available without discrimination on the basisof race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, or disability.

    A project of the Developing Effective LeadersProject Action Team

    Prepared by Doris Katey Walker,Extension SpecialistFamily Resources and Public Policy

    Watkins, K.E., & Marsick, V.J. (1993).Sculpting the Learning Organization: Lessonsin the Art and Science of Systematic Change.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

    With thanks to Earnest and Gunderson for theirworkshop materials.


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