Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Integrating Theory and Experience for Working Adult Students Using the Learning Leader Journal

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Integrating Theory and Experience for Working Adult Students Using the Learning Leader Journal

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

This paper introduces the Learning Leader Journal, an exciting learning technique for leadership development, that melds on-the-job experience with an understanding of theory. The Journal was designed for executives in leadership development for the purpose of their understanding, interpreting, assessing, and successfully applying lessons from their experience and leadership theory.

   "I believe that leaders need to be good at psychology -- starting with self
   knowledge. Leaders today can't be manipulators, not even slick
   manipulators. They have to be genuine. They have to have gotten over their
   own internal hurdles."
                               -- Mort Meyerson
                      CEO, Perot Systems (1996)
                        "What it takes to lead"
   Fast Company, Greatest Hits, Vol. 1., p. 11.
   "Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity
   is my own experience. No other person's ideas, and none of my own ideas,
   are as authoritative as my experience."
                           -- Carl Rogers (1961)
                           On Becoming A Person
                Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, p. 23.
   "An unexamined life is not worth living."
                                   -- Socrates

The purpose of this paper is to suggest an approach to executive leadership development that is based solidly on the principles of both learner-centered and adult education. It is an approach that uses a technique designed for executives; it melds job-related experience, personal insight and academic theory in a practical, immediately relevant way. It is a technique that closes the gap between theory and practice and adds an exciting new dimension to the adult learners' classroom experience. This technique also serves as an ongoing record of learning achievement and an agenda for further development. The technique is called the Learning Leader Journal (LLJ).

While the concept of journal writing is as old as writing itself and while it has been used extensively for the purpose of helping students reflect on their learning (Bailey, Saparito, Kressel, 1997; Coghlan, 1993), and often as an accompaniment to in-class experiential exercises (Viega, 1975), its potential as an executive development tool and a means for behavioral change, hasn't been fully utilized.

Why A Journal?

Behavior is personal. Leadership is the result of an interaction between people. In order to understand the dynamics as they apply to an individual the learner must experience, and be conscious of, his or her behavior in interpersonal situations while attempting to influence others. Naturally, observing others' behavior in the arena of action as well as one's own is valuable and an essential aspect of using the LLJ as a self-reflective device. In other words, disciplined observation with the benefit of classroom theory helps adult learners develop insight and speculate about their own inclinations in light of their work environment and the actual dynamics they have experienced. The classroom, then, serves as a debriefing opportunity to wrestle with the issues that arise from the individuals' experience and behaviors and from their attempt to apply and understand theoretical concepts in their workplaces.

Perhaps the most important reason to employ the journal as a central learning tool is that it helps get each learner right to the point as THEY define it. Nurick observed: "If so little is known for certain in organizational behavior, what then can we teach?" He concurred with McGee (1987) that the major goal of teaching is "to teach others how to teach themselves and to instill the desire to know" (1989: 667). The LLJ seems to be a useful device for expediting the learner's lifelong development and a vehicle for establishing and clarifying what matters most to him or her.

(See the Appendix for an overview of the 2-Credit Module: Learning Leader Journal to be used at the University of Phoenix as part of a proposed Doctor of Management program in Organizational Leadership. …

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