Billions of dollars are spent globally on the development of leaders in organisations on an annual basis. Research suggests that the return on this investment is limited, or at best, difficult to observe. The need for skilled managers and leaders is growing continually, and, while organisations are attempting to close the competency deficits of their managers and leaders, they are simultaneously confronted by increasing competitor activity and ever more educated consumers demanding up-to-the-minute information and world-class service. Simultaneously, technology is evolving at a higher pace than ever, leaders are more globally mobile than ever, the search for talent is becoming increasingly difficult and individual leaders have a better understanding of themselves than ever in the history of the employment of leaders by organisations. Despite this global phenomenon, many organisations still make use of leadership development processes that employ models of education created in ancient Greece and consolidated in Europe in the middle ages. Such educational models are characterised by content-driven processes in which respected subject matter experts, employed by educational institutions, enforce their wisdom on students. These students are deemed effective based on their ability to comply with the learning content. More recent evolutions in this basic model demand from students to internalise learning content and demonstrate such content in the performance of their duties for the benefit of their sponsors. Despite this incremental improvement, the same basic model still applies: leaders as students are subordinated to the demands of their sponsors through learning content and guided to compliance to the learning process by teachers who hold subject matter expertise. So entrenched has the model become (as indeed is the nature of paradigms) that the very mention of alternative models may appear un-educational. This author has had the privilege of working with a range of organisations, from companies with global market leadership, to South African listed organisations and government entities. In engaging with these organisations he has fulfilled two roles: one as internal senior manager with responsibility for leadership development processes, and the other as external consultant and facilitator of leadership development. This work has occurred at all levels, from engaging with Chief Executive Officers, board members and Executive Teams, to senior, middle and junior managers as well as aspiring managers and team leaders. This engagement constitutes the fieldwork as foundation for the research in this thesis. This author has employed the qualitative research methodologies of Grounded Theory and Ethnography within the context of Mode 2 Knowledge Production to develop the conceptual tools in order to address the need of the leadership development industry for a more effective Morne Mostert Thesis 2008 AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT THROUGH SYSTEMIC LEADERSHIP LEARNING The Da Vinci Institute for Technology Management
approach to leadership development. The theory that has emerged from this research is known as Systemic Leadership Learning. It proposes an integrated approach to leadership development in which the systems of the leader, organisation, learning content and facilitator are integrated into a systemic whole. This is done against the background of the integration of three fields of study as reviewed in the literature, namely Leadership, Systems Thinking and Learning, supported by the use of Story. Following two peer reviews and numerous engagements with a wide range of organisations, the author concludes that the leader holds a self-perception of being the supra-system during the learning process. This insight has significant implications for the way in which organisations conceptualise, design, develop, facilitate, assess and evaluate leadership development processes. Most notably, the...
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