The Need for Self-directed Leadership Preparation for a Competitive, Complex, and Diverse Workplace
Both the complex role of a leader and challenges of contemporary competitive environment demand that leaders continue their education beyond and above what degrees and formal studies and training programs offer and actively engage in self-directed leadership preparation. Despite apparent benefits, there are several disadvantages of traditional leadership development tools. For example, Guglielmino writes that some valuable knowledge may be sometimes blunted by the constraints of institutionalized educational process. Also, the author notes that the fast-paced proliferation of new technology and knowledge that may be critical to maintaining an organization’s competitive edge demands that leaders educate themselves consistently and continuously. Finally, leadership development processes may be impeded by a leader’s lack of commitment, high costs of education programs, or failure of leadership preparation programs to achieve desired objectives. Therefore, there is apparent need for alternative approach to preparing leaders for managing and leading competitive, diverse, and complex workplace.
Self-directed learning seems to be a viable educational option that is applicable, relevant, and such that fits well within realities of contemporary competitive workplace environment. Guglielmino argues that this type of learning is a cost-effective and powerful opportunity for executive development within an organization. Moreover, when the organization motivates leaders to take responsibility for their own professional growth, such an arrangement creates optimal environment for leadership development. According to Guglielmino, the fact that self-directed learning may occur in different contexts such as one’s personal life, workplace, and formal learning settings makes it a valuable educational option across workplaces. Finally, Kaufman notes that a self-directed learning leader is a key to uncovering fresh ideas to today’s needs by taking initiative to diagnose learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying resources, and achieving tailored learning outcomes that benefit an organization. Therefore, self-directed learning allows obtaining critical skills needed to remain an effective leader. For example, complexity of a workplace environment may demand a leader to be aware of and successfully combine global orientation with problem solving and communication skills, awareness of economic modeling with awareness of industry and financial instruments, the ability to maintain strategic focus with integrity, and be skilled at conflict management and public relations. Finally, current dynamics such as globalization and increasing complexity of a leadership role in a globalized context call for flexible learning process, not bound by constraints of a formal approach to educating leaders. Therefore, the purpose of this proposal is to demonstrate that challenges of contemporary business environment such as globalization dynamics and resulting greater competitiveness as well as workplace diversity and complexity combined with deficiencies of traditional leadership development processes demand using self-directed leadership approach for preparing leaders capable of leading complex and diverse organizations to success.
Leadership Preparation: Addressing Competition, Complexity, and Diversity in the Workplace
Leaders are aware that choosing the correct marketing strategy and maintaining competitive advantage are keys to maintaining an organization’s relevant in the marketplace. Therefore, the value of self-directed learning increases manifold given its potential to enhance competitiveness of leaders and their respective organizations. For example, Wang believes that in the globalized competitive environment of tomorrow, one’s ability to engage in self-directed learning accounts for professional growth and being accomplishment-oriented and practical. The author notes that self-directed learning positively impacts self-directed leadership, staff development capabilities, and coalition and network building – some of the characteristics necessary for developing competitive advantage. Also, Guglielmino claims that self-directed learning fosters survival in a changing environment. Therefore, one may argue that a self-learning leader is likely to transform his or her organization into a learning one, increasing its chances to compete/expand and manage diversity successfully.
When one refers to complexity in running an organization, complexity may imply both intricate internal structure and a complex external environment subject to changes. In both instances, a leader must be proficient to cope with a workplace complexity. For example, Guglielmino claims that a high school graduate possesses only between one and two percents of knowledge that he or she will need for the rest of life. Furthermore, half of a current knowledge in the field of engineering becomes obsolete within two to eight years. Thus, increasing complexity and technological advances demand that a leader adequately engages in self-education to remain successfully employed and be able to manage incremental complexity of workplace.
Finally, it seems that similar globalization dynamics that foster greater competitiveness and complexity account for greater workplace diversity as well and increase pressure for self-directed learning. Kaufman writes that rapidly changing environment demands that leaders employ self-learning strategies to remain on the cutting edge of skills and knowledge required to maximize productivity. While Wang claims that learning occurs best in changing and challenging environment, Kaufman believes that fast-paced change and diversity are attributes of today’s workplace. At the same time, Guglielmino writes that rapidly changing circumstances and needs do not allow human resource departments to design adequate training to ensure that all employees remain on a cutting age of required skills and knowledge. Therefore, self-directed learning should be employed to address diversity-related leadership challenges.
Recommendations for Creating a Development Program to Build Deep Self-awareness and Growth
Suggested development program for building deep self-awareness and growth is modeled after the recommended by the Centre for Teaching Excellence of the University of Waterloo a four-step self-directed learning process. Current program is modified to aim at helping leaders to become self-motivated, as well as to develop skills and acquire knowledge critical to successful management of competition, complexity, and diversity in the workplace. The recommended self-directed learning program would contain the following.
First, one should employ motivational techniques and relevant literature to achieve a desired level of intrinsic motivation and make a commitment to engage in self-directed learning. As a result, a leader should develop an excellence-seeking attitude of a learner, willing to reshape his or her behavior in accordance with learned information.
As a second phase, learning leader must examine his or her experiences and conduct objective self-examination of leadership skills related to areas of managing complex environments, workplace diversity, and competitive strengths of a company one works for. Within this step, needs and challenges of one’s organization should be examined and determined as well. Then, a learning leader should observe workplace environment and match his or her learning needs with needs of an organization to identify forward-looking improvement and educational objectives. Also, the learning individual should observe positive successful models to learn from. Thus, a leader should analyze gaps in performance, develop and establish benchmarks and plan how to close gaps in existing knowledge and skills.
Third, a learner must use daily opportunities to put newly acquired knowledge and skills to practice, develop new habits and approaches and demonstrate new behaviors. Within this step, a leader reviews practice opportunities and reflects on application of his learning. In short, a self-learner engages learning opportunities and strives to derive maximum benefit from them and use novel approaches and experiences to a chosen field of study.
The fourth phase includes self-reflection, appraisal of the effectiveness of self-directed learning and evaluating validity and benefits of achievements. Furthermore, getting feedback from trusted colleagues and/or a superior may be highly beneficial at this stage. Finally, the development of new rounds of self-directed learning opportunities geared at working on specific weaknesses and/or enhancing strengths may follow.
Rationale for Accepting Responsibility for Self-directed Learning
Ideally, committed and studious engagement in self-directed learning should result from a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors. A leader may either be encouraged to realize advantages and accept responsibility for self-directed learning or do so out of his or her personal initiative. Guglielmino identifies following reasons that may compel a leader to engage in self-directed learning. First, the author believes that self-directed learning is a natural response to a learning need manifested in challenges in the environment, problems, or newness. Therefore, when a leader encounters a problem, it might be a natural reaction for many to resolve the problem by means of self-education. Second, self-directed learning is a survival tool in a rapidly changing contemporary environment. Ever-increasing and pervasive changes call for fast yet qualified leadership responses. Consequently, self-directed learning helps one to remain relevant and employable in the labor market. The third reason for accepting responsibility for self-directed learning is that formal learning setting places greater emphasis on self-directed learning, acknowledging it as evolving and innovation-driven form of preparation for professional challenges. The fourth reason is apparent benefits of learning in a workplace. The author notes that one’s ability to acquire and appropriate knowledge faster than competitors do may contribute to sustainable competitive advantage. Finally, self-directed learning may serve as a source of professional effectiveness and satisfaction.
Therefore, current proposal demonstrates that recommended self-directed learning program is a relevant tool that facilitates leadership self-education process and helps leaders to adequately address issues related to organizational competitiveness and complexity as well as workplace diversity.