4. Self-directed AND Other-directed learning

One answer to the problem of conformity to a leadership course or a perceived ideal leadership state is self-directed learning. We all know we change and grow best when allowed to explore for ourselves, review our past actions versus our intentions, and reflect on that. As section 3. of this paper has shown us, the spark of change has to come from inside, from following our own lights.

Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee define self-directed learning as “the crux of leadership development: intentionally developing or strengthening an aspect of who you are, or who you want to be, or both.” Richard Boyatzis‘ model of self-directed learning says that people who successfully change in sustainable ways cycle through the following five stages, or discoveries:

  1. The first discovery: My ideal self – Who do I want to be?
  2. The second discovery: My real self – Who am I? What are my strengths and gaps?
  3. The third discovery: My learning agenda – How can I build on my strengths while reducing my gaps?
  4. The fourth discovery: Experimenting with and practicing new behaviour, thoughts, and feelings to the point of mastery.
  5. The fifth discovery: Developing supportive and trusting relationships that make change possible.

The limits of self-directed learning

The Open Source leadership approach that forms the foundation of the Leadership Hub aims to create a collaborative platform in which leaders can work through all the five stages of self-directed learning. But, the collaborative approach also recognizes the limits of self- directed learning and allows participants to get past those limits.

Self-directed learning on its own, when applied to leadership, can become navel- gazing. You get a clue to this limitation when you notice that the first four of Boyatzis‘ five stages, above, are about the self. Only at stage five does he start referring to other people.

Other-directed learning

Leadership is something you, by definition, cannot do on your own (though self- leadership is its starting point). Leadership development needs to be a blend of self- directed learning and other-directed learning, in which we strengthen our leadership by allowing others to lead us; by testing our development against their reality. The two complement each other.

In fact, I would argue that being more outwardly-focussed, on the development needs of others, generates the insights and internal growth needed to populate the inner leadership landscape almost automatically.

‘Other-directed learning’ is based on the truth that we learn best by teaching what we think we know, test theories by doing, cement learning by sharing experiences and our underlying beliefs, ideas and assumptions with each other, and teasing out meaning together.

For the first time, collaborative online tools - known collectively as Web 2.0 – make it possible to create a community of practice founded on a combination of self- directed and collaborative – other-directed - learning.


Real-time development of your leaders. Just in time.

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