Rethinking Leadership In The Learning Organization A proclamation by a CEO that “we are going to become a learning organization” will likely be met with collective eye rolling and wonderings of, “What workshop did he attend last week?” Indeed, many employees are so accustomed to these management “initiatives-of-the-month” that seeing any results from such a managerial decree is extremely unlikely. Another of the main barriers to creating a learning organization, Senge says, is the difference between compliance and commitment. The employees are loath to accept change that starts at the top of the managerial hierarchy. A value is a value only if voluntarily chosen. We cannot force others to learn.
Since it is really the individuals that comprise a learning organization, there is no substitute for a personal desire to learn. Decisions made by managers can also have the effect of paradoxically moving an organization backwards. Downsizing can lead to increased competitiveness, which is a hindrance to productivity. Competitiveness can also undermine collaborative efforts and thereby affect a company’s economic prosperity. Senge defines three leadership types that he says are essential to building a learning organization: 1. Local line leaders.
These are leaders who undertake meaningful experiments to test whether new learning capabilities actually lead to improved business results. 2. Executive leaders. They provide support for line leaders, develop learning infrastructures, and lead by example in the gradual process of evolving the norms and behaviors of a learning culture. 3. Internal networkers.
These are individuals who can move freely about the organization to find those who are predisposed to bringing about change, to help out in organizational experiments, and to aid in the diffusion of new learning. None of the issues prevalent in businesses today will be resolved by a hierarchical management system. To bring about change, we must explore new ideas in leadership based on new leadership principles. Senge’s five disciplines have interested me since the start of this course. Their applications in our educational system could be profound.
The largest barrier that today’s schools, adult or otherwise, face is the tacit acceptance that what is now cannot be changed. It is this mental model that we must break down before real change can be affected. By recognizing the needs of adults in a learning environment, many, if not all, of the principles of the learning organization can be applied to the hierarchical organization of the administration in our schools. The barriers discussed in this article are no different from the barriers faced by school administrators. People who are not committed to change will not buy into any new idea.
Change cannot be mandated. It must come from within the organization. Education.