The Learning Style of Leaders

The Learning Style of Leaders

What is your learning style? Depending on when you attended school, you may have been tested and/or identified as a particular type of learner: the way you process and retain information. Typically, most children learn through the five senses, including seeing, hearing, touching, and doing/moving (which can include tasting/smelling). As adults, we bring depth of experience and greater self-awareness to our learning. The theory of learning styles is not new and has evolved since it was introduced in the 70’s by social psychologist David A. Kolb. According to Kolb, our styles are based on genetics, experiences, and current environment. With his colleague Ron Fry, Kolb identified a four-stage experiential learning cycle: Observation of concrete experiences Reflection and interpretation of observations (creation of hypothesis) Formation of abstract concepts (generalizations) Testing of new concepts in different situations Learning Preferences Kolb and Fry posit that learning preferences are based on two continuums: Active experimentation <—>  Reflective observation Abstract conceptualization <—> Concrete experience When combined, the two dimensions create four learning styles: Converger (Active & Abstract) This type of learner is known for their practical application of ideas. Accommodator (Active & Concrete) Known for their agility and adaptability, this type of learner is an active, risk-taking doer. Assimilator (Reflective & Abstract) This type of learner is known for their research and planning abilities, and they excel in creating theoretical models. Diverger (Reflective & Concrete) Known for their ability to see the big picture and create meaning, this type of learner is often most creative. Understanding learning styles can help us become better leaders. However, we can achieve greater success—personally and professionally—by learning how...
Jump-start Your Leadership and Team Performance

Jump-start Your Leadership and Team Performance

Executives, leaders, and managers are facing tough decisions as we return to work. Newly appointed and seasoned leaders must assess their teams, find the gaps, and fill open positions. Adding to the complexity is the critical task of identifying those who would be better served in a different capacity, often times outside the team or organization. This requires an intricate balance of confidence and humility, as well as skillful communication. The first few weeks are crucial to build trust, learn, and evaluate, even if you are not new to your role. You see, the pandemic has changed us: we’ve adapted and grown, our perspectives have been altered, and for some, our values have shifted. In a recent Pew Research survey of Americans regarding their experience with the pandemic, almost 90% of the 9,220 who responded reported at least one negative change and 73% have experienced an “unexpected upside.” According to Pew, “Most have experienced these negative impacts and silver linings simultaneously: Two-thirds (67%) of Americans mentioned at least one negative and at least one positive change since the pandemic began.” When analyzing the data, they found that Americans were affected in a variety of different ways, both positive and negative, and there was no “typical experience.” As we return to work, we are returning as a new team. We are new leaders, managers, employees, and teams. By asking the right probing questions and actively listening you can jump-start your leadership and team performance. Beyond “The Great Resignation” According to research by Microsoft, 41% of the entire workforce has or may make a change this year. This includes the 4...
How Do You Define Freedom?

How Do You Define Freedom?

When you hear or read the word “freedom,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? In the US, the 4th of July marks the anniversary of thirteen colonies declaring independence from Britain. They gained their freedom from British rule and government. In contrast, Canada Day, celebrated on the 1st of July, marks the anniversary of four separate colonies uniting into a single dominion with the British Empire. They gained their freedom to. Both holidays celebrate freedom, but from very different perspectives. One is freedom from, and the other, freedom to. But is it really a matter of perspective? The words freedom, free will, and liberty are frequently used interchangeably. However, according to Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Ph.D, author of Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT, 2006), there is significant difference: Liberty is linked to human subjectivity; people have (or have not) liberty. Free will is the quality of being free from control. Freedom can exist within a state of liberty: a person can be liberated but not experience freedom. Just as control differs from discipline, freedom differs from liberty. And then there is the matter of negative liberty (or negative rights) and positive liberty (or positive rights.) In Two Concepts of Liberty, Isaiah Berlin wrote that “I am slave to no man,” as an example of negative liberty, and “I am my own master,” as an example of positive liberty.   How do you experience freedom and liberty? Are you your own master? Defining Freedom Consider how you may have defined freedom pre-pandemic. Was it a feeling? Was it an...
Leadership, Trauma, and Recovery

Leadership, Trauma, and Recovery

The way we live and work has changed dramatically the past year, upending our routines, our identities, and for many, our sense of security. The trauma of job insecurity, health insecurity, major intergenerational loss, and culture assaults leave us reeling and impact our productivity. Leaders are concerned about their employee’s well-being and safety. Traditionally, when employees share or demonstrate a need for assistance, we rely on our human resources department (or representative) to step in. However, leaders and managers who are able to work with HR and their employees through trauma recovery are of greater help to those they lead —and their entire organization. The Catalyst for Change It’s no wonder that reports of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are on the rise. Experiencing violence (as a victim or witness), a serious illness, or the death of a loved one can trigger post-traumatic stress. Unfortunately, fear, misunderstanding, and lack of trust prevent many employees from seeking assistance or even reporting events. Trauma can impact anyone. Great leaders recognize this. They understand that how we manage trauma can define our life. The best leaders share openly about their own struggles, how they manage uncertainty, and are able to engage others to share their story. Why? Individual wellbeing matters in every organization, small or large. When leaders and managers are equipped to treat everyone with care and compassion, everyone benefits. In Posttraumatic Growth: Theory, Research, and Applications, (Routledge, 2018), authors Richard G. Tedeschi, Jane Shakespeare-Finch, Kanako Taku, and Lawrence G. Calhoun share their research on trauma and how leaders can help traumatized people recover. According to Tedeschi, “…despite the misery...
Inspirational Leadership

Inspirational Leadership

What does inspirational leadership look like in your organization? Let me ask: what impact do inspiring leaders have on performance, both organizationally, and at an individual level? Consider this: while an employee’s mindset is important to their overall performance, without support from their leadership, even the most committed and motivated employee may not reach their potential. This became very clear during the pandemic, as studies now find. When uncertainty and anxiety are high, employees must have clear expectations and emotional support. Unfortunately, some leaders have risen to the top through marketing or hype. They sway others to do as they ask (or command) with a lack of genuine concern for their well-being. As a result, there is a large degree of distrust and reluctance. Conversely, inspiring leaders take action because of their care and concern for others. You see, inspirational leadership is not about being in charge, it’s about taking care of those in our charge. While rank or title may indicate leadership authority, they are not indicators of leadership ability. Inspirational Leadership Can Be Developed Inspiring leaders are often described by their innate traits, strengths, or title. Fundamentally, inspirational leadership is the ability to positively influence and/or motivate others. In today’s world, inspirational leadership is about connection: connecting with those you lead in ways that are meaningful to them. You see, the relationships you create determine your abilities as an influencer. If you build trust and practice empathy in your relationships, you’ll create higher-quality connections. This may sound simple, but it poses certain challenges that require nuance and practice. Fortunately, we can develop inspirational leadership. At the core...
Your Heroic Journey

Your Heroic Journey

Where are you in your heroic journey? This is not a rhetorical question. Nor should it be answered flippantly. Certainly, it has taken many years (and experiences) to become who you are today. And it hasn’t been easy. However, out of our setbacks, and even failures, we have been afforded the opportunity to develop our grit: by encountering difficulty and learning to cope with it. This has made us stronger and more masterful. If you take the time to think about it, your journey as a hero began with a call that you just couldn’t ignore. This calling required that you put aside outmoded ways of being. It required facing unknown challenges. To move forward into the unknown the hero questions everything, including self. You see, at the core of your heroic journey is your acceptance of your true self: through self-assessment, reflection, and often times painful exploration of insufficiencies. This requires brutal honesty. If you think you haven’t begun your journey, know that denial can only last so long. Going back is not an option. Stagnation leads to decay, and eventually death. Instead, you can take a step forward. The Heroic Journey Guidebook The heroic journey doesn’t have a final destination, per se. It does, however, require careful attention, focus, and even vigilance to assess where you are and how to become your best self. Consider Doug Conant. He turned around the once struggling Campbell Soup Company, and went on to successfully lead Nabisco Foods. What is really remarkable is how he overcame being fired without warning, and considers this to be “the best thing that ever happened...