Exploring observational learning in leadership development for managers

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Document Type

Journal Article

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Kempster, S., & Parry, K. (2014). Exploring observational learning in leadership development for managers. Journal of Management Development, 33(3), 164-181.

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© Copyright, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014

2014 HERDC submission




Purpose – Observational learning within the leadership development of managers is under-theorized thus far. The purpose of this paper is to develop a theoretical argument that builds out from a relational leadership perspective to center on processes affecting observational learning.

Design/methodology/approach – The contribution is to draw together research to build a holistic model of observational learning. A further contribution is to apply this model to the context of leadership development.

Findings – The paper examines processes associated with attention, availability, access, attainability, motivation and social comparisonwith significant others in particular contexts. The paper takes a temporal perspective to examine the ways that such interaction appears to be most prominent at particular times.

Research limitations/implications – The paper concludes by outlining the opportunities for applying this understanding of observational leadership learning within management development arenas and explore future directions for research.

Originality/value – Observational learning has been relatively overlooked. Though the authors often “know” that leaders develop through experience, the role of observational learning in this experience is not well understood. This paper is intended to provide a stimulus for exploring this important area in terms of shaping thinking and designs for management development interventions.

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