Purpose – The organizational learning and learning organization literatures lack empirical support in delineating the role leaders play in fostering or hindering learning. This study aims to build upon previous research on facilitative leadership in learning organizations to consider how leaders contribute to and detract from learning at the individual and organizational levels in the corporate context. Design/methodology/approach – Preliminary survey research confirmed that the Fortune 500 company being considered for the study was perceived as a learning organization by its employees. The study then proceeded with critical incident interviews with managers and their direct reports, resulting in a cross‐case content analysis of four categories: triggers, beliefs, behaviors, and outcomes, which prompted the development of a preliminary model of the learning process depicted by participants. Findings – The findings revealed that learning leaders have several distinct characteristics and skills, but the participants gave the most emphasis to emotionally intelligent communication, a prominent feature of facilitative leadership. Research implications/limitations – The study represents the perceptions of participants within a particular context at a specific time. Future research could include longitudinal, cross‐cultural studies that focus on communication processes related to learning. Practical implications – The study confirmed the importance of facilitative leadership while highlighting both cognitive and emotional aspects of learning. It also pinpointed mechanisms for institutionalizing learning. Originality/value – The study offers empirical support for the centrality of facilitative leadership while pinpointing communication competence and emotional intelligence as essential aspects of effective learning leadership.
Leadership & Organization Development Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 9, 2008
Keywords: Learning organizations; Leadership; Emotional intelligence