Where does leadership development turn if its heroic ideals are no longer tenable? This study takes leadership practice, not the classroom, as its point of departure. Leadership studies have demonstrated the romance in leadership theory of an individual, stable, and coherent leadership figure, even if this figure does not connect to actual practices. In other streams of research, practice increasingly appears to be a resource for less presumptuous theorizing about leadership. These more situationally sensitive approaches call for equivalent leadership development practices, and extant literature in particular has escaped the confines of the executive management classroom to only a limited extent. While experiential learning has proved an efficient means of instigating and harvesting in-classroom experiences for subsequent reflection and learning, translating these experiences into (later) leadership practice has proved problematic. The mundanity of practice rarely corresponds to the theoretical exposés emanating from classrooms. Using a leadership development program (LDP) as our case, we explore accounts from managers carrying out in-practice experiments and analyze these processes in light of Dewey’s notion of experimentalism. Identifying a series of attributes associated with the experimental intervention, we illuminate some future avenues for situated leadership development as well as offer considerations for leadership development practice.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 28 Dec 2021.
- Post-heroic leadership
- Leadership development
- Experiential learning