Stimulating learning in the organisation

This article is based on findings from research conducted by Vlerick within the context of an ESF (European Social Funds) project.* Authors Fauve Delcour, Kim Bellens, Tina Davidson and Prof Katleen De Stobbeleir explain why ‘servant leadership’ and challenging goals are important for creating a positive learning climate.

For some time now, simply organising training initiatives has not been enough for managers to encourage learning in the organisation. Offering recognition, support and appreciation for learning efforts is still not sufficient. The key is to find a good balance between being a supportive leader and keeping your employees challenged.

Support + Challenge

There is no single leadership style that is perfectly suited to fostering learning in the organisation. Ideally, you combine characteristics of the servant leader with challenges that urge employees to grow. Within an organisational learning context, servant leadership is characterised by 5 main facets:

  • Empowering and developing employees – nurturing employee autonomy and a proactive, self-confident attitude
  • Humility – setting an example by acknowledging that you are not perfect and calling on the expertise of others
  • Authenticity – being yourself, aligning what you say and do with what you truly think and feel
  • Empathy and tolerance for mistakes – creating learning opportunities by talking openly about mistakes and difficulties encountered on the job
  • Providing direction – making expectations clear and gearing working circumstances, including training, to the needs of the employee

Towards Life-Long Learning

The authors emphasise that being supportive as a leader is only half of the equation. Employees also need to be challenged. So, you are advised to add setting challenging goals and providing clear feedback to your servant leadership style. This is the only way to fully stimulate your employees to pursue not only learning, but life-long learning.

*Related article

“Leren stimuleren: De juiste balans tussen ondersteunen en uitdagen” by Fauve Delcour, Kim Bellens, Tina Davidson and Prof Katleen De Stobbeleir

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