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Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Role of Leadership in Change - An Action Learning Approach

Management and Leadership are two very different concepts requiring very different skill-sets. Management is characterised by such activities and responsibilities as planning & budgeting, organising & staffing, and controlling & problem-solving. In executing these responsibilities, effective managers attempt to produce a degree of predictability and a sense of order.  Leadership on the other hand is characterised by such activities as the establishment of organisational direction, aligning people with vision and strategy, and motivating & inspiring. In many respects it is these bigger picture issues that underscore organisational change. Indeed, much has been written in management and organisational literature connecting leadership styles to stages of organisational change.

One clear certainty is that successful organisations require leaders and managers to display the combined attributes mentioned above, irrespective of the extent of change or indeed the level of continuity being experienced at any time during the life of an organisation.

Underpinning this discussion of leadership, are the wide range of interpersonal skills that enable individuals within an organisation to effectively work with others. These skills include:

-          Self awareness which comes from a clear and realistic understanding of your own strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, and needs;
-          Self regulation which comes from an understanding of how you control your actions and reactions and take charge of your emotions in the process;
-          Motivation which comes from understanding the mechanisms that drive you to achieve and to exude a passion and enthusiasm for your work and for the success of your teams, departments, divisions and organisation as a whole;
-          Empathy which comes from displaying a clear understanding of your fellow staff and being able to weigh the ability to consider and acknowledge others with the more global needs of the organisation’s mission and vision , and
-          Social skill which, whilst associated with empathy, comes from your ability to relate to, and work effectively, with other people.

Action Learning recognises the important link between leadership and success in the challenging environments that organisations now face, and will continue to face over the coming years. Management literature identifies a number of roles that leaders must increase their abilities in to underpin this success. These include:
-          the ability to think in systems terms
-          the ability to act as change agent
-          the ability to constantly innovate
-          the ability to act as servant-leader
-          the ability to take on a wide range of concurrent tasks
-          the ability to be both teacher and mentor, and
-          the ability to be visionary and to communicate that vision

In the context of the leadership skills identified earlier and the abilities discussed above, Action Learning has emerged as one of the most effective and powerful tools in developing the necessary competencies and experiences to support the leadership roles of the modern organisation. Through the Action Learning approach of working with real problems, a reflective inquiry process, a commitment to action and the focus on learning within the organisation, Action Learning contributes to the critical leadership skills that are one of the key enablers of organisational change.

OPTIMUM NFP launches its inaugural “Action Learning as a Change Management Strategy in the Not-for-Profit Sector” Workshops on 14th May 2013. OPTIMUM NFP has been applying Action Learning to organisations in the NFP sector as a means of addressing the various challenges of initiating and working with organisational change. Currently, this sector faces many challenging times and must respond to these in a timely yet effective manner. Change in these organisations is ongoing and will continue to be into the future.

This Workshop is based on research papers submitted to the Academy of Management (America) and the British Academy of Management for their 2013 conferences as case studies in the application of Action Learning in the NSW NFP Sector. The Workshop will provide both the theory of Action Learning as well as its practical application. Participants will be involved in designing and participating in Action Learning programs, the aims of which will be to enable participants to lay the foundations in their own organisations for future Action Learning activities.

Action Learning is an effective approach in directly assisting organisations in this sector to not only deal with change, but to develop capacity and capability, ensuring organisations become more ‘change-ready’. As Principal of OPTIMUM NFP, David Rosenbaum’s consulting work in this field is further supported by his research pursuits in change management where he is currently undertaking PhD research in the management of change in the Not-for-Profit sector via a longitudinal qualitative study at a major Sydney not-for-profit hospital.

For those interested in gaining further insights into Action Learning and how it can be applied in your own organisation, visit the following link to download the Workshop Information as well as the Workshop Registration Form.

Given the practical nature of the workshop, numbers are strictly limited to a maximum of 18 participants.

For any further queries regarding Action Learning, contact David Rosenbaum at OPTIMUM NFP.

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