Leaders as Facilitators of Organizational Learning
Amy Hawkins Amy
The turbulent information age necessitates new organizational practices and forms. The organizational learning and learning organization literatures provide guidance for addressing environmental ambiguity but lack solid empirical support in several key areas, most noticeably in defining the role leaders play in fostering or hindering individual and collective learning. This study builds upon Ellinger's research (Ellinger, 1997; Ellinger & Bostrom, 1999, 2002; Ellinger, Watkins, & Bostrom, 1999) on facilitative leadership in learning organizations to consider how leaders contribute to and detract from learning at the individual and organizational levels and how followers cooperate with or impede the learning process. In a two-phase, sequential mixed methods case study, the first phase employed the Dimensions of the Learning Organization Questionnaire (DLOQ © ) Short Form (Watkins & Marsick, 1997) to determine whether the Fortune 500 telecommunications company being considered for the study was perceived as a learning organization by its employees. Deemed worthy of further study by the survey results, the second, primary phase of the research applied a case study methodology to conduct semistructured interviews with six leaders and three direct reports per leader. Using the critical incident approach to structure each interview yielded four learning leadership incidents per interview: individual-effective, individual-ineffective, organizational-effective, and organizational-ineffective. Following narrative descriptions of the 92 critical incidents, the analysis proceeded with a cross-case content analysis that yielded six general categories: triggers, beliefs, behaviors, outcomes, obstacles, and followers. Finally, cross-case coding was compared to both the existing literature and Ellinger's research as the basis for implications and recommendations for future research. A grounded theory perspective prompted the development of a preliminary model of the learning process depicted by TeleCorp participants. While the findings revealed a multifaceted portrait of learning leaders, support for facilitative leadership emerged in an emphasis on leaders as emotionally intelligent communicators.
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