Leaders are now required to be exceptionally agile and adaptable in order to operate effectively when managing different groups of people.
This means that they will often end up in situations beyond their comfort zone, however, with ongoing experiential learning, leaders can better make sense of their experiences and put the knowledge to work in the future.
Experiential learning can come in many shapes and sizes. Some may prefer more formal training whilst others may prefer on-the-job experiences and overseas assignments to learn new skills and techniques. Regardless of the delivery, experiential learning is often credited with building emotional and social intelligence, a particularly important characteristic for the leaders of today and tomorrow.
Emotional intelligence is a critical quality of an effective leader. It allows an individual to understand and manage personal emotions and the emotions of those around them, in the case of a leader the emotional wellbeing of their team, colleagues and other people that they work with.
Leadership training has transformed from being primarily cerebral, into approaches which integrate experimental practices which aim to create a more holistic approach to leadership. For leaders, emotional intelligence is absolutely essential to be successful. A leaders decision to shout at their team when work becomes overwhelming or stressful or alternatively remaining calm and collected will set a clear precedent for the type of leader they are,
Whether observing others or undertaking a simulation exercise, leaders can identify errors and then aim to remove these mistakes from their own roster of behaviours through this activity. Reflection and ‘doing’ is recognised as leaving a lasting impression, with trial and error process proving to be an optimal way of learning.
Reflection and observation are a key way to understand and internalise the experiences learned through the training period. Reflective observation allows participants to look at the experiences and make sense of what happened whilst also identifying areas for improvement or look for alternative approaches. This analysis, as an ongoing activity, can improve self-awareness and encourage leaders to regularly draw up the pros and cons of their decisions in the future.
Using technology in experiential learning
Using technology does not necessarily directly correlate to a formal training system and is, in fact, highly useful when implementing experiential learning systems. Gamification is one of the key methods of online experiential learning that can be highly effective and actually makes learning more appealing due to its nature.
By building scenarios into meaningful games templates, companies can offer their learners a unique experience which recreates their everyday activities, or new tasks, allowing them to practise their skills away from the watchful eye of other stakeholders such as colleagues and customers. This allows them to make mistakes, search for alternative solutions and take their time to completely understand the purpose of the task.
A successful transformation
In order to make a successful transformation, companies should find a practical way to integrate experiential training into the wider development programme for their leaders. By leveraging the links between knowledge and experience, experiential training can transform leaders into lifelong learners who reflect on each activity, task or interaction and utilise these learnings to build better relationships and ways of working in the future.