Leadership Development

— Anamika Dutt

Leadership development, in essence, is a highly personal experience and can, for any participant, reveal the strengths of the individual as well as highlight potential areas of improvement. These learning activities enhance the quality of leadership for any organization. In addition to that, they can range across the spectrum from MBA students to the CEO of a multi-national organization. The format of developing such leadership qualities, too, can encompass everything from classroom based theoretical learning to a more action oriented learning approach.

Many leadership development exercises, however, remain limited to a passive, Power Point based approach. This approach reduces leadership development to a functional transference of knowledge, consisting of presentations, case studies and does not include any self-directed learning, whatsoever. On the other extreme again lies corporate retreats which provide little long term benefits other than draining the corporate’s learning and development budgets. The biggest challenge, therefore, lies in changing this existing mind set into a more productive one.

The optimum path for leadership development lies in an experience based approach, where experiences are combined with reflection and conceptualization of these experiences. Such learning usually requires the help of external facilitation in order to provide a framework for the participants to reflect and conceptualize upon. The facilitator creates a learning environment by supporting what each participant is trying to achieve. They are flexible, adaptable and keep the focus of the participants on the task at hand. The qualities of a good facilitator are elaborated upon here.

Experiential learning has had a proven track record when it comes to developing and enhancing leadership skills. This methodology, however, differs when it comes to the different leadership timescales – the new leader, and the seasoned leader. A new leader is someone who has just been promoted into a position where he has to take responsibility over the work of others. A seasoned leader, on the other hand, is someone who has had such responsibilities for a while and in the context of learning, has a few kinks to figure out.

New Leader For a new leader, the goal of experiential learning is to impart the skills necessary to manage teams, handle increased responsibility and essentially – the skills needed to lead. The following experiential simulations are considered the most effective in bringing out the required leadership qualities from a participant.

Rafting Expedition – Floating Workshop This workshop is used to develop leadership skills in new leaders in a fun environment. It involves the entire spectrum of a leader’s responsibilities – from team management to resource allocation, crisis management and conflict resolution to change management. Every facet and challenge faced by a leader can be incorporated in some shape and form into this simulation. Entire teams move on Zodiac rafts down the Ganges River and stop at different beaches along the way. These scheduled stops will be utilized to conduct experiential simulations. More on this simulation can be read about here.

Service Project This simulation helps new leaders in moving away from a unidimensional to a multi- dimensional approach by creating a challenging task which encourages the participants to be inter-dependent, marshal resources efficiently, communicate effectively and achieve their goals in a time sensitive environment. This simulation sets the target for teams to feed and clothe 1000 homeless and destitute / disadvantaged children. The teams, with the help of resources provided, are given 5 hours to execute. Marshalling these resources, including time, money, men and materials, this ‘real time simulation’ gives participants a flavour of the pulls & pressures of contemporary corporate life. More on this simulation can be found here.

Seasoned Leader A seasoned leader, as the name suggests, already has a fair quantum of leadership qualities that have been ingrained in him. Experiential simulations, in this instance, help the participants polish these skills in a relatively stress free environment. The following experiential workshops are effective for polishing leadership skills in seasoned leaders.

Web of Life In this simulation, the teams have to negotiate a tangled set of ropes from a starting point to a finish point. They have to negotiate these ropes by lifting themselves as well as team members, without letting any part of their body touch the ropes. This simulation helps seasoned leaders to practice their team management, change management and conflict resolution skills. More on this simulation can be found here.

Bomb Disposal In this simulation, the group is divided into teams. Their objective is to recover a live bomb from a civilian area and transport it to a safe zone. The group is provided with a prop, and careful coordination is required – as a fumble means that the bomb is detonated, leading to loss of civilian lives. This simulation is designed to enhance team management skills, crisis management, creativity and collaboration skills of the participants. The leaders are hence given the chance to demonstrate and polish the aforementioned leadership skills. More can be learnt about this simulation here.

For more information on experiential learning use for leadership development, please refer to ‘Right of Centre’ For more information on experiential learning, please visit www.xperentia.com

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