Action learning is unarguably the day's hottest corporate leadership development approach. Even a few university business schools have begun implementing action-learning-based degree programs. But action learning is neither the only approach in play nor an approach sufficient in and of itself. More often than not, action-learning designs are augmented by individual psychological assessments and multirater or 360-degree feedback tools, ropes and rocks courses, U.S. Civil War battlefield tours, war games, poetry readings and even setting leadership development participants on stage among the musicians during a symphony orchestra performance. Today, at least five other alternatives to action learning are commonly in use. Occasionally, they are part of a leadership development effort that also includes an action-learning component. Some definitions:
Job Rotation Job rotation is a structured approach to providing new, active and challenging work experiences that develop individual knowledge and skills. Job rotations are lateral transfers of employees among jobs in an organization. They are not promotions. Job rotation is often aimed at developing leadership breadth.
Action Learning Action Learning is learning by doing in a controlled environment where the experience alternates between workshops focused on providing participants with insight, information and tools, and field experiences focused on the content of the assigned project. Action learning helps organizations respond to major business problems and opportunities, while developing the leadership capacity of key people.
Mentoring A mentor's role is to promote intentional learning and to help the career and development of the protege through teaching, modeling, coaching, advising, providing psychological support, and at times, promoting and sponsoring the protege for advancement opportunities.
Executive Coaching The Boston Coaching Consortium defines executive coaching as: "A collaborative partnership between an upper-level executive and an executive coach, supported by the organization, to facilitate the executive's learning to achieve identified business results."
Executive coaching focuses on personal and professional development to positively impact business effectiveness. It seeks solutions to complex work dilemmas to enhance performance and well-being. A coaching agenda can run from a specific, narrow skill focus to an exec's leadership agenda in the broadest sense.
Executive Development Seminars Executive development seminars are usually university-based advanced management programs led by star faculty and visiting professors. Participants work cases and share meals and ideas with each other and the star faculty members. Attendees generally come away with some new ideas, networking names and name-dropping rights.
Developmental Assignments Specific, targeted projects designed to help an individual develop specific skills, knowledge or abilities. Assign-ments are usually short-term and are added to the individual's current job responsibilities.
Note: For more leadership development options see "14 Ways to Groom Executives" by Liz Thach, Training, August 1998. —S.Z.