Leading through problems: recognizing the potential of getting their hands dirty

Roland K. Yeo (Assistant Professor of Management at the College of Industrial Management, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudi Arabia)

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Publication date: 20 April 2010



The paper seeks to examine problem‐based learning (PBL) as an emerging learning paradigm and proposes that it is a viable approach in leadership development. It aims to identify several key factors, strategies and possible outcomes associated with this new approach to training.


Based on a review of the literature on PBL, organizational learning and leadership training as well as practical experience, the paper discusses the salient features of PBL and their impact on leadership development through multiple levels of simultaneous learning.


Three important factors have been identified as contributing to the meaningfulness of leaders' learning process: problem definition, open communication and utilization of resources. Expert guidance after the formal PBL training phase provides the sensemaking pathway in shaping the learning‐oriented behavior of leaders.

Practical implications

A matrix eliciting a guided approach to PBL in leadership development is presented to make explicit the subtle complexity of the learning process. Through both a structured training to an unstructured operational phase, PBL has led leaders to the discovery of new roles, attitudes and knowledge required to meet current changing times.


The structured yet diverse learning framework of PBL provides a unique dimension to human resource development. When applied to a dynamic organizational context, PBL provides an integrative mix of learning opportunities and harmonizes potential learning disturbances to develop the real leader. This is an area that has not been extensively researched.



Yeo, R. (2010), "Leading through problems: recognizing the potential of getting their hands dirty", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 128-134. https://doi.org/10.1108/00197851011038105

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.