Two modes of learning-oriented leadership: a study of first-line managers

Eva Ellström (Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden)
Per-Erik Ellström (Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Publication date: 10 September 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to explore what learning-oriented leadership could mean in practice and to identify possible sources of variability in this leadership between first-line managers (FLMs). The empirical basis of the study comprised FLMs in nursing homes for elderly care.

Design/methodology/approach

The study was carried out using a sequential mixed-method design based on interviews, observations and documentary analysis.

Findings

The study contributes an in-depth analysis of two modes of learning-oriented leadership: development-oriented and production-oriented. The two orientations represent an open and enabling pattern versus a constraining and controlling pattern of leading and organizing employee learning and development. The observed differences in learning-oriented leadership between the FLMs were interpreted in terms of the demands–constraints–choices model proposed by Stewart (1982; 1989).

Research limitations/implications

Future research should include data from employees to analyze how the mode of learning-oriented leadership shapes the conditions and opportunities for learning at work.

Practical implications

Employee learning and development issues should be clearly linked to business strategies, and it is imperative that senior managers actively support and follow up on FLMs’ work with these issues. Furthermore, there is a strong need for training and development of FLMs – formal and informal – to improve their knowledge of and skills in leading and organizing workplace learning.

Originality/value

The study adds to previous research by elaborating what learning-oriented leadership could mean in practice and how it can be theoretically understood.

Keywords

Citation

Ellström, E. and Ellström, P. (2018), "Two modes of learning-oriented leadership: a study of first-line managers", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 30 No. 7, pp. 545-561. https://doi.org/10.1108/JWL-03-2018-0056

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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