Two dominant ways that employees learn leadership skills are formal training and on-the-job experience. Both types of learning are ubiquitous in organizations, but their interplay is rarely considered. In this study, I adopt learning theories from educational and cognitive psychology to explain why experience may help or hinder the effectiveness of leadership training, and I test my hypotheses using a quasi-experiment in a public accounting firm. I also examine the impact of other individual differences--cognitive ability, motivation to lead, learning goal orientation, and pre-training self-efficacy--on training effectiveness. From the perspective of the leader, prior leadership experience significantly improved the effectiveness of leadership training. Leaders who had led more projects and had been exposed to a broader range or leadership situations were those who benefit the most from leadership training. The results support the theory that cognitive constraints impede learning during training for novice leaders and are alleviated when leaders possess more experience. However, the same support was not found from the manager and subordinate perspectives. Regarding individual differences, there was clear evidence for the benefit of a learning goal orientation, mixed evidence for the benefit of motivation to lead, very limited evidence for self-efficacy, and no evidence for cognitive ability. The implications of these findings for theory and practice are discussed.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2015. Major: Business Administration. Advisor: Andrew Van de Ven. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 97 pages.
Learning to lead: A quasi-experimental test of the interplay between experience and training.
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