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Peter Senge on Leadership: Overview

Peter Senge on Leadership: Overview
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Instructor: Carol Woods

Carol has taught college Finance, Accounting, Management and Business courses and has a MBA in Finance.

Peter Senge is probably best known for his writings on how companies can become learning organizations that continually adapt to changing market conditions. In this lesson, we'll discuss the learning organization and the types of leaders it needs to be successful.

Peter Senge and the Learning Organization

Peter Senge, director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management, is probably best known for his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. The book is about how executives can convert their company into a learning organization, which is a company whose employees are continually learning new things that help the company to adapt and innovate in order to do well in a rapidly changing marketplace. Leadership in a learning organization looks different than in a traditional hierarchical company.

According to the book, a learning organization should focus on five specific areas to be successful. These include:

  1. Systems thinking, in which people think of the organization as a whole and understand their impact on it
  2. Personal mastery, in which staffers focus on doing an excellent job in their chosen area
  3. Mental models, where members in the organization need to have similar beliefs and expectations about the company's way of operating
  4. Building shared vision, in which staff needs to be focused on the same view of the future
  5. Team learning, where information learned by one group needs to be disseminated to all

Leadership in a Learning Organization

Once your company decides to move toward becoming a learning organization, the types of leaders in your organization become pretty important, since they are the catalyst to take you from the current situation to the new vision. Peter Senge believes there are three types of leaders needed in a learning organization:

  1. First are local line leaders: These are managers who can experiment with new capabilities to see if they actually improve business results when implemented.
  2. Next are executive leaders: These are executives who clear the path for the local line leaders to experiment, and who manage the bigger picture through leading by example and developing the infrastructure needed to form a learning organization.
  3. Finally, there are community builders: These are staffers who help with experiments, share new information learned with others in the organization, and look throughout the organization for those ready to help bring about change.

Now that you've read about the types of leaders Senge believes a learning organization needs, let's take a close look at what these positions are not:

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