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4 Characteristics Of Learning Leaders

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characteristics-of-a-learning-leader4 Characteristics Of A Learning Leader

by Stewart Hase, Heutagogy of Community Practice

Writing is always a learning experience for me.

Writing forces greater clarity. In addition, the tranquility of the unique Australian bush setting in which I am currently sitting, miles from anywhere, provides a perfect environment for learning. I’ve been working on a chapter for our new forthcoming book (from Amazon in September) called ‘A Practical Guide to Self-Determined Learning: Experiences from the Field’.

It’s an edited work where lots of people share their experiences of using heutagogy in a variety of contexts. It should be fun and, hopefully, useful to people wanting to try something a bit different in their ‘classrooms’. I got so excited while writing the chapter that I thought I’d share some of its content with you. In this day and age there is no need to be patient, which suits me, as patience is not a strong point. And I might get some comments back to help me refine the chapter before it goes to air.

A number of insightful writers have suggested the skills that people need in order to cope with the 21st century. One of my favourites that appears to summarise all of them is from Jackie Gerstein who has put together a neat pictorial of these skills. See also Tony Wanger’s work, which Jackie acknowledges.

The skills she has identified are: effective oral and written communication; collaboration across networks; agility and adaptability; grit; resilience; empathy and global stewardship; vision; self-regulation; hope and optimism; curiosity and imagination; initiative and entrepreneurialism; and critical thinking and problem solving.

Some of the implications of self-determined learning are:

  • involve the learner in designing their own learning content and process as a partner;
  • make the curriculum process flexible so that new questions and understanding can be explored as new neuronal pathways are explored;
  • individualise learning as much as possible;
  • use social media to network learners;
  • provide flexible or negotiated assessment;
  • enable the learner to contextualise concepts, knowledge and new understanding;
  • provide lots of resources and enable the learner to explore essential content;
  • experiment and research;
  • base practice on the latest science;
  • engage learners in collaborative learning;
  • differentiate between knowledge and skill acquisition (competencies) and deep learning;
  • recognise the importance of informal learning and that we only need to enable it rather than control it;
  • have confidence in the learner;
  • be on top of the subject area so you can be a resource;
  • and recognise that teaching can become a block to learning.

So, what of the skills needed by learning leaders, given the abilities we should foster in our learners and the rather more learner-centric approach prescribed by self-determined learning?

At the outset, I think we need to get rid of the terms teach and teacher from our lexicon and start talking about the ‘learning leader’. It immediately changes the focus from teacher-centred to learner-centred approaches. So, I think what we used to call teaching is really leadership and the broad abilities are similar whether or not you are leading students or leading people in an organisation.

4 Characteristics Of Learning Leaders

1. Ability to deal with ambiguity

  • Low need for control
  • Openness to Experience (one of the Big 5 personality traits)
  • Moderate perfectionism
  • High Stability (low anxiety)
  • Project management skills
  • Ability to use social media
  • Optimism

2. The capacity to foster engagement

  • An understanding of how to motivate others
  • Ability to foster a shared purpose and vision
  • An understanding of human needs
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Ability to self-regulate
  • Empathy

3. The capacity to learn

  • Ability to research and learn
  • Being thoroughly on top of one’s subject area
  • Wide and accessible networks
  • Able to share with others
  • Knowledge management skills
  • The ability to foster collaborative learning

4. The ability to use open systems thinking

  • The capacity to scan the external environment
  • Able to foster participative democracy/collaboration decision-making and process
  • Able to actively diffuse power
  • Capacity to work in a team
  • Ongoing internal and external analysis of effectiveness (continuous improvement)

Source: heutagogycop.wordpress.com; 4 Characteristics Of A Learning Leader

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Thank you for the concise description of being a learning leader. I really love the concept and I have seen myself and other colleagues grow in this direction over the last several years. It’s really key, especially in educational field, to be someone who enjoys learning, seeks it out, and desires to help others transform themselves in this way as well. I desire for my students to be lifelong learners, create opportunities to gain insight and knowledge, make inquiries and analyze how to problem-solve and think globally. If we as a lead learners/learning leaders want this for our students, we… Read more »


The “ability to deal with ambiguity” category is such a great kickstarter for any discussion of teaching. May I say, the ability to take a place or moment of mushy classroom ambiguity and scaffold a learner successively toward putting a point on his own opinion, or response, or thought process is one of the most important characteristics for a good learning leader, and it is one of the most counter-intuitive for many of us. It is absolutely teachable, however, beginning with the concept of “wait time,” and moving toward being extremely selective about the words we use to respond to… Read more »


4 Characteristics Of Learning Leaders . –

Permanent Creativity of Leader is the best Quality for Self – Perfectiion.

Agree with you on this.