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Building-up leaders for challenges through vicarious learning: Reflections from Australian leaders

Yu, Mengye (2022) Building-up leaders for challenges through vicarious learning: Reflections from Australian leaders. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Organizational leaders are essential for dealing with various workplace challenges, such as VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) circumstances, and leadership development (LD) is a common way to build-up leaders. However, leadership practitioners are sometimes strongly dissatisfied with LD programs, which has been identified as ineffective in developing leaders for challenging circumstances. Thus, this research aims to discover how to prepare leaders for challenging work environments.

This inductive research investigates open-ended reflections collected from 42 Australian leaders in LD programs to achieve the objective in regard to how crucial leadership capabilities are demonstrated in dealing with challenges and how to develop them. This research includes one methodological study and two empirical inductive studies. The methodological study develops a transparent step-by-step research framework through which the two qualitative studies are conducted. This qualitative research found that leadership resilience is essential in dealing with challenges, and it can strongly motivate others to learn. By observing leadership resilience demonstrated in challenging situations, leaders can improve their capabilities of dealing with challenges (e.g., leadership self-efficacy and selfawareness).

These findings enrich the theoretical understanding of social cognitive theory by integrating ‘Resilient Attitude’ and ‘Coping Skills’ dimensions into the triadic schematization and contributes to better preparing leaders for challenges from two aspects. Firstly, the vicarious learning mechanism can explain ‘How to develop leaders’. Secondly, this research provides a theoretical contribution to psychological resilience by presenting a three-dimension model (resilient attitude, resilient behaviour, and coping skills), which answers ‘What is to be developed’. This research outlines that leaders can improve their capabilities of dealing with challenging circumstances by observing others' challenges and their resilient responses. This finding provides practical contributions to leadership development programs and other human resource management, e.g., talent management. In addition, the author-designed research framework may assist other new researchers in their studies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Business
Supervisor(s): Girardi, Antonia, Akstinaite, Vita and Huang, Amy
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