Analysing the thinking and learning styles of the Senior Management Service

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 8
  • Abstract:

    With the creation of the Senior Management Service (SMS) in 2001 a specific attempt was made at professionalising the senior management cadre of the Public Service. An inherent requirement for professionalisation is continuous executive development. The article argues that for executive development to meet the requirements of both the organisation and the senior manager, learning and thinking style preferences should be considered in the design and implementation of continuous professional development interventions. The article uses a mixed method research approach to determine the thinking and learning style preferences of senior managers who participated in the Executive Development Programme (EDP) as part of their professional development. The article provides a theoretical perspective of thinking and learning style preferences based on the work done by Kolb (1973) and Neethling (2000). The findings reveal a specific preference towards left brain thinking and learning which is structured, analytical and processdriven with limited preference towards innovative or imaginative considerations. The article argues that the thinking and learning preferences of senior managers is indicative of an environment in which structure and process (or compliance) are emphasised, yet senior managers are expected to be visionary in dealing with service delivery complexities. Thinking and learning preferences should be considered in the manner in which professional development is driven as well as designed. Ultimately professional development should enable the senior manager to perform better at a practical, competency level, but also at a higher level of self-awareness necessary for leading public service delivery in such a complex environment.