Self-development capacity of leaders: its nature and measurement

Paul L Nesbit, Elizabeth King

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingOther chapter contribution


This paper concerns the development of a scale to assess a leader's capacity for self-development. Self-development capacity (SDC) refers to a person's level of knowledge, skills, and abilities associated with practices related to self-directed learning from experiences. Self-directed learning can be associated with a wide array of life domains such as in education, sport, music, health, management, professional practice etc. In the domain of work, and specifically in regards to the development of leadership, self-development capacity reflects the underlying practices associated with making sense of experiences in a way that aids the development of cognitive and behavioural insights that assist in the increase in effective operation as a leader (Nesbit, 2012). Given the dynamic environment facing leaders it can be argued that their capacity for continuous learning and adaptability is becoming a critical leadership competency (Ellinger, 2004). One important aspect for the advancement of self-directed approaches to leadership development is to understand a leader's current capacity for self-directed learning within a work environment. This paper focuses on the development of a scale to aid in understanding the self-development capacity of those within leadership positions in organisations, referred to as the Leadership SDC scale. There are a number of practical and theoretical benefits associated with the assessment of a leader's SDC. In the same way that research on self-regulatory academic learning was advanced by the development of appropriate measurement scales (Zimmerman, 2008), developing a valid and reliable assessment tool for a leader's SDC would promote practical advancement in the design and utilisation of development experiences as well as contribute to the exploration a range of interesting HRD issues. For example, assessing a leader's SDC would contribute to exploring the relationship between self-directed learning and the behaviors and outcomes of leaders in a range of critical development challenges, such as in expatriate assignments, action learning assignments, change management scenarios, etc., (McCauley, 1994). Given the need for adaptation and learning by leaders, assessing SDC may provide advance warning of potential learning challenges inherent in these experiences and allow HRD practitioners to development appropriate remedial actions. At a more macro level the relationship of SDC and organizational change may offer some interesting areas for investigation. For example, an individual's readiness for organizational change has implications for engagement and success of change efforts. Research could explore whether there are linkages between an individual's self focus change capacity and macro change behaviours. The paper outlines the development of a scale for leadership SDC by utilising the theoretical model of leadership self-development (LSD) proposed by Nesbit (2012). In this model, self-development is associated with the integrated operation of three meta-skills of development. These relate to skills in self-reflection, the management of emotions, and in self-regulation of behaviour. The Leadership SDC scale has been developed to tap each of these three areas as well as identify a leader's attitude to self-directed learning. The fuller paper is structured in three parts. The first part is focused on presenting the extant literature on relevant existing scales related to self-directed learning. While these scales offer important insights into self-directed learning assessment they are seen as too broadly focused on non-work related learning to offer useful insights for HRD generally and for the nature of leadership specifically. The second part of the paper outlines the item development process and highlights theoretical links with the LSD model. The third part of the paper presents research on the factor structure of the developed scale as well as its convergent validity. The paper concludes with suggestions for future research implications for development of the Leadership SDC scale.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHRD in turbulent seas - continued global economic uncertainty
Subtitle of host publicationchallenges and opportunities
Place of PublicationUniversity of Brighton
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages2
ISBN (Print)9781905593873
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventUFHRD Conference 2013 - Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 Jun 20137 Jun 2013


ConferenceUFHRD Conference 2013
CityBrighton, United Kingdom


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