Leading in a learning organisation: Senge's model of the learning organisation within a school of nursing


Teachers are leaders because they take responsibility for learning. This leadership is not derived from a traditional view of leadership which assumes individuals are powerless, suffer from limited personal vision and are thus unable to respond positively to change. Peter Senge (1990) argues that this form of leadership creates

...learning organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together. (p.3)

There are five basic principles which, when applied correctly, will create an optimal learning organisation. These principles are:

1. Systems thinking

2. Personal mastery

3. Mental models

4. Building shared vision

5. Team learning

Students are members of The School of Nursing which is a learning organisation within many learning organisations: the University of Notre Dame, the profession of Registered Nursing, the stakeholders of the profession such as the community which Registered Nursing serves or the politics which govern the funding and structure of Health Care. Graduates then become the leaders/teachers in the learning organisations where they are employed.

It is the intention of the School of Nursing at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle that graduates are empowered to participate proactively in their careers. Indeed, it is the shared vision (principle 4) of all Schools of Nursing that graduates are not only equipped to operate in isolation but able to contribute, through the five principles of a Learning Organisation, to the continuous improvement of Registered Nursing. Without teacher/leadership these principles cannot be applied. There are three aspects of leadership which are central to the development of the learning organisation. They are:

1. The Leader as designer

2. The Leader as steward

3. The Leader as teacher

These three aspects of leadership will form the foundation of this paper. These three aspects have profound effects within the School of Nursing at both staff and student levels as teachers cannot and should not be differentiated from the students in the pursuit of excellence.


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