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Beyond being present: learning-oriented leadership in the daily work of middle managers


Marianne Döös , Peter E Johansson, Lena Wilhelmson

Publication Type:

Journal article


Journal of Workplace Learning



Purpose – This paper aims to contribute to the understanding of learning-oriented leadership as being integrated in managers’ daily work. The particular focus is on managers’ efforts to change how work is carried out through indirect acts of influence. In their daily work, managers influence the organisation’s learning conditions in ways that go beyond face-to-face interaction. Neither the influencer nor those influenced are necessarily aware that they are engaged in learning processes.Design/methodology/approach – The research was part of a larger case study. The data set comprised interviews with nine middle managers about ways of working during a period of organisational change. A learning-theoretical analysis model was used to categorise managerial acts of influence. The key concept concerned pedagogic interventions.Findings – Two qualitatively different routes for indirect influence were identified concerning social and organisational structures: one aligning, that narrows organisational members’ discretion, and one freeing, that widens discretion. Alignment is built on fixed views of objectives and on control of their interpretation. The freeing of structures is built on confidence in emerging competence and involvement of others.Research limitations/implications – The study was limited to managers’ descriptions in a specific context. An issue for future research is to see whether the identified categories of learning-oriented leadership are found in other organisations.Practical implications – The learning-oriented leadership categories cover a repertoire of acts of influence that create different learning conditions. These may be significant for the creation of a learning-conducive environment.Originality/value – Managerial work that creates conducive conditions for learning does not need to be a specific task. Learning-oriented elements are inherent in aspects of managerial work, and managers’ daily tasks can be understood as expressions of different kinds of pedagogic intervention.


author = {Marianne D{\"o}{\"o}s and Peter E Johansson and Lena Wilhelmson},
title = {Beyond being present: learning-oriented leadership in the daily work of middle managers},
volume = {27},
number = {6},
pages = {408--425},
month = {June},
year = {2015},
journal = {Journal of Workplace Learning},
url = {}