Purpose – The Holy Grail of leadership learning is to stimulate behavioural changes that continue beyond the learning environment into the workplace, ultimately leading to improved productivity and value. The purpose of this paper is to explore the interface between emotion and leadership learning and provides evidence from research undertaken in Wales (UK) to support further research on the use of emotion in this endeavour.
Design/methodology/approach – Unique access to a successful programme of guided leadership development for owner-managers of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Wales, UK, provided an opportunity to observe emotion being used and experienced by both learners and trainers. Literature reviews were used to inform initial inferences made during participant observations of a sample of the learners (n 1⁄4 91). Focus groups were undertaken with a sample (n 1⁄4 27) of participants in order to determine the emotional impact and perceived effectiveness of the method by the learners. Findings – The data corroborated the authors’ observations that emotion plays a role in the leadership practice of the learners and in the learning process. No appropriate conceptual model exists that describes this learning method or its mode of impact upon learning. A gap exists in the academic understanding of this observed social reality and multi-disciplinary research is required in order to further characterise and understand it.
Practical implications – Improvements in leadership have been consistently linked to improvements in firm performance. Bringing new insights that lead to effective learning and constructive behaviour changes in the leaders of SMEs and their employees could have profound positive impacts on entrepreneurial economies.
Originality/value – This novel perspective on leadership development within the life world of the entrepreneur moves away from the established literature which has traditionally focused on cognitive or conative constructs, often focused on the corporate or large organisation leader, and calls for further research into the synthesis of leadership, entrepreneurship and emotion.