Although knowledge is a fundamental determinant of leader action, its translation into concrete behavior depends significantly on the leader’s action skills: the vast array of skills with which one transforms a “mental” decision into concrete, practical behavior. Often, leaders will employ these skills in a highly “preprogrammed” way, simply implementing the behaviors dictated by the lessons they’ve learned from prior experience: the behaviors taught to them as conceptually correct, the norms they’ve learned in their work domain, and the actions that have just come to feel right. These leaders do not account, however, for novel features of their present situation—features that must be addressed with a degree of improvisation. The effective leader, however, must acknowledge these uncertainties when they arise, and simply try acting in a way that will work. Notably, this need not be at a haphazard effort: It can and should be an agile response that takes into account best practices while also adapting to the present circumstances. In practice, then, the effective leader’s behavior is fundamentally experimental: It is a proactive, inquisitive attempt to take sensible risks in achieving the goals at hand, with a determination to observe and learn from what occurs.
Drawing on research, our programs will not only help participants to acquire but also iteratively practice the skills of this leadership experimentation, as demanded by their roles and responsibilities. This aspect of the participant experience will unfold in classroom lecture and discussion, interactive in-person exercises, individual and collective action planning, and guided reflection.