Advancing Leadership Education and Development: Integrating Adult Learning Theory

Scott J. Allen, David M. Rosch, Ronald E. Riggio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Leader development serves as a strong focus in the mission statements of many business school programs. Looking at business school leader development programs through the lens of adult learning theory, we assert that there is an overreliance on cognitive training (e.g., lecture) as the primary form of education used in preparing future business leaders, neglecting other relevant learning orientations. In response, we advance a comprehensive model of business leader education and training that incorporates and integrates five primary orientations to adult learning (cognitivist, behaviorist, humanistic, social cognitive, constructivist). We argue that other professional training curricula, most notably, medical school and military education, draw more fully on these five orientations to adult learning and that these represent comparative models for what business schools could be doing in leader development. We conclude by providing concrete suggestions for how business educators might apply the model in their own programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-283
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Management Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • adult learning theory
  • curriculum design
  • leadership
  • leadership development
  • leadership education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Business, Management and Accounting


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