Topic: Leadership, Coaching, Personality
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (SEP 2012)
Article: A Quasi-Experimental Study of After-Event Reviews and Leadership
Authors: D.S. DeRue, J.D. Nahrgang, J.R. Hollenbeck, K. Workman
Reviewed By: Ben Sher
How can we train people to become better leaders? New research by DeRue, et al.
(2012) has identified the benefits of a strategy called after-event reviews, or AERs.
What are AERs, and when will they work best?
The authors explain that leadership is difficult because it involves high pressure and
high uncertainty. Even in hindsight, complex situations make it difficult to know if
leaders performed well or made good decisions. In order to improve leadership skills,
leaders must reflect on what happened, and analyze their decisions and the outcomes
that they led to. An AER is a technique that provides structure for this kind of analysis.
An AER has three steps. In the first step, leaders must explain what they did and
how this contributed to the outcome. This is called self-explanation. In the second
step, called data verification, leaders consider other possible explanations for how
their decisions led to the outcome. Finally, leaders provide themselves with a type of
feedback by considering how changes in their behavior can lead to future improvement.
The authors conducted a quasi-experiment involving emerging leaders in a
business school and found that using the AER technique led to improved leadership
development. This is because AERs provide needed structure to the reflection process,
and force leaders to truly deconstruct and consider their actions. Generic reflection
processes are not as effective because they allow people to reflect in an automatic and
When do AERs work best? The authors found that several different types of people
gain more from AERs. People who are conscientious benefit more from AERs, as
do people who are emotionally-stable, and people who are open to new experiences.
If you think about it, this makes sense. These kinds of people will be more likely
to dutifully, objectively, or readily consider alternative explanations that may prove
useful to their development. The authors also found that people who have already
experienced some kind of leadership development gain more from AERs than people
without this past experience.
What does this all mean? First, AERs are a great way to provide needed structure to
the leadership development process. They are cheap, easy, and they work! Second,
the authors explain that leadership coaching is great way to improve and develop
leaders. But the presence of a coach is not a cure-all. Coaches will be most successful
when they utilize strategies that are supported by research.
human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management