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How future leaders can benefit from understanding different learning styles

Students learning at a table with instructor overseeing

By Michael Feder

At a glance

  • There are various types of learning styles, such as visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic learning.
  • Understanding learning styles and picking one that best fits an employee’s background, age and experience can help improve leadership skills.
  • Future business leaders can bolster their leadership skills with business degrees from University of Phoenix (UOPX).

Whether a child is first learning how to take a step or a seasoned adult is returning to school to learn a new skill for a career change, life is full of learning experiences. Through these experiences, future leaders can pick up important skills for their continued development and success. Although there isn’t a typical association between what makes someone a good leader and how they learn, it can be beneficial to be familiar with their strengths, weaknesses and the ways in which they learn best. 

As classrooms and workplaces adapt to new challenges — such as remote or hybrid environments and the increasing use of new technology — future leaders of all kinds should understand different learning styles to better understand how they can learn to take on a leadership role in an organization.  

Without accommodation, many learners may feel lost due to new challenges. If a pupil knows their learning style and the factors that make it up, they might have the control to consume information and learning materials using methods that work best for them. 

The future workforce will have vastly different learning experiences

Before future leaders jump into the workforce and optimize their learning experience, however, there are several factors to consider. For one, there are unfamiliar remote environments, both in the workplace and the classroom. While many education institutions returned to physical spaces after the pandemic, others decided to remain remote or at least keep a hybrid format — and for good reason. Nearly 73% of students within higher education institutions would like some semblance of remote learning. 

In addition to giving students what they want, remote learning environments also provide learners with the tools they need to succeed in future remote settings. In 2021, data scientists from career site Ladders predicted that 25% of high-paying jobs in North America would be remote by the end of 2022, and these positions are expected to stay that way. 

As age groups like Generation Z enter into this work environment, they have the opportunity to utilize their background in remote education to succeed and ultimately become leaders within their fields. To this end, future leaders should understand how they learn best in a remote environment. This environment may look different based on the format, but a healthy remote-learning environment should prioritize their well-being, provide opportunities for discussions with others, limit opportunities for conflict and promote their autonomy.  

Understanding learning styles

As a future leader within the workplace and classroom, it’s important to educate yourself about the variety of learning styles that people bring to the table. Doing so will not only benefit your understanding of your own learning abilities, but it will also create a productive learning environment where others can succeed. 

Visual

A visual learning style is just like it sounds. People who rely on this learning style learn best when given visual tools, such as pictures, flowcharts, videos and slide decks. Certain studies also show that a visual learning style of teaching helps students build “high-order thinking skills,” which are essentially problem-solving skills. 

Visual learners are diligent note-takers and strive for visual organization. It can take visual learners more time to properly process information. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re slow learners; instead, they’re thoughtful and diligent when coming up with the proper answer or reaction.

Auditory

Auditory learners, on the other hand, learn best with tools that require plenty of listening skills. By reading aloud, participating in group discussions and talking through problems, auditory learners will process required information better. Although playing background music can also help auditory learners, they tend to get more distracted by excessive noise. 

This type of learner may strive within a remote environment. Since there are few opportunities to utilize auditory exercises within the classroom, auditory learners can instead rely on online recordings for further study opportunities. 

Reading and writing

Although this learning style is somewhat similar to a visual learning style, there are key differences. On one hand, learners who prefer reading and writing do rely on visual components, such as articles, books or notes. 

On the other hand, reading and writing learners retain information best when they’re actively reading materials and rewriting them in their own words. People with this learning style may also appreciate writing lists to complete tasks and using other visual-oriented tools, such as bullet points. 

Kinesthetic

One of the most common learning styles, kinesthetic learners crave hands-on activities that involve participation and the “gamification” of lesson plans. 

People with this learning style may be less successful during lectures, but they will retain information if a lecture involves experiments. Kinesthetic learners often prefer labs, games and group activities — anything that involves completing tasks physically. 

Combining learning styles

Historically speaking, the principle of learning styles has been incredibly pervasive among educators, but it can be important to anyone looking to understand how they can best learn and grow as a leader.

That being said, it’s important to understand that learning styles are not stagnant. After all, an adult will learn differently than a student in elementary school. Therefore, future leaders can improve the effectiveness of their learning by suiting it to their background, age, experience and preferred learning style. 

This can get complicated, especially as classrooms or business teams grow beyond the capacity of one educator or trainer. To solve this problem, future leaders should apply an array of learning styles and theories to best utilize their talents and skill sets, as well as those of others.

Applications for learning styles

Although there are plenty of benefits to discovering the wide world of learning styles, actually applying them can be difficult.

Leaders can find ways for everyone in the room to simultaneously use their learning styles — whether by breaking their team into subgroups based on their learning style or creating individual activities catered to someone’s particular learning style.

Further, helping others reach their full potential through their learning styles lets them become familiar with who they are. This increase in self-awareness may not ensure success for everyone, but it may help them understand themselves and shape their own leadership style one day

Applying learning styles can also ensure collaborative success for leaders and the people they lead — now and in the future. They can respectfully differ from others. For example, even though they may opt for learning through activities, they may also understand that others within their group don’t feel the same way. They should be encouraged to find ways to fuse the group’s various learning styles within one experience. From there, they’ll be more prepared to lead team projects, tackle assignments or even pursue a leadership career themselves.

Interested in furthering your skills as a business leader? Learn more about business degrees from UOPX.