Skip to main content

Often at the start of a Leadership Programme, I ask participants to take a look at their learning styles.

I ask everyone to read the four descriptions, to choose the style that feels most like them; Activist, Reflector, Theorist or Pragmatist.

The images often produce a wry smile!

Then I ask them to find the people in the group most like them, and to discuss the pros and cons of being a learner like this.

There is usually lots of laughter at this point, as people recognise themselves in the stories of others, and similarities are shared.

As a whole group we then present our flipcharts and learn about the other three styles.

We start to see each other with a new light. We start to see how our colleagues, friends and family can be the same as us, and how they can be different.

The penny drops that treating everyone the same, or (more likely) the same as ourselves, isn’t always going to be effective.

This is something intuitively, and from experience, we know is true.

We have a 1 in 4 chance of being the same.

Without understanding how we are different from each other, differences in learning styles can jar, be uncomfortable and frustrating.

Sharing our respective learning styles can reduce this friction.

We can both be explicit about what we each need, and adapt from there.

If you are unsure what your learning style is, you can check out your own style with this free on line tool:

Here’s the kicker though. There is much more to learning, becoming an effective learner, and helping others learn, than knowing your preferred styles.

To become an effective learner, I would ask to remember just one thing.

Learning is a series of steps, it goes round in a circle. It follows a learning cycle. It doesn’t matter where we start – in fact it is probably best if we start at our preferred or favourite place.

What matters is that we move to the next step on the cycle, for example from activist to reflector, or reflector to theorist. This is much more important than staying in one place.

This is how effective learning truly happens.

So when you need to explain something to someone, find out where they start on the learning cycle.

Start with them here.

Help them move forward from their starting point. This is what I do with participants on my leadership programmes.

It saves everyone time, reduces frustration and delivers results.

Take note. It takes a mindset shift to learn to work with others like this.

However, the results outweigh the discomfort of a new approach.

How could you give this a try, in line with, and consistent with, your own learning style?


Gill How is an internationally recognised Leadership Developer delivering programmes globally which enable senior managers, executives and professionals step into their strategic leadership capability and stretch their strengths. She is a Fellow of the Association for Coaching, a Team Facilitator and Strengths Expert. She founded an EDI Bookclub+ to which ALL are welcome. If she can help you in developing the potential of the professionals and leaders in your organisation, get in touch:


“Gill and I met through the Women in Transport LEAD Programme. Gill was my coach and the facilitator of the programme. What I learnt from Gill was immeasurable. Her approach was measured and very supportive. Her knowledge was evident in all our interactions. The tools and techniques I have learnt have had an impact on my confidence and I’ve gained clarity on my future career direction. I would highly recommend working with Gill.”

Tennessee Airdrie, Head of People Strategy, Rail Delivery Group


Photo credit: Martin How. This is Gill (with orange tow float) entering the sea at Hayling Island. Learning Style Activist, with a bit of Reflector, going in last! 😀

Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results

Leave a Reply