With the creation of the Senior Management Service (SMS) in 2001 a specific
attempt was made at professionalising the senior management cadre of the
Public Service. An inherent requirement for professionalisation is continuous
executive development. The article argues that for executive development to meet
the requirements of both the organisation and the senior manager, learning and
thinking style preferences should be considered in the design and implementation
of continuous professional development interventions. The article uses a mixed
method research approach to determine the thinking and learning style preferences
of senior managers who participated in the Executive Development Programme
(EDP) as part of their professional development. The article provides a theoretical
perspective of thinking and learning style preferences based on the work done
by Kolb (1973) and Neethling (2000). The findings reveal a specific preference
towards left brain thinking and learning which is structured, analytical and processdriven
with limited preference towards innovative or imaginative considerations.
The article argues that the thinking and learning preferences of senior managers is
indicative of an environment in which structure and process (or compliance) are
emphasised, yet senior managers are expected to be visionary in dealing with service
delivery complexities. Thinking and learning preferences should be considered
in the manner in which professional development is driven as well as designed.
Ultimately professional development should enable the senior manager to perform
better at a practical, competency level, but also at a higher level of self-awareness
necessary for leading public service delivery in such a complex environment.