Learning Paths For Successful Leadership Development Training

Learning Paths For Successful Leadership Development Training
Summary: There may be rare cases of natural, born leaders in the corporate world. But more typically, great leaders are trained and effective management is learned. Be sure to include these 7 learning paths in your own quest to train leaders within your company.

7 Essential Leadership Learning Paths You Should Consider

Great leaders are among the most valuable assets for any company. They innovate; they inspire; they drive optimal performance and fortify loyalty. They’re worth their weight in gold to the organization because of the energy they bring—and the outcomes they produce. For example, their teams consistently fire on all cylinders, they don’t suffer unnecessary disruptions due to disharmony or disagreements, and they rarely are members of the team on the hunt for a new job. So, how can learning paths for leaders help improve your overall business culture and team bulding?

eBook Release: The New Essentials Of Employee Training: Cultivating Engagement And Enjoyment
eBook Release
The New Essentials Of Employee Training: Cultivating Engagement And Enjoyment
Learn how to increase employee engagement and how to get learners to enjoy the experience of learning.

It can’t be assumed that great leaders are born and hired that way. Maybe in a few rare cases, there are people with natural, inherent leadership qualities that they’ve been honing since their days on the elementary school playground, but in most cases, leaders are trained and leadership is learned. And the learning is ongoing.

Is Your Company Committed To Training Leadership?

Some organizations may be tempted to engage in the somewhat old-fashioned debate about whether leadership can really be taught. You may not be able to avoid the argument if your company isn’t committed to proactively developing its leaders, but it’s about as worthwhile a discussion as questioning whether Emotional Intelligence (EI) can be taught [1], which at this point is widely proven.

Brandon Hall Group lists developing managers with emotional intelligence (EI) as one of the key skills needed in a leadership training program [2]: "What we need to focus on in our leadership development programs is creating a high degree of Emotional Intelligence in our leaders. Individuals are motivated and inspired by, and will follow, leaders with whom they can relate and form a strong personal connection."

So, setting that argument aside, and assuming you agree that leaders can be developed with the right training program, how can you champion the cause within your organization? How can you help eliminate any doubt about its value and build a leadership training program that delivers on the promise?

Proving The Value Of Leadership Training

As nearly every L&D professional knows, it can be difficult to explicitly prove that training drives better job performance. Yes, there are ways to correlate the two and some organizations have tracking and processes in place that support the connections well. However, if you want to take another approach to show the value of a leadership training program, it’s an increasingly strong position to promote leadership training as an employee recruitment and retention strategy.

In today’s competitive job market, employees truly value it. Millennials in particular perceive leadership training as an important benefit, as critical as the salary or healthcare program.

Working with HR, learning professionals can help attract and retain the most promising employees by marketing their leadership development training programs. Through surveys or other feedback collection tools, it isn’t difficult to show how many interviewees and/or new hires saw leadership training as one of the reasons they took interest in the open position.

What Skills Are Required By Today’s Leaders?

As you build your leadership development training program, what learning content do you need to make it an essential element of your broader learning organization? Many of the old approaches, such as courses that focus on solely financial planning and outcomes, how to gain top-down control, and even how to manage to yearly performance reviews, no longer satisfy the expectations of leaders or employees.

A more progressive—perhaps even an enlightened—approach is needed now. Leadership is a 365-day-a-year job. So, just as many companies have stopped only assessing employee performance once a year in a formal review and instead offer ongoing coaching and training, leaders should have access to continuous learning that enables continuous improvement as well.

Essential Learning Paths For Successful Leadership Development

The most important leadership skills can be developed with learning paths that support the following 7 areas of strength.

1. Managing To Motivate

Today’s leaders need to be trained to motivate top performance. Ruling with an iron fist is an outdated practice that never worked very well in the first place. Managing by instilling fear tends to reduce performance, crush job satisfaction, and increase employee churn. Now, leaders can take training courses on how to inspire positivity and passion, as well as how to quell negativity and resolve conflict if or when it does pop up. Motivated employees put the most passion in their work because they care and are committed—not because they fear the dreaded annual review.

2. Planning Strategically

Leaders are asked to develop strategic plans and of course, implement them. They shouldn’t have to feel their way through the dark to do so. By including courses on strategic planning in your leadership training program, you’ll make them much more efficient in building plans that can be translated into action. This learning path may also include courses on operational planning, such as budgeting, to better manage resources and work toward company goals.

3. Thinking Critically And Collaboratively

Your leadership development training program may include courses on critical thinking, but its learning path should also include courses on collaboration and creativity. How else will you put those strategic plans into action? Progressive leaders don’t solve problems in a vacuum. The best teams use a combination of critical, collaborative, and creative thinking to approach challenges and come up with new ideas. Managers who are good at asking "why" and “how” of their teams and are trained to actively listen to the answers will be the most successful.

4. Communicating Effectively

In leadership development, “soft skills” cannot be underestimated. Remember the saying that “people leave bosses, not jobs.” [3] If the boss can’t communicate well (give clear direction, delegate appropriately, resolve questions or confusion, run effective meetings, etc.), people will feel frustrated and lost. When employees spend a significant amount of time just figuring out what’s expected, a good deal of productivity is wasted in the search for clarity. By training managers to be effective communicators, they’ll not only increase the team’s productivity but satisfaction and retention as well.

5. Giving And Receiving Feedback

This could be included as a subcategory of effective communication, but depending on your program and your people, you may want to isolate it as a separate learning path because it’s critically important and frankly, feedback is a complex topic. It may include formal processes like surveys and performance reviews, but also other skills like coaching, providing positive reinforcement and recognition, and giving rewards (monetary or otherwise). Leaders can also be trained to break through the fears of giving and receiving constructive criticism and learn to approach these sometimes difficult conversations with greater confidence.

6. Managing Change

Change management is one of the most important skills that a manager can master. Successful change processes depend on how a manager can help their employees overcome resistance to change and embrace adaptability to successfully turn the corner and take a different direction. A solid change management learning path should include courses that give leaders real-world tools to navigate new challenges and assist people along the change curve as smoothly as possible.

7. Creating A Culture Of Learning

The organization needs its leaders to lead by example. Managers should model the behaviors that make Learning and Development part of the business culture, not just an isolated exercise or event. Leaders who don’t share their own excitement about professional development certainly can’t expect their employees to fully commit to continuous learning. Managers can be trained to nurture employees’ interests, bolster their strengths, and improve their weaknesses. As leaders help develop their employees’ personal learning paths, they’re helping create a culture of learning, which benefits everyone and the organization as a whole.

Dig in the eBook The New Essentials Of Employee Training: Cultivating Engagement And Enjoyment to discover more about what employee training has to offer when implemented correctly, focused on engagement and joy!


[1] Can emotional intelligence be taught?

[2] Brandon Hall Group

[3] Why People Really Quit Their Jobs

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