Management often sets the standard for the rest of an organization. Everyone from middle managers to senior executives are expected to lead their subordinates. However, leadership is a skill and not everyone is born a natural leader. Leadership development teaches managers the necessary skills so they can lead more effectively. When employed at the right time, with the right people, and the right plan, leadership development can create confident and well-equipped managers. Leadership development is not a magic fix-all and must be used strategically to avoid failure. Learn more to determine if SkillSource Learning’s professional leadership development consultants are right for your business.
What is Leadership Development?
Many people will ask “what is leadership development” and that is a fair question, as the term “leadership development” doesn’t lend itself to an obvious definition. Leadership development is generally defined as activities, courses, or training that improve the skills, confidence, and abilities of a leader. There are a variety of different leadership development programs and methods, but matching the goal, the manager, the trainer, and the method is critical for successful improvement.
Why is Leadership Development Important?
Some organizations may not realize why leadership development is important but developing a leader’s skills has a positive return on investment. Building a more effective and more capable leadership team positively impacts the entire company.
Improve Bottom-Line Performance
Quality leaders often create positive change by fixing problems and crafting new processes that let a business function better. A good leader will work with employees to build a more efficient and effective business, which translates to improved bottom-line performance.
Attract & Retain Talent
Competent and confident leaders often inspire subordinates to work harder or reach for more. Having a strong communicative captain at the helm cultivates a professional environment where staff feel secure and appreciated. Many people will stay loyal to an inspiration manager and employees from other companies may join your business because of the allure of strong leadership.
When a group must adapt to change, people look to the leader to guide them through the transition. A properly developed leader will have the skills to manage a team and smoothly navigate them through change.
Why Leadership Development Programs Fail
Leadership development can greatly improve a manager’s abilities, but leadership development is not magic. Developing leadership skills is a complex process that does not always work. There are many reasons why leadership development programs fail and a few of the most common are outlined below.
Right Person, Right Time
You cannot toss just any manager or executive into leadership development and expect success. Leadership development should be focused on managers who are open to change and receptive to mentorship. Someone who is closed off or reluctant to embrace development will likely not benefit from leadership development. Even if a manager is excited about receiving leadership development, if their schedule does not have room for the necessary development meetings and activities, the training will likely be ineffective. Leadership development must be used at the right time for the right person to produce ideal results.
The Wrong Approach
Even if you have a manager willing and able to commit to leadership development, taking the wrong approach with training can limit the program’s effectiveness. Everyone learns differently and leadership development programs should match the manager’s preferred style. It may sound reasonable to have leadership training take place in a classroom setting, but adults tend to retain just 10% of what they learn in classrooms vs. the two-thirds retention rate of learn-by-doing activities. Find the right approach for the person receiving training to save time and frustration.
Starting leadership development with unrealistic or no end goals is a recipe for disaster. Leadership development should have measurable outcomes and specific goals that the person being trained can work towards. Without a clear “from-to” path, it is impossible to measure if the training worked. Establish context-appropriate outcomes before beginning leadership development to avoid wasting resources.
What Skills to Focus Development On
The skills developed will depend on the managers level within your organization:
Skills of Senior Leadership
- Change Management – High-level executives must be able to calmly guide the organization through systemic change. As the highest-ranking leaders, C-level managers are expected to set the example and tone for navigating change that the rest of the company can follow.
- Communication – Senior leadership must be able to communicate with a variety of different stakeholders. From entry-level staff to fellow executives and outside vendors, senior leaders must communicate effectively and appropriately with every level of employee.
- Strategic Thinking and Execution – C-level executives are often tasked with projecting the future of their organization and making accurate predictions requires strategic foresight. Training executives to think on a large, sometimes global, scale and to successfully enact high-level initiatives is necessary for business wide-scale growth.
Skills of Upper Management
- Multitasking – Upper managers are often charged with staying up to date on many different projects and relaying information up or down the chain of command. Teaching upper managers how to stay abreast of multiple issues at once keeps them from becoming overwhelmed.
- Broad Awareness – Newly appointed upper managers may be used to doing their job in their department without worrying too much about the rest of the company. As managers move closer to the executive level, they will need to know how to look at the company as a whole and step outside their comfortable silos.
- Influence Skills – Being a manager doesn’t mean you have direct control over staff or procedures, but with subtle influence skills, managers can still reach their goals while staying diplomatic. Use incentives and positive influences to encourage staff to move in the desired direction. Influence skills are especially useful when internal politics stand in the way.
Skills of Middle Management
- Hiring Ability – Middle managers are often responsible for interviewing and hiring new employees. Skillful hiring is rarely a natural skill and middle managers must be taught how to interview and select employees that will better the company.
- Delegation – When many people reach a managerial role, they still insist on doing everything themselves. Leadership development can teach middle managers how to delegate, so the manager doesn’t become overwhelmed and learns how to depend on staff.
- Difficult Communication – Middle managers are generally the people responsible for talking with employees about poor performance. Teaching managers how to approach difficult professional conversations makes the process of performance reviews easier on the manager and clearer for the person being reviewed.
Leadership development can craft and mold great leaders at any level. Whether you are looking to improve a first-time manager or a high-level executive, everyone can learn something from leadership development. To learn more about SkillSource Learning’s leadership development consultants, click here!
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