Industry Insights

Leadership Training and Development: The Ultimate Guide

Posted by Yann Cartier on Aug 31, 2022 6:55:50 PM


Who is This Guide For?

This guide is for anyone who wants to know more about leadership training and development, both from the perspective of an organization looking to develop its workforce, and from the perspective of an employee who wants to know more about unlocking their potential as a leader.

There is no demographic on Earth that does not offer up leaders. Within all of us there is huge capability, but for some this potential requires a bit of unlocking. There could be rough diamonds in your organization, but if they’re not given the chance to polish their leadership skills, the opportunity will be missed.

How Does This Leadership Training and Development Guide Benefit You?

In this guide, we will explore many important themes around leadership training and development, including:

  • What it is and why you need to do it
  • Who benefits from the training (everyone)
  • The difference between born leaders and made leaders
  • The investment required (time and money)
  • The key skills for leaders in 2022 and beyond
  • How to build a leadership and development training plan
  • The best experiential leadership training activities
  • How to find leaders in your organization

We aim to arm you with all of the knowledge required to understand what leadership training is, how to implement it, and how to make sure that it results in progressive changes in your organization.

What is Leadership Training and Development? (and Why you Need a Program)

Let’s start with an accurate definition:

Leadership Training and Development is how organizations take the talent they have already and prepare them to be the leaders they need for the future. As businesses evolve, they need their employees to evolve with them, whether it be to changes in the market, business pivots, or other external circumstances. Skilled leaders will always be a requirement to help navigate change, implement solutions, explore opportunities, and deliver strategies. 

Why do you need a Leadership Development Program?

Working to develop leaders has numerous tangible benefits for any organization, including making the business more profitable. By having more employees who handle challenges well, can think strategically and are more likely to stay in their roles, there are multiple financial benefits. From an HR point of view, the ability to attract and retain talent should not be overlooked. The type of employee who wants to learn and develop within a company is the kind of employee that organizations should seek to hire. Offering a leadership development program should be seen as an attractive reason to try and work with your organization.

Born to Lead or Made to Lead?

Do you think people are born to lead, or that they learn to lead? It’s a good question, and if research is to be believed, the answer is both. This study suggests that leadership is 30% genetic and 70% learned, proving that regardless of the individual, it is a mixture of opportunity and education that helps to discover and define our leaders.

If 70% is learnable, that means that the best leaders are the best learners. In that case, what makes a good learner? Regardless of whether you are 9 years old or 90 years old, the characteristics of a good learner remain the same:

  • Being a good listener
  • Communicating effectively
  • Asking good questions
  • Retaining information well
  • Being keen to study and read
  • Being persistent in problem-solving
  • Curiously questioning everything
  • Taking ownership of their learning development

Interestingly, all of these things apply to leaders. These are the qualities we demand of our leaders. The takeaway point here is that you can become a Made Leader by becoming a student of leadership. This is lesson one. 

For organizations, this is incredible news! You don’t have to look for natural-born leaders to hire, you can develop the talent you have already. Of course, it might not be easy, and it will require investment. Remember, however, that showing a desire and commitment to improving your workforce not only prepares them for more responsibility and difficult tasks, but it keeps them highly engaged and more likely to stay in their jobs. 

In the next section, we will discuss the outlay and return on investment that goes into leadership development.

The Investment: Developing your Leaders

Developing a leader doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and money, two resources that all businesses are keen to budget and expend carefully. 

One of the most important studies on the cost of leadership development was performed by Chief Learning Officer back in 2018, and it revealed some very interesting things. The key takeaways were:

  • 94% of businesses were planning to maintain or increase their leadership development budget
  • A third of businesses spend less than $1,000 per person per year on developing their leadership skills
  • Another third of businesses spend between $1,000 and $4,000 per person per year
  • Just 8% of businesses spent over $10,000 per person per year on turning them into leaders
  • The succession pipeline, retention, and innovation were cited as the main reasons for developing leaders internally

In the 2022 Global Corporate Training Market report, data suggests that the size of the leadership development market is around $37 billion in 2022, with that expected to almost double to $65 billion by 2028. If this trend prediction is accurate, businesses will, on average, be increasing their budgets by around 10% per year, for the next 6 years.

Organizations have a lot of things to consider when deciding which leadership program to invest in, and which employees are their leaders for the future. They also need to look at what the key skills required for their business are, and how to nurture them, as we will explore in the following section.

Calculating the Return on Investment

Some may consider the ROI on leadership training to be somewhat subjective, but there is a formula to help find some data for success. These steps can provide a reasonable metric to do so.

  1. Calculate the overall cost of leadership training, including
    1. the cost of the course/trainer
    2. the loss of working hours for the employee/s
    3. the overtime paid to the cover
    4. travel and accommodation costs
  2. Decide on a metric for measuring the benefits of training, such as
    1. the employee’s sales performance in a set amount of time before the training and after
    2. employee productivity if their work is task-based
  3. If there are financial metrics that can be measured, divide the net profit gained by the overall cost of the leadership training (1) and multiply it by 100 for an ROI percentage
  4. Continue tracking the metrics and review at regular intervals, such as quarterly, as the ROI may likely continue to increase over time as the employee applies their learnings

For negative ROI, review the leadership training program and consider alternative training methods. Consider too, that perhaps the wrong skills were being developed for a particular individual. The next section will shed light on this.

The Key Skills Leaders Need in 2022 & How to Develop Them

Being promoted into a leadership role does not automatically qualify someone as a leader. It is the skills and qualities they develop over time, whether as a byproduct of their roles or through intentional development, that make them a leader.

In 2022, a perfectly skilled leader is:

  • Emotionally intelligent - maintains good judgment in stressful situations and understands the needs of others to keep people unified
  • Continuous learner - accepts they do not know it all and are on a learning journey to be dynamic, make informed decisions, and offer valuable guidance
  • Relationship builder & networker - works to improve relationships with existing colleagues and contacts, is keen to make new contacts and build rapport with them, and is adept at fostering growth between team members too
  • Has a solution mindset - sees issues and problems as opportunities to develop processes and do better in the future, getting creative when required
  • Effective decision maker - makes tough calls that can have large effects, can predict possible outcomes and consequences, and can defend their decisions
  • Coach and mentor personality - motivates others to find solutions instead of cleaning up their messes, helps their teams to unlock their potential, and guides rather than shows
  • Persuasive communicator - shares a vision or mission and earns buy-in and support, rather than giving out orders and expecting obedience from their team members
  • Planner and strategist - aligns the organization’s goals and objectives with workflows and projects, keeping teams well managed and on the right path for long-term success
  • Effective delegator - understands that they cannot do everything and so builds trust with team members to carry out important tasks, creating more balance and opportunity 
  • Good at compromise and negotiation - finds solutions that are in the best interests of as many affected parties as possible, rather than making biased decisions
  • Organized and good at time management - knows their time is limited and critical, so makes a point of managing it well with structure, scheduling, and setting boundaries
  • Skilled at presentations - spends half of their working time in meetings and so knows the value of putting together a good presentation and getting their point across well
  • Empathetic listener - processes data quickly, does not suffer distractions when conversing with colleagues, and asks thoughtful follow-up questions about the details they are receiving
  • Focused but relaxed - tackles priorities in a responsible order, possessing excellent discipline without getting stressed by minor events
  • Good at balancing tasks - manages a handful of tasks simultaneously, juggling responsibilities, people, and priorities, whilst being able to switch between tasks seamlessly
  • Calm and fair when resolving conflicts - mediates issues with a fair hand, guiding parties towards peaceful resolutions and minimizing tensions

All of the above describe a perfect leader. In reality, nobody is perfect, and having all of those skills would be very rare indeed. Rather, developing leaders is about improving the weaker skills, while affirming the strong ones. The question remains, however, how do you actually start designing leadership training for your workforce?

Building your Leadership & Development Plan in 7 Steps

It’s time to get into the details of constructing your plan, and we’re going to break it down into 7 steps.

1. Start a Self-Development Culture

Introducing sweeping changes to the educational and training side of an organization can often be met with resistance, something which is mostly avoidable. By first implementing a self-development culture and offering staff platforms, opportunities, subscriptions, and knowledge-sharing channels, resistance can be negated. There is also a responsibility on the organization’s part to acknowledge those who are actively pursuing CPD and taking advantage of any development opportunities provided. 

2. Identify the Gaps or Weaknesses in your existing Leadership

The HR department has two options when looking for leaders: succession or recruitment.

If it’s difficult to identify leaders in the organization, HR will often look towards recruitment. However, if your organization is keen to develop leaders and embrace the existing talent, they will lean towards succession.

It’s the responsibility of the organization to see which departments or teams are not working as well as expected and if the right leaders are in place to take them forward. It’s also important to assess the existing leaders; perhaps they have become complacent, are suffering at work because of personal problems, or are headed towards retirement. 

Finding these gaps is key to your Leadership & Training Development Plan, as it gives you a focused approach to where training most needs to be applied. You may realize that your training plan is most needed for existing managers to make improvements, or you may have spotted a crop of young talent who are rising leaders in need of nurturing. 

Remember to refer to the skills list to define which leadership values are most important to your organization.

3. Bring in Key Figures to Support the Desired Changes

It’s key to remember that leadership is about moving forward together, not dishing out orders from the top in a hierarchical manner. If you are responsible for, or involved in, the changes in leadership development, you are yourself in the position of a leader. In that case, collaborate! Look around your organization and pick out key figureheads, influencers, department managers, and networkers that hold sway in the company. Ask for their input and use it to your advantage. They will know exactly where the gaps and weaknesses are and will likely have solutions for resolving them. Having been a part of designing the change, they’ll help you win buy-in when implementing it.

4. Decide Which Strategies and Methodologies to Apply

Leadership development is not a one-size-fits-all activity. Every organization must have a bespoke strategy that applies specifically to them, considering the size of their workforce, their departments, the industry they’re in, their future goals, and so much more. The plan you ultimately design must adequately meet your organization’s learning needs. That’s the goal here.

The great thing to know is that all of the best leadership training and development programs have something in common - they diversify their training methods.

They forge an intelligent and reasoned blend of the following approaches:

  • Group activities - the best way to identify a potential leader is to see how they perform in groups, using different scenarios and dynamic situations to inspire reactions. For existing leaders, bringing together your peers to share ideas and collaborate will improve communication and help the business be more agile
  • One-on-one activities - this can be performed in different ways, such as senior figures selecting newly-identified leaders to mentor over Zoom. It can also take the form of expert coaching from an external authority. The former is preferred by many organizations as a more cost-effective approach to ongoing tutoring, however, the expertise of a professional trainer cannot be overlooked
  • Self-directed learning - whilst it may be more difficult to conceive one becoming a better leader without working with others, there are some tangible benefits to self-study, such as allowing for a comfortable pace and a wider variety of learning materials, tools, and technologies

In the following section, we will explore another form or learning which can be done both in groups and in a self-directed way.

5. Experiential and Simulation-based Training Exercises

This is what we believe to be the ultimate leadership development technology. Business simulations place potential leaders in situations designed to probe their skills, responses, critical thinking, decision making, and more. Simulations fall under a broader umbrella of ‘Experiential Learning’, whereby students learn by doing, rather than listening or reading. When someone does something physically, they develop and nurture their abilities, especially when the activities challenge them to want to grow and learn. Teach, practice, adapt. 

6. Define the Impacts you Wish to Achieve

Throwing a leadership program out into the world and seeing what comes back probably isn’t your intended plan, so, what is? Well, you might want to consider tracking potential impacts, such as:

  • How many employees started and finished the leadership program
  • How many of these employees were promoted or took on new roles
  • What areas do the employees feel they improved on
  • What their peers or mentors feel has improved
  • If their job performance has improved (see Calculating the Return on Investment)

7. Communicate the Intention for Change and Why

The final step of your development plan regards how you will communicate your proposed changes towards leadership development to the workforce. Will you host meetings, send emails, or hand out printed materials? This is an important thing to consider, as it can say a lot about your business, how it manages change internally, and how it treats its employees. Remember, the next leader might be watching.

Popular Experiential Leadership Training Activities & Trends

There are hundreds of activities out there, you just have to find them. Here are three that we think are effective to get you started.

Activity one: Murder Mystery

Whilst a classic for dinner parties around the world, Murder Mystery games are often overlooked by businesses for the roleplay challenges they ask of participants. 

In the ‘Who Dunnit?’ style of game, players are asked to find out who committed a murder, whilst also fulfilling secret personal objectives unique to their character. It involves a great deal of dialogue and questioning, critically assessing answers and extrapolating data, and putting yourself in the shoes of others. Leaders make themselves known in this game, whilst all participants are offered the opportunity to develop their leadership skills.

Simpler versions of this game are Mafia and Werewolves, which can be played with just a deck of cards and a good game master. 

Activity two: Simulation Games

We’ve come to learn a great deal about developing leaders through simulation games over the years, but truly people don’t understand the tangible benefits until they are thrust into a game. Once immersed, they realize there are many different roles to play, plenty of information to consider, and a huge number of options in the decision tree that can have drastic results.

Talk to StratX today about our Simulation Games and how they can be used to develop your potential leaders.

Activity three: Tallest Tower

For a bit of lighthearted fun that helps to identify leaders quickly, play Tallest Tower. It’s quite simple, really. Create two teams of 4-8 people and give them ten minutes to create a tower as tall as possible using only things that are in the room. You’ll quickly see how the creative thinkers come to the forefront, how problem-solving skills are developed, and how the team that communicated best often comes out on top. Once the time is up (we suggest ten minutes), the tower must have the strength to support a coffee mug on top. 

Leadership Development Trends

Keen to learn about the trends affecting Leadership Development? Check out this free download where we explore what the future has in store.

Finding Leaders in your Organization

By now, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what leadership training is, who it benefits, what skills to develop, how to create a plan, and what fun activities you can try, but do you know how to spot a potential leader if you see one? Here are five hacks to find leaders quickly:

  1. Provide leadership opportunities and see who steps up to the plate
  2. Perform peer reviews, asking department heads to perform analyses of their teams
  3. Find the multi-taskers and natural networkers
  4. Talk to people and see who communicates confidently
  5. Create competitive opportunities and see who is inspired

It’s advised to repeat these exercises to give more opportunities to your organization to identify possible leaders. 

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, it’s evident that there are a considerable number of aspects surrounding leadership training and development. Hopefully, by reading this ultimate guide you will have identified opportunities, gained more clarity going forward, and are optimistic that leaders can be found and developed in your organization. 

What to do next?

For continued reading on this subject, download our FREE transformative leadership report.

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