It’s worth the effort to train tomorrow’s leaders. The return on investment can be enormous, especially as leaders spur the growth of their organizations, drive innovation, and mentor the younger generations of the workforce.
Developing a strong leadership team often begins with creating an internal leadership training program, founded on sound business principles and practices. The 2016 McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Report found that companies with strong leaders are few and far between, but those that do invest in their leaders see a positive impact on recruitment and retention of the best talent.
A well-managed leadership development program has many additional business benefits, such as:
- Enhanced productivity from understanding how to bring out the best in teams
- Increased employee engagement when managers know how to effectively lead people
- More positive and nurturing corporate culture where learning is embraced by all
- Better decisions based on strategy and planning vs. reacting to problems
- Clear examples of leaders that other emerging leaders can follow
What are the elements that a successful leadership training program should include?
While each organization needs to design a leadership development program that fits well with the unique corporate culture and needs, there are some basic elements that the best programs include.
#1 – Small, focused and supportive leadership groups
When a company decides to start a leadership development program, it’s better to start small. Create a core group of those who are already in leadership roles, limited to 12, and this forms the foundation of the program. A small group can be more effective because each individual has added attention and time to work on his or her skills. The small group also allows for greater support and connection among members.
#2 – Instructors with years of experience leading
The best leadership development programs include a strong central leader and a secondary leader, who share years of experience and have effective instruction skills. Look to leaders in the industry who possess this experience and skill working with people. Peter Drucker once said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right thing." Make sure instructors are training leaders to lead others, not teaching basic management skills.
#3 – Multiple methods of learning leadership concepts
Every person in the leadership training program will come with different ways of learning new concepts, absorbing and sharing information, and seeing the world. Create a multi-media training program that brings in the best of all forms of learning, from written materials to in-person conference participation. Make leadership training fun and something that all participants can get excited about.
#4 – Clear goals and milestones for all leader participants
Each person who is learning in the leadership development program should have sat down with a mentor to decide on short and long term goals. So too, there should be a way to measure successes, with regular milestones. According to Christopher Pappas, founder of the eLearning Network, adult learners, “generally prefer practical knowledge that will improve their skills, facilitate their work and boost their confidence.” Use this as a way to measure success.
#5 – Methods for identifying future leaders
A sustainable leadership development program will always be looking to the development of future leaders once the core group has attained their goals. In this video, published by Harvard Business, Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, Senior Adviser, Egon Zehnder International provides several tips for identifying future leaders to bring into the fold. He calls them ‘high potential employees’.
#6 – Retention program for preserving leaders
Once leaders have gone through the training program, they should receive ongoing support and meet with their small groups on a monthly basis. When a company invests so much into developing leaders, they will be able to transfer these traits to their jobs immediately, but they still need guidance and support to succeed. Retention of leaders is good for business.
The above elements don’t 100% guarantee the success or failure of those who participate in the leadership development efforts your company makes, but they can bring leaders that much closer to being better leaders – which benefits the entire organization.