A leadership development program is a course or system where an organization trains employees to become leaders. This includes training and developing the traits and skills leaders need to guide teams, grow the company, and handle businesses challenges. Leadership training typically consists of different classes, webinars, or presentations that people can attend to gain the knowledge and practice they need to be successful in a leadership role.
As leadership demands grow, organizations need a way to develop leadership skills among their employees. However, from the numbers, most organizations fall short when it comes to leadership training programs. In fact, according to a recent study on leadership development training, only five percent of businesses have implemented leadership training initiatives at all levels. This results in further difficulties with employee retention, poor performance, and job dissatisfaction.
In this article, learn about the benefits of leadership development programs, what to look for in one you choose or create, the different program techniques available, the most common challenges businesses face, and how to measure a program’s success.
Benefits of a Leadership Development Program
Meeting the leadership demands of the future requires preparing for these needs today. This is where a leadership training program comes into play. While many companies appear reluctant to invest in one, it’s something that employees want but feel like they’re not getting. A Human Resources Professionals Association report on millennials found that 63 percent of people said their companies haven’t developed their leadership skills. In addition to this, thousands of Baby Boomers retire every day, leaving organizations with a notable gap in leadership. With an entire generation desiring leadership development training, businesses should take the steps needed to create more leaders.
Having a leadership development program means giving employees the necessary tools and training needed to overcome challenges in the years to come. Many people would like to become a leader, but they don’t know where to start. Through a leadership development program, they can learn valuable traits like inspiring and motivating others, improving communication skills, relationship-building, problem solving, decision making, time management, and strategizing.
A company that promotes leadership training programs will see some significant results like better collaboration, increased employee morale, and higher productivity levels. Most importantly, a new generation of leaders will be ready to take over management of the company and have continued success well into the future.
To Choose or Create?
Organizations that know they want a leadership development program have to make an important choice: choosing an existing one or creating one from scratch. There are many professional development programs out there aimed at training leaders. Businesses can look into each one to see which fits their needs the best. On the other hand, a company might choose to build one from the ground up, ensuring it’s the perfect fit for their professional development efforts. Whatever you end up selecting, here are some things to keep in mind.
What to Look For When Choosing a Leadership Development Program
How long does the leadership program last? Some programs last only a few weeks, making for a crash course in leadership training. These types of courses can be intense, requiring an employee’s full attention. Other programs can last for months, going more in-depth on a variety of topics and skills. Some of these programs offer a more manageable schedule, with sessions happening every few days or sometimes even once a week.
Is the program hosted online or in-person? Many leadership development training programs are only online. With so many companies and employees moving to remote work, this might be the only type of program available to them. Other programs still hold classes and presentations in-person, which allows for more interaction. However, this isn’t always as convenient.
Who is the intended audience for the program? When most people think of leaders, they think of senior-level individuals. Many programs are created with this target in mind. They want to develop people so they’ll be ready to take on the responsibilities of a C-suite executive. Other programs don’t necessarily have this as a goal. Instead, they simply want to develop leadership characteristics in employees at all levels.
Creating Your Own Leadership Development Program
Some companies create internal leadership development programs. While this takes more time and resources, it ensures leaders address the business’s specific needs and leadership challenges. For those who decide to build their leadership training program, answer the following questions.
- Do you have the backing of management? Executives at the company should be on board with the decision to create a program. They are the ones who can provide the resources needed.
- What are the goals? Determine what the objectives of the program are from the outset. Doing so informs every step of the creation process and moves people closer to the destination in mind.
- What skills will employees develop? There are many leadership skills and traits out there. Direct attention to the ones that are the most beneficial to the organization.
- What levels will you target? Choose what levels within the business to focus on. The more levels included, the more executives build leaders at every level, which benefits the whole organization. The program shouldn’t be limited to those who already hold leadership positions. As Henry Ford said, “You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.”
- What are your competitors doing? Look at how your competitors develop their leaders and identify where you need to improve. If you see any significant gaps, make sure training development addresses them.
Different Leadership Development Program Techniques
Once a company knows they want to create a leadership development program, it’ll need to figure out what technique to use. Organizations have a variety to choose from, many of which have proven effective at training new leaders. The following are some of the most common techniques to consider.
Many companies allow their employees to become mentors who guide others as they develop critical leadership skills. Most mentorship programs pair senior-level employees with junior-level employees so that the new team members learn from those with more experience. While mentoring often happens informally, some organizations adopt a more formal approach as they track the progress of those in the program. These formal programs follow a more rigid structure and schedule but can still produce great results.
Parts of a leadership development program could include the use of stretch assignments. As the name implies, stretch assignments aim to stretch a person outside their comfort zone so they can grow as a leader. Stretch assignments involve assigning an employee new challenges. For instance, executives might place team members in a new department, business unit, or different location in the country. Program directors monitor the employee’s responses and progress to see how they adapt to the situation. Stretch assignments are beneficial because they give people the chance to practice their leadership skills, solve new problems, make different decisions, and reach their full potential.
Leadership development training usually comes from top-level positions. However, the individual ownership technique lets employees determine what skills they want to develop and what they want to study. Essentially, they set their own program up, leaving themselves accountable for the results as well. Going with this strategy makes leadership training more personal for the individual and largely up to them whether they succeed or fail.
Emotional Intelligence Development
Many current leadership development programs fail to include emotional intelligence training. Emotional intelligence is a leadership trait that helps leaders understand and manage their emotions and constructively respond to other people’s emotions. Having a high level of emotional intelligence means resolving workplace conflicts quickly and promoting a positive work environment where all feel welcome. Programs should include this factor so leaders can better understand, influence, and motivate their teams.
Another effective technique is group-based development, where people develop leadership skills in a group. This teaches employees how to work as a group and give others helpful feedback. Group-based development also breaks down departmental walls within organizations as most of the participants should be from different parts of the company. Working together, they can solve problems and grow as a team.
Common Challenges for Leadership Development Programs
Implementing a leadership development program isn’t always smooth sailing. Companies run into speed bumps and roadblocks all the time. One of the biggest obstacles is having limited resources. Most organizations don’t have the time or the money to create an internal program, so they must rely on one built without their specific needs in mind.
Businesses may also run into resistance. Old leadership may feel like there isn’t a need for a new training program, while employees might think they don’t have time to participate. This becomes an especially formidable challenge when top executives in the company have their doubts about it. In addition to these issues, there are other obstacles those in favor of implementing a successful leadership development program may encounter.
Top Reasons Leadership Development Programs Fail
- The organization only looks for leaders among those already in management.
- Current development plans are too rigid and don’t have clear goals in mind.
- Companies don’t inform new hires that a leadership development program even exists.
- Businesses don’t have experts on staff who know the best strategies for implementing training programs.
- The program is too complex for the size of the organization.
- The program has no proper oversight.
- Program developers don’t plan for ways to test an individual’s progress.
- Individuals who struggle with the program get easily frustrated and don’t want to complete it.
How to Resolve Problems With Leadership Development Programs
Companies shouldn’t let these potential disruptions dissuade them from implementing a leadership development program of their own. With the right foresight and clear communication, organizations can be ready for the challenges ahead. If you encounter some of the above problems, the following tips can be helpful in solving them.
- Review the benefits of leadership development programs with top management.
- Allow for flexibility in new plans, particularly when it comes to schedules.
- Set clear goals and objectives for your development program.
- Keep the program simple and easy to follow.
- Get the word out about the new program, especially among newly hired employees.
- Set the standards used to determine program success and make sure everyone involved knows them.
- Encourage those struggling with the program by focusing on the long-term benefits.
Measuring the Success of a Leadership Development Program
Designing a leadership development program also means determining ways to measure its success. That includes collecting data on the progress of those within the program. Businesses don’t want to waste time and funding on a program that doesn’t get results, so effectively measuring it should be a top priority.
One way to determine how successful the program is would be through surveys and questionnaires for the participants. Get word directly from those in the program to gauge how they’re feeling and what they’re learning. If the program doesn’t meet their expectations, then it probably won’t achieve the results you want.
In addition to surveys, companies should also measure the overall business impact the program has on the organization. Every program has costs, so determine what the overall return on investment (ROI) is. That doesn’t mean only using programs that provide a positive ROI. Nevertheless, companies should be careful not to have a program that’s all costs and no benefits.
Companies shouldn’t dismiss the intangible benefits that come from talent development either. Some factors such as job satisfaction and workplace environment can’t always be assigned a monetary number. Take all of these benefits into consideration to determine if a leadership development program creates advantages for the organization. If you determine that it doesn’t, think of ways to change it.
A Leadership Development Program Can Pay Dividends in the Long Run
An effective leadership development program goes beyond simply answering the question, what is leadership? It leaves a lasting benefit that companies feel well into the future. It may take a while to get the program up and running, but once that’s done, leaders will emerge throughout the organization. As John Maxwell puts it, “The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders, and continually develops them.”
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