The Importance of Leadership Training
As much as we like to believe in the notion of born leaders, the fact is that most people need to learn how to lead. Fortunately, you don’t have to be genetically enhanced to acquire the skills to become an effective leader.
Leadership remains an ongoing challenge for forward-looking organizations. But leadership doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of intentional actions, strategic thinking and constant reassessment guided by ongoing training and learning opportunities as well as mentors and coaches.
Organizations that aren’t actively engaged in leadership training are failing more than their employees. They're failing themselves by not doing the work necessary to cultivate a culture of leadership.
Neglecting the sustenance of such a culture within the organization is like depriving a plant of water and light. An organization cannot grow and ensure its future relevance and success without pursuing the sort of development necessary to reach and remain at the next level.
As obvious as this may seem, leadership development has not been a slam-dunk. According to a 2015 Global Workforce Leadership Survey, 46 percent of companies said leadership was the skill hardest to find in employees. Meanwhile, only 36 percent of employees listed leadership as strength within their organization.
The 2016 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report notes that leadership is the second most important human capital trend out of 10.
Tenure and success in non-management roles—traditional stepping-stones to advancement—do not ensure effectiveness when an employee is promoted to a leadership position any more than an athlete’s achievements translate seamlessly into success as a coach or general manager.
With Baby Boomers retiring from the workforce, leadership training is crucial in filling the leadership void and developing a cadre of emerging leaders. It’s also pivotal in attracting, retaining and motivating employees and fostering morale.
“The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is not training them and keeping them,” says Zig Ziglar, a motivational coach and author.
Despite billions spent annually on instruction, the quality of leadership training is another issue.
Too often, leadership development is presented and evaluated incorrectly, Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Leadership B.S.: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time told IndustryWeek.
“What are we trying to accomplish in leadership development? If we are trying to attain higher levels of employee engagement, higher levels of trust in leaders, higher levels of job satisfaction, lower levels of turnover, more people succeeding and having more people ready for leadership positions, then those are criteria you ought to use to evaluate your efforts,” and “not whether or not people had a good time, whether or not they liked the donuts, whether or not they thought the speaker was inspiring,” says Pfeffer, a professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.
Characteristics of an effective leadership development program include defining an organization’s leadership needs, providing situations that require growth and learning, assigning mentors, and measuring results.
Here are just a few reasons to invest in leadership development:
Provides a return on investment. Developing leaders in your organization lowers costs, fuels new lines of revenue and boosts customer satisfaction. Stock market returns are five times higher for companies that spend money in leadership development compared to the returns of companies that invest less, according to studies.
Engages employees and reduces turnover. Attract and retain talent by developing your leaders, which is less costly than the expenses associated with hiring new people. Great organizations are known for developing talent.
Aligns leadership and business strategies. This approach provides the rich soil needed for the “seeds” of training interventions to take root and grow, according to Harvard Business Review research. This works when senior leadership defines and champions a leadership strategy that “makes explicit how many leaders we need, of what kind, where, with what skills, and behaving in what fashion individually and collectively to achieve the total success we seek,’’ states a Center for Creative Leadership white paper by William Pasmore. “Very few organizations have an explicit leadership strategy. Is it any wonder that without one, CEOs find that they don’t have the leadership talent they require?”
Leadership training is important. Successful talent development fuels thriving organizations. The challenge is to rethink, review and readjust the best strategies to elevate leadership results, and consequently business outcomes.