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February 04, 2019

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Why Is It Important to Have a Leadership Training Program?

We may live in the age of influencers – digital veterans who shape global opinions and create million-dollar trends ­– but the question still remains, what makes a great leader? Are leaders born or can they be molded? Are leaders naturally influential, inspiring, and charismatic individuals destined for greatness? Or can leaders be groomed and trained, with the right lessons in empathy, people-management, and far-sightedness?

We believe that while some people may be naturally predisposed to leadership, the greatest leaders are those who aspire to something better for themselves, their communities and are willing to put their backs into achieving goals. Leadership, particularly at an organizational level, boils down to the ability to bring great ideas into reality and motivate others around a common theme.

Collaboration: A Leadership Imperative

Most of the greats who make it into history books have one thing in common: vision. They also possess the unique ability to get people to buy into that vision and work towards it. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Meg Whitman, true leaders have been defined by their power to get the best out of people and to get them to collaborate to achieve something as a team.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always true in the business world. Gallup reports that only 2 in 10 employees think that their performance is managed in a way that encourages them to do outstanding work. Teams perform well when individual members perform well. So, what is it about current management techniques that is failing this goal? Simply put, many organizations are still stuck with outdated practices like micromanagement and motivation-through-fear, which can kill creativity and risk-taking ability – integral traits needed to survive a disruption-prone business landscape.

In fact, given the pace of technological advances, veteran managers can sometimes find themselves in need of advice and mentoring. Enter “reverse mentoring” – a relationship dynamic where more senior or experienced managers work closely with digital native or colleagues focused on disruptive initiatives to develop an ‘open source’ outlook towards their work. Effective managers need to work towards creating safe and collaborative spaces where ideas flow freely and problem-solving and ‘solutioning’ is a team sport. This way, everyone wins in the end.

Leadership as a Skill

The privileges and opportunities we grow up with play a huge role in our careers. Sometimes, an employee with high leadership potential may lack a key skillset which prevents them from rising through the ranks. Organizations that don’t invest in training, learning, and development programs risk low employment growth and high attrition. Employees feel unsupported and neglected, and motivation flat-lines.

The scenario is much worse for remote workers. CGS’ 2018 Learning and Development Survey shows that only 25% of desk-less workers reported that their employers offered any learning and development programs to foster leadership skills. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report shows that 31% of Americans working remotely feel they are easily forgotten by their organization. It is no surprise then that only one out of ten employees in an organization have the necessary skills to be prolific, people-centric leaders. In fact, an alarming 47% of managers do not receive any additional training when they take up a new leadership role. As a result, we are left with managers who continue to lead, doing the best they can despite not having been nurtured to success in the position.

Organizations need to start investing in foundational leadership programs that groom, nurture, and upskill high-potential people. They should consider it an investment for the future. According to a report from the Brandon Hall Group, by 2020, nearly half of the global workforce will be dominated by millennials. Less than 10% of whom plan to continue with their current job for more than four years. With these changing demographics, it is even more critical to nurture and guide future leaders.

Leadership Development: Training and Culture Orientation

The Brandon Hall Group report claims that while 83% of organizations believe that it is important to develop leaders at all levels, only about 5% have managed to implement leadership development programs at all levels. So how can organizations re-align and execute effective leadership training and development?

A fundamental starting point is for companies to weave training and leadership development opportunities into their company culture. Companies can ensure that their employees begin work on their skill development exercises as early as possible by implementing a structured and systematic leadership development program. For example, rotational career programs offer employees an immersive experience by combining traditional learning with hands-on experience. Employees get to experience diverse job responsibilities within the organization, along with an in-depth understanding of what a career in a particular role entails.

Introducing such advanced programs also helps organizations categorize their employees into groups based on their skills and career objectives. These aligned groups can then be inducted into more specialized, experiential training programs. Organizations that integrate leadership training programs into their culture can leverage interactive platforms such as e-learning modules, gamification, simulations, mobile learning, and much more to further enhance their outcomes.

Consider the example of a leading mining and manufacturing company’s training program. They currently operate a four-level experiential leadership program over periods of 3 to 12 months. These programs are customized to the skill level and needs of an individual worker and include a 360-degree feedback process. The programs also include spot coaching and a discovery process to identify future leaders. The program concludes with a capstone project which candidates undertake to demonstrate the learning impact and effectiveness of the program.

A strong, effective training and development program such as this can help organizations create a culture of aspiration, high motivation and optimism among the workforce. The organization, in turn, benefits by having a roster of highly skilled and well-trained leaders to pave the way into the future.

Taking the First Steps

Are you ready to invest in the people who will lead your organization to success? Here are 4 steps you can take right now to begin your journey towards better leadership:

  1. Create the need – Begin by talking to the decision-makers in your organization. Create an urgency around an effective leadership program and share your concerns and challenges honestly. Getting board members and stakeholders on board is essential as they play a key role in making these programs successful.
  2. Get employees on board – Prospective leaders in the ranks need to be aware of the company’s long-term objectives and policies when developing such L&D programs. Circulate a survey or two to test the waters. Large organizations sometimes tend to silo business innovations and insights within a particular process or function. Break that culture and democratize the process. Get a clear, empirical idea of how a leadership program will be received and what your employees would like to gain from it.
  3. Establish goals – Work with the decision-makers to define a timeline and goals for the leadership program. Blue sky your aspirations and begin to scale them across acceptable timelines.
  4. Find the right partners and tools – Look for specialists who can help translate your strategy to action. Identify the right learning and development tools that fit with the needs of your organizations. From technology to experience, these specialists can help you find the right direction for your organization’s future.

As the technology matures and businesses evolve to become digital playgrounds, leaders have an important role to play that extends beyond their daily responsibilities. To build a business that stands the test of time and creates real, lasting value, today’s managers need to act as mentors, enablers and facilitators for the next generation of leaders and innovators.

Comment below: Why do you think it is important to have a Leadership Training Program?

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