Leadership Training and Development: A Complete Guide (2023)

Leadership Training and Development: A Complete Guide (1)

leadership trainingIt's a must-have for every business because it's one of the surefire ways to build effective leadership and achieve exceptional business results.

Every organization has a unique culture and thus a unique understanding of leadership. However, as Vroom and Jago (2007) note:

Almost all definitions of leadership share the view that leadership involves the process of influencing.

Undoubtedly, great leaders are capable of influencing others in a variety of ways.

They are a source of motivation and inspiration; a powerful force driving positive cultural change and moving teams forward.

But the question is, can humans learn to be leaders?

And do existing managers need continuous training?

Let's define leadership training.

What is leadership training?

Leadership training and development helps identify high-potential individuals who are likely to become leaders and enhances the skills and knowledge of those who already hold leadership roles.

Depending on the current challenges of your organization, leaders may need training in both soft skills and hard skills.

For example, new and future leaders may need to develop skills such as listening, conflict resolution, and time management in order to step into their role.

On the other hand, executives may need training to keep up with new trends and technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality so that they can better define the big picture of the company.

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Why invest in leadership development and training?

The first compelling reason is growth. If your leaders are not committed to continued personal and professional development, your organization will eventually stagnate.

This was articulated in Lid Law, the first lesson in John C. Maxwell's book.The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, which states that leadership ability is a ceiling for the effectiveness of organizations.

The second compelling reason is change management. According to a recent report byHarvard Business School, three powerful forces are redefining the nature of work and creating the need for leadership training:

  • rapid globalization: By 2025, the majority of companies listed in the Forbes Global 2000 will be headquartered in emerging markets. This requires leaders to develop new skills to transcend physical and cultural boundaries and lead teams across borders.
  • Increase in remote workers: Within a decade, half of the US workforce will be contractors and freelancers. Leaders not only need to learn how to lead distributed teams, but also how to engage and unify them.
  • generation gaps: Generation Y (Millennials) and Generation Z are rising to leadership positions and bringing new ideas to work and learning. This puts pressure on traditional leadership approaches and requires training to overcome differences.

Finally, the third compelling reason to invest in leadership training is the leadership gap – the fact that organizations struggle to fill leadership roles.

Leadership Training and Development: A Complete Guide (2)


These reasons make leadership development not only important, but something you should include in your programemployee training.

What leadership skills should your organization develop?

Whether they're an office manager or a senior executive, great leaders need a foundation of soft skills to positively influence the behavior of colleagues and team members. Below are the most important leadership qualities.

  • Hear: This is the ability to shift your focus from yourself to others and actively work to understand their needs. Leaders need to be good listeners because that helps them build trust in their team.
  • loyalty: Good leaders put the success of their team first. As Arnold H. Glasow said, "A good leader bears little more than his share of the blame and little less than his share of the credit."
  • Respect: A key feature of effective leadership is communicating and acting with respect and integrity. It helpsto establisha leadership style based on working together rather than giving orders.
  • reliability: If team members perceive their manager as a reliable partner who is always there for them, they will be more motivated.
  • Initiative: Leaders need to be proactive – providing direction to the team, working to achieve organizational goals, anticipating problems and proposing alternative solutions.
  • dedication: A great leader is committed to the success of the team, understands what motivates them and knows how to encourage them to do their best.
  • enthusiasm: Leaders must be positive and energetic and encourage others to adopt the same attitude. TheHelpGain support for your ideas and motivate employees to find creative solutions when working on a difficult problem.
  • realization: Being a great leader means being a role model for the team, always finding new solutions and testing all possible options before saying something can't be achieved.
  • Strategic thinking: Managers must be able to do thisResignfrom everyday life, connect current tasks with long-term goals and focus on the result, not the process.
  • Support: A great leader must be available at all times to answer any questions and solve any problems that employees may be facing.
  • honesty: To be successful, leaders must learn to be authentic and adopt a “what you see is what you get” attitude – consistency between words and actions.

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Some people naturally possess many of these qualities and some don't, but in both cases management training is necessary to develop a successful leader.

How to create an effective leadership training plan

1. Develop a culture of learning

Your leadership development initiative will not gain the approval of employees and managers if your organization does not value learning and development. That's why the success of any corporate training program depends on your learning culture (or lack thereof).

One way to create a workplace learning culture is to allowSharing knowledge. Recognize and reward employees who work to develop new skills and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

2. Define the learning goals

First, consider the leadership gaps your organization may be facing, whether it's recruitment or succession. Are you struggling to hire or promote new executives? Are some senior executives expected to retire soon?

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Second, consider your organization's strategic goals. For example, if you are planning to expand into a new market, you can focus on developing the right leaders to achieve that specific goal.

Third, think about the leadership qualities and skills your organization values. When you understand what your best leaders have in common, you can decide what your future leaders should learn.

Finally, identify your audience. Is your training for executives? For executives? Or for aspiring executives? This will help you determine which methods and activities you should use.

3. Create the right mix of leadership training methods

Of course, every leadership program requires a tailored plan that meets the organization's unique corporate learning needs.

What the best programs have in common, however, is that they use a variety of learning methods. Here are the most commonly used:

  • individual learning. For example, matching high-level executives with executives who have just assumed a new role can be very effective, especially if you want toknowledge transferor successor. This was confirmed by Dr. Sydney Finkelstein, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, who spent 10 years studying world-class leaders to find out what sets them apart. In a recent article forHarvard Business Review, he says, "a big surprise was how much these famous managers value in the course of their daily work continuous and intensive individual support of their direct reports, in person or virtually."
  • group learning. This approach can take many forms, involving both internal and external activities. Group based learning can be used
    • Identify employees with leadership potential
    • Train future leaders to understand group dynamics
    • face the challenges of the real world
    • Enable leadership team development – ​​those already in management can form a peer group to help each other develop new skills, improve interpersonal communication and break down functional silos
  • autonomous learning. It's true that leaders cannot grow on their own, but self-paced learning has a place in their education. This form of operational learning and development can be used, for example, to teach soft skills such as communication skills and strategic thinking.

The benefit of self-directed learning is that participants can progress at their own pace with the learning materials, guidelines, exercises and self-assessment tools provided.

4. Add experiential training

in a recentArticle, Paul O'Keefe, Leadership Development Specialist at Edge Training Systems, emphasizes the importance of experiential training for leaders, saying "Leaders cannot be created or crafted. However, they can be developed and nurtured - which your leadership program should do. As you create your program, consider situations you can present to participants to encourage growth and learning..“

Enabling trainee leaders to apply what they have learned creates those “a-ha” moments when they understand how a particular skill or knowledge might be used in a real-world situation.

If you are currently an employee, this could mean taking responsibility for a large project; When dealing with mid-level managers, it can mean shadowing an executive.

Either way, it's important to improve your real-world hands-on practice through continuous feedback, training, and guidance.

5. Define success

As with any other type of corporate learning and development, your training needs a definition of "success". So before you start your program, decide how you want to measure its impact. Some key indicators you may want to track are:

  • The number of participants who successfully completed the program
  • The number of participants promoted
  • What peers say about each participant's leadership development (You can aEmployee evaluation formlike the 360 ​​Skills Assessment for that)
  • If the responsibility of the employee has increased
  • Whether the leadership skills you have taught have helped employees become more effective in their current jobs

Understanding these areas will help you assess the effectiveness of your leadership training and create a better roadmap for future initiatives.

Now that you know the main components of a leadership development program, let's examine specific training ideas and activities.

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Leadership training activities for employees

Leadership training activities should focus on preparing employees to move from leading themselves to leading others. A development program for emerging leaders might include:

  • Self-assessment exercisesto build confidence and identify areas for improvement
  • on-the-job traininghow to take on a functional project to increase ownership and accountability.
  • mentoring and coachingexperienced managers who help the employee to become familiar with organizational management and leadership style.
  • group activitiesto enable emerging leaders to grow together, network across organizational functions and develop a managerial mindset
  • remote trainingSoftwareis likely to become an emerging trend after the COVID-19 crisis. When creating oneOnline corporate trainingTheir program allows employees who are on a leadership track to learn at their leisure.

How you structure mentoring, coaching and on-the-job training depends heavily on your learning goals and is therefore unique to your organisation.

As for self-assessment exercises and group activities, we have listed the most effective ones below.

Self-assessment exercises

Feedback: start, stop, continue

Leadership Training and Development: A Complete Guide (4)


This activity, suggested by (Cserti, 2018), focuses on giving and receiving constructive feedback – two of the most important leadership qualities. Start, Stop, Continue is suitable for teams that have been working together for a long time. The goal is to get feedback from colleagues asking what to start, stop and keep doing.

Explore your values

This group exercise allows individuals, but also the whole team, to reflect on their values.

Every employee should write the ten things they value most in their life on sticky notes. Then the post-its are shown to everyone and the participants have only one minute to choose the first three values. The idea is to act intuitively instead of thinking too much and trying to pick the "right" values.

guide pizza

This leadership development activity allows for self-assessment. Employees first list the skills, qualities, and attitudes they believe are critical to leadership, and then assess their own development in those areas.

group activities


This game challenges the creativity and problem-solving skills of the participants. Divide the team into two groups and ask them to imagine they are on a ship that just crashed on a desert island. The goal is to figure out how to escape using a handful of items.

leaders you admire

This activity helps employees understand what leadership qualities are important to them and what skills they might want to develop as a leader.

Setup is easy. Divide your team into groups (maximum five people) and let each group discuss privately. The task is to choose a famous leader to represent the group and discuss his qualities with the rest of the team.

shot to the moon

This team activity focuses on creative thinking. All you have to do is present a problem and ask employees to come up with crazy and innovative ideas. You can discuss a real problem, like a current company project, or an imaginary problem, like building the first hotel on the moon.

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Leadership development activities for managers

When training supervisors, managers or directors, the focus shifts from developing to improving current leadership skills. At this point in their journey, leaders often seek to increase their impact on others by being strategic, bringing teams together, and leading other leaders.

Leadership development programs for middle managers typically include the following types of activities:

  • Learn from the exposure. This technique allows managers to deepen their insights by connecting with senior leaders in their organization and industry experts.
  • on-the-job trainingto practice high-level troubleshooting or to understand other business functions.
  • 360 Degree ReviewsIdentify areas of improvement and how they appear to others.
  • Coaching und MentoringTop-level executives or executives to gain a deeper understanding of the business.
  • Professional coaching or mentoringto aspiring leaders. This helps reinforce key leadership skills for managers, such as: B. interpersonal communication skills.

Two of these approaches deserve more attention - learning through exposure and on-the-job training.

Learn from the exposure

AccordinglyDeloitte, Exposure is a fundamental practice that must be incorporated into any workplace training and development program.

And especiallyusefulin corporate leadership training because it helps these leaders gain more perspective on the business and the industry.

Some of the activities in this area include joining professional or industry associations, creating internal networks of leaders, participating in roundtables and accountability groups.

on-the-job training

This allows managers to expand their technical skills and business knowledge. The following activities can be arranged:

  • Action learningPractice solving high-level business problems with leaders from other functions.
  • Volunteer for a role on the boardin an industry association to build connections and exert influence in a large organization.
  • Takeover of a strategic project assignmentto practice leading other leaders and their teams.
  • Take on a cross-functional or multi-level taskto develop new skills and gain experience working in business areas.

Leadership development activities for executives

Unlike managers, C-suite executives are not expected to lead groups of employees.

Your daily task is to make strategic business decisions. For this reason, corporate training for these leaders should focus on creating a vision for the future and driving action across entire business units.

Leadership development programs can include the following types of activities:

  • individual management coachingto solve complex business problems and promote personal development.
  • Training of the management teamTo enable top-level leaders to identify their shared vision and work in alignment.
  • 360 Degree ReviewsIdentify management style and potential for improvement.
  • Executive Education-Programmeto keep up to date with the latest technological advances and acquire key industry-specific skills.


Developing and educating business leaders is vital for any company that wants to dominate its industry.

With the rapidly changing business landscape, companies need to find a sustainable strategy to continuously develop new leaders and improve the skills of the current ones.

A successful leadership training program is rooted in a strong culture of learning and knowledge sharing. The rest is to clarify your learning goals and choose the right activities for your current and future leaders.

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