Over the past year and in the face of rapidly changing business models, corporations had to pivot and adjust while transitioning to remote work. But amidst all the upheavals, there was one constant: Organizations that spent time developing sustainable leadership programs were better prepared, with blended learning programs that were built in the flow of work. Giving learners an opportunity to learn in the flow of work is important because it not only let’s them learn, it also gives them time to practice, adjust and anticipate risks. The result? Learners who are more adaptable and better able to handle change. With that in mind, here are the top three tried-and-true approaches in leadership development training right now: rotational leadership, the academy model and coaching, and mentorship programs.

Rotational Leadership Breaks Down Silos

Rotational leadership lets leaders spend a predetermined amount of time in each of a company’s major business units. It’s incredibly effective, not just because it gives leaders the insight they need to make decisions, but also because it gives them a level of understanding that helps them lead effectively. In many organizations, decisions are made in a silo or bubble. Rotational leadership breaks those barriers down so that leaders can take the entire organization into account. And because rotational leadership exposes leaders to the various cultural nuances that exist in different areas, it also helps them connect with people.

Multi-modal, Blended Learning Delivers Results

The academy model is an intensive training program, typically happening over an extended period. While the number of touchpoints along the learning journey varies, the academy model always includes three key elements: a mix of guidance from a coach or an expert; practical application that often consists of some type of capstone project; and best-in-class facilitation.

Academy model training is often multi-modal, with different applications and activities that support training in the flow of work. It incorporates different approaches to training, including instructor-led facilitation, either in person or virtual, eLearning scenarios, immersive scenarios and experiential learning, where trainees can apply the concepts they’re learning on the job. The academies are typically done in cohorts, so trainees get feedback from their peers, as well as from the facilitator. It’s a robust, multi-faceted approach to learning.

Coaching and Mentorship Improves Performance

Coaching and mentorship programs are similar to the academy model, just somewhat less formal and less structured. In these programs, trainees are set up with an executive coach or leadership coach. Trainees may also have a mentor, someone who’s a senior leader in the organization. Coaching and mentorship programs often involve a cadence of meetings that build upon each other, allowing trainees to receive advice and guidance in a structured fashion.

Some coaching and mentorship programs have a pre-defined list of objectives; others are more learner-driven and based on immediate observation. But regardless of the approach taken, talent development programs like these are an effective way for new leaders to access the coaching they need to succeed. This coaching might be industry-specific, or it might be aimed at specific business areas, such as operations or sales. Aligning at both the industry level and the role level ensures that new leaders get the best-in-breed external coaching they need to excel.

The common thread that links these three models is how experiential they are. Whether it’s coaching and mentorship programs, the academy or rotational leadership, they all include practical application. And because learning and application are followed by discussion and the opportunity to think abstractly about what they’ve experienced, leaders are better able to solidify their learning. That’s what sets these programs apart from more conventional, theory-based training programs.

What Does the Future Hold for Leadership Training?

Now more than ever, leaders’ time is at a premium, so effective learning that reflects their needs is essential. What does this mean for the future? As leadership training continues to evolve, building in multi-modal applications, giving work-related activities and allowing time to practice new skills while working will become more common for leadership training.

I think we’re going to see more companies provide training using virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI) and adaptive learning programs that offer direct application to job functions, because they offer personalized curricula.

A senior leader taking an adaptive learning course will likely have a very different learning path than a new leader, but each will get the effective training they need to achieve proficiency, without wasting time on topics they’ve already mastered.

With so many ways to build a leadership development program, there’s no need to rely on a one-size-fits-all solution. Training solutions that are customized for your audience will deliver increased performance that will help your organization succeed.


At TTA, our leadership experts leverage their knowledge and proficiency across industries and business functions to create an effective leadership development program uniquely designed for your training needs.