Although the majority of organizations have leadership development programs, only 7 percent describe their programs as “best in class,” according to Harvard Business Publishing research. This statistic makes it clear that many current leadership development programs may ultimately be failing both the leaders who participate in them and their organizations. Creating a world-class leadership development program starts with equipping leaders with the specific skills, tools and behaviors they will need to confidently lead others and drive the performance of their team or organization. With that in mind, here are five skills a comprehensive leadership development program should include.
Coaching is one of the best methods leaders can leverage to unleash the full potential of their direct reports. Coachable moments happen every day, and a leader with strong coaching skills can seize these moments and turn them into valuable learning experiences. According to Gallup research, only three in 10 employees “strongly agree there is someone at work who encourages their development.” This skill can go a long way in positively influencing employee engagement and productivity. Gone are the days of vague yearly reviews; employees today want feedback, motivation and guidance in real time, and leaders must be able to effectively provide those things.
The most successful leaders know that their success hinges more on their team’s performance than their own. Leaders are no longer individual contributors and will be not be assessed that way. They are held accountable for others’ actions and results, as well as their own, and must take accountability for team outcomes – the good and the bad. By training leaders on this important distinction, you can ensure that they will be capable of defining accountabilities and rigorously holding direct reports to those commitments, so that everyone can succeed and produce the results they need.
3. Change Management
An organization is not a static entity that can be frozen in time. Changes in the marketplace, employee turnover, company growth and countless other factors contribute to ongoing changes. Whether the changes feel like a ripple or a tidal wave to employees, leaders must be prepared to shepherd them through the changes, which requires training leaders to manage change before it ever even happens. Change management training should be part of any leadership development program to ensure that leaders can harness the power of vision, provide strong leadership during any season and capitalize on the transitional times to improve performance.
4. Influence and Negotiation
Effective leaders don’t command with authority; they inspire, persuade and encourage others to make their vision a reality. By learning how to be strong influencers and fair negotiators, leaders will return to their roles knowing that it is not about who has the most power but about who has the best influence on employees to achieve results. Rather than demanding that employees do something because of authority or hierarchy, leaders will use this subtle quality to build relationships, align priorities, and find a win-win that ultimately leads to completed projects and delivered results.
Communication training is often a cornerstone of leadership development, but how effective and up-to-date is it? What format does it take? Communication is not a skill that leaders can learn by just reading, watching a video or listening to a presentation about it. In a leadership role, communication happens at all hours of the day through large presentations, one-on-one conversations, phone calls, text messages, videoconferencing and, of course, emails. Although it’s not a new skill to leadership development, communication is one that needs to be optimized in order to be fully relevant and useful to the leaders of today and tomorrow.
Closing the gap between the desire for excellent leadership and the reality of failed leadership programs requires a fresh approach to training and development. Consider company-specific challenges and the needs of leaders in today’s world, and ask for input from current leaders, to create a leadership development program that is successful in the eyes of everyone involved.