Those who lead learning in their organizations are able to execute on their business strategy while building the capabilities they need along the way to be successful in the future, both now and in the future. Leading learning means demonstrating skills in key areas and capabilities of training and development, and promoting the value of learning (or the learning “brand”) to everyone in the organization.

There’s no shortage of articles out there on the topic of learning an development (L&D), but the fact remains that many leaders struggle with developing a learning strategy that meets their needs and delivers on their business strategy.

If you’re one of those L&D leaders, this article will help you understand why leading in learning is so important and what skills a great L&D leader needs to possess. Here are some critical capabilities that learning leaders need in their roles:

Capability No. 1: Understand Adult Learning Theory

According to adult learning theory, adults learn best when they are actively involved in and interested in their learning.

It is also important that learners feel like they have some control over what they are learning; this means that adults need to be able to see how what they are learning can apply directly to the real world.

Adult learning theory provides a framework to help training managers design programs that will meet the needs of employees wherever they are on their career path.

There are a variety of theories that can inform training decisions in the organizational and corporate training context. However, understanding how adults and employees learn is essential to developing successful training programs and being a successful learning leader.

Capability No. 2: Apply Learning Technologies in Your Organization

Learning technologies can help you create a culture of continuous learning. With the help of innovative tools, you can help facilitate knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer learning in your organization.

Employees should feel comfortable asking questions when they don’t understand something or are faced with a new situation that requires them to learn new skills on the fly, and learning technologies can support this effort for continuous growth.

In addition, digital tools can make learning more efficient by allowing you to personalize content based on individual needs and preferences. This is especially important because digital tools also allow you to measure learner progress and to identify barriers that might have prevented a learner from successfully completing a task before starting again.

Capability No. 3: Identify Training Needs

Staff training is a key component of developing and maintaining a successful business. Knowing that employees are the most valuable asset of any company, it’s crucial that you take the time to properly assess your workforce’s development needs.

It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes time to determine  your staff’s training needs.

The following questions should help you get started on this evaluation process:

  • What skills do your team members need?
  • What skills do they currently possess?
  • Are there any gaps between the skills they have and the skills they need?
  • Does your company have any ongoing or upcoming projects/initiatives that would require new skill sets from your team members?

Capability No. 4: Convey the Impact of Learning to Stakeholders

Learning is a critical part of developing organizational  capabilities. As you look to achieve your business strategy, there are many opportunities to develop capabilities that can help.

Learning takes on many forms and can be applied in different ways to meet the needs of various stakeholders. When it comes down to it, developing capabilities is about more than just creating talent pools; it’s about making sure those talent pools have the right skill sets and knowledge they need, when they’re needed most.

Good learning leaders should be able to persuasively convey the impact of learning to key stakeholders across the entire organization. You need to demonstrate the value of learning and explain why it’s crucial and how to effectively design, deliver, implement and evaluate it.

Capability No. 5: Demonstrate Expertise in Project Management

Planning, executing, monitoring and tracking are all part of leading a learning initiative. Much of what the learning leader does is aligned with project management skills.

There is a lot more to it than just these skills, but they are an important starting point. Learning leaders must be able to develop project timelines with identified deliverables and task owners.

Capability No. 6: Collaborate Across the Organization

A company is only as good as the people it employs. In order to be a successful business, leaders need to lead effectively and collaborate across the organization.

But how can you know if you are effectively leading learning?

As the workplace becomes more complex and calibrated to an ever-faster pace of production, learning leaders must lead effectively and collaborate across the organization.


The world of work is changing, and organizations need to be agile and innovative in order to retain their competitive advantage. A key component of this agility is developing a workforce that can quickly adapt, learn new skills, and collaborate across boundaries. This means creating a culture of continuous learning where employees are engaged in lifelong learning.

Building capabilities to deliver on a business strategy requires an organization-wide commitment to developing an environment where all employees are empowered with the skills they need to succeed.

That’s why leading learning is essential.

Moving forward, learning leaders will benefit from building cross-functional competencies such as leadership, collaboration, communication and negotiation, problem-solving and critical thinking, which will position themselves — and the business — for success in the future.