People throw the phrase “natural-born leader” around all the time these days. While some people may seem to have an innate talent for leadership, most of the time, leadership is learned through hard work and dedication.
Often, company leaders are employees who have risen up the ranks, getting promoted for great job performance. While good work should, of course, be rewarded, this can lead to managers and executives who are excellent engineers or salesmen, but who have very little ability as a leader. To counteract this problem, many organizations choose to implement extensive leadership training programs.
But what is it that makes an effective leadership training program? While our training is often a great fit for leaders and included within a leadership curriculum, we do not offer leadership training. As a result, here are a few objective thoughts on what separates the best leadership training from the rest:
1. Tailor the course to fit the situation.
When it comes to executive education, there is no such thing as “one size fits all.” Even the core concepts that are usually covered are made relevant in a different way based on the audience. Simply put, training must be customized to suit your specific participants’ and organization’s needs. What specific goals does your organization have? What problems will you face that other organizations may not have to worry about? Putting in the work to understand your organization’s needs as you build your management training programs is a worthwhile exercise in itself and certainly makes the training more effective.
2. Prioritize listening over talking.
Whether you’re heading up a single project, leading a small team, or directing an entire company, the ability to listen will be one of the greatest skills you can develop. Great leaders are able to engage with their team members on a deeper level by listening to what they’re saying and acting accordingly. When those leaders are able to truly listen, they show their team members that the solution is about more than just looking good—it’s about real collaboration and finding a lasting solution. In our negotiation training courses, we emphasize listening to the other party to determine their interests, a skill that absolutely extends extends to leadership training. By listening to your team more than talking, you can gather additional insights, both into the situations at hand and into your team members themselves. Leading a team effectively involves having all the information, and paying careful attention to what your team is saying is one of the best ways to make that happen.
3. Emphasize accountability.
In terms of leadership training programs, accountability means two things. First, it means that you should hold your employees accountable for participating in the leadership training course. Your course should encourage your employees to constantly work on improving themselves. But accountability goes beyond just showing up at the class. Accountability also means that, while leaders delegate tasks, the responsibility is never delegated. A good leader holds himself or herself responsible for the results their team brings in, regardless of the outcome.
4. Don’t let it get bogged down with fluff.
What do we mean by fluff? Essentially, we’re talking about all of the abstract, unfocused techniques that commonly show up in so many training programs. While it’s important for your leaders to be motivated, those “motivational” technique can only get them so far. It may feel good in the moment, but real-world practical skills are what will lead to consistent, reliable leaders at your organization. What’s the best practice? Rather than standing up on stage reciting platitudes, present tools and demonstrate their potential impact on relevant situations that your leaders will face.
Leadership training, like any other soft skill training, should go beyond individual events. Your company’s leaders are some of its most valuable resources, so it would be prudent to invest in them and make their training and development an ongoing process. Follow up on a regular basis after the initial training to refresh what they have learned, reinforce important lessons, and layer on more advanced material.