Why it’s time to democratise leadership training

Posted on Nov 25, 2015

Elearning

Geese flying in formation

Leadership training is only for managers. Isn’t it?

Rethinking this idea could have far-reaching and unexpected benefits. But how and why would you invest in leadership skills across the wider workforce?

Starting earlier

On average, a manager will have been supervising people for 9 years before taking part in any kind of formal leadership training. It’s a long time to take sole responsibility for your own managerial development, even for the most able and resourceful of leaders. But if organisations start so late with existing managers, what hope for emerging leaders and rising stars?

It’s something businesses need to consider according to leadership expert, Jack Zenger. “Think of the advantage to be gained by beginning some formal leadership development activity at an earlier age, rather than waiting for nearly a decade to begin,” he points out in his report, Are you starting too late?

Zenger’s right about advantages, starting earlier makes sense for a number of reasons.

  • Nurturing talent

Earlier training can help upcoming managers form good leadership habits and hone their skills. They also have time to practice before being put in charge of large teams.

  • Staff retention

Rising stars are less likely to become frustrated and ‘jump ship’ if they feel there is investment in their development and future. They also have a clearer path to rise through the ranks.

  • Drives up standards

Earlier investment in leadership training can help the next generation of leaders to gain confidence and fulfil their potential faster.

Wider workforce

You can begin to see the business case for investing in training for emerging managers, but what about the wider workforce? Providing opportunities for all employees to develop their leadership skills does have its benefits too.

  • Desirable skills for anyone

What are leadership skills? Problem solving, team working, decision making and strategic thinking are all high on the list of the qualities of a good leader. But these are also desirable skills for any employee, particularly those working in companies where innovation and creativity are important for overall success.

  • Everyone recognises good leadership

If all employees have the opportunity to experience some level of leadership training, they are more likely to understand what good leadership looks like, and even challenge poor managers. This in turn can help raise the bar because there is a greater expectation on leaders and they are more likely to be held accountable.

  • Identify hidden talents

Organisations may have a system for spotting potential management candidates, but sometimes great leaders can be overlooked. Allowing the wider workforce to engage in leadership training increases the chance of identifying hidden leadership talents which may otherwise go unnoticed.

Elearning opportunities

Cost is an obvious barrier to making leadership training available more widely to the workforce. Clearly, it’s not practical to send all employees on face-to-face courses, but elearning creates an opportunity to make aspects of leadership training available to a wider audience at virtually no extra cost.

It’s not hard to imagine how an elearning resource aimed at helping managers develop their soft skills could be at least offered as an optional extra to employees as a whole. Take up of leadership elearning by non-managerial grades can be easily monitored via an LMS (Learning Management System) and data can be used to help inform talent management programmes.

This innovative idea is already being used by some employers to spot talent and find a new generation of managers. Find out how it’s working for the UK frozen food retailer, Farmfoods.

The latest Towards Maturity Industry Benchmark Report reveals that 70% of respondents plan to e-enable their leadership and management skills in the next two years, up from 51%.

As more organisations move aspects of their management training online, the prospect of democratising leadership development becomes more of a reality.

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