plan and strategy in business.risk concept.hand of man has piling up and stacking a wooden block.Businessman Building The Success.
ATD Blog

Leadership Development: Laying the Foundation

Friday, June 3, 2022

The one-and-done approach to leadership development is a thing of the past.

Some leadership development programs push new managers through a week-long leadership training program then send them into the real world with little to no reinforcement or ongoing training.

While this approach makes sense in theory, it lacks a strong foundation for ongoing skill training. It is also meant for new managers, not individual contributors interested in learning more about leadership or veteran leaders evolving their skills. And the one-time training doesn’t help push workplace evolution.

With the workforce changing, employee turnover is at an all-time high, and new skill sets are needed to succeed. It’s essential for employers to offer leadership development not only for the entire organization but also for leadership because they are the ones who don’t get enabled. It can increase employee engagement and foster innovation, driving business growth.

“Over the last couple of years, a lot of enablement leaders have been focused on helping sales carrying reps with how they can get caught up to speed,” says Jack Foster, vice president of marketing at WorkRamp. “But, we’re seeing a shift that leaders and leadership programs are a big focus for enablement teams today.”

Whether you have training in place or have to start from scratch, these are the fundamentals your company needs to develop a strong leadership development program.

Laying the Foundation for Leadership Training

Leadership enablement fosters a culture of continuous learning, growth, and improvement, which brings out the best in your people.

According to The American Upskilling Study report by Gallup, those who’ve participated in upskilling programs report improvement in multiple areas:

  • 71 percent say their overall job satisfaction has increased.
  • 65 percent say their standard of living has increased.
  • 69 percent say their overall quality of life has improved.

It’s clear that leadership development is not a nice-to-have but a must-have.

“One of the biggest things we’ve seen during this COVID era is the Great Resignation. And, not only are we losing individual contributors, but we’re also losing amazing leaders and managers,” says Stephanie Middaugh, director of enablement at WorkRamp. “It is not only imperative that we keep our individual contributors happy with professional development opportunities but also our managers and leaders. Making sure that they are really taken care of.”

When building your foundation, it’s essential to lay out the:

  • Core values
  • Goals
  • Training
  • Leadership at different levels

Leadership is the foundation for everything, and developing strong leaders within an organization affects business goals.

Your Core Value
sA solid leader must wear many hats, be adaptable, and be authentic.

When laying the groundwork for what a leadership program looks like, have every individual define their core values is essential to helping them grow into a strong leader.

Surveying your current leadership team and potential leaders about what they consider to be important core values as a leader and then aligning it with the organization can help you set up a foundation for what content to use, define your leadership development “why,” and make sure everyone is aligned on what it means to be a leader.

Your Goals
It’s vital to understand what you want your existing leaders and future leaders to gain from your leadership program.

If you want your employees to understand the fundamentals of leadership, then you must know what those fundamentals are and how those points affect work. Without a clear goal, you’ll leave your employees confused.
Define what they will walk away with after taking the leadership program. The more transparent you are, the more likely they will retain the information and reap the benefits of the program.

“You should always figure out your end goal first and foremost, and then define it and how you’re going to measure that is crucial to the success of any training, whether it’s leadership development or not. And then being able to leverage the tools that you’re using in order to get that information,” says Stephanie Middaugh. “So if it’s an LMS system, you can look at how many people are watching my content and how long are they spending on it?

Are they getting the grades that I want? Are they completing the stuff that I need them to? Making sure that you’re tracking that information actually makes it relevant so that when you roll it out again, you can go back to learners and say, ‘Hey, we saw an uptick of X, Y, and Z as a result if you completed this course," So being able to define that is hugely impactful.’”

Delivering the Training
You can sit in a classroom environment for more than eight hours and multiple days learning all the things when it comes to leadership. But does the information really stick? According to research, the best way to master a new skill set or concept is to break learning into short bursts. So, have an hour of training with multiple short lessons. Then take a break. Then have another training session the following week. Essentially, shorter chunks of training work better than consecutive hours of training.


An online learning platform like WorkRamp allows companies to create their own training or pull material they find useful from other sources and break trainings into shorter chunks. Organizations can do live training and then use the live training as continuous learning for future needs. It also gives the instructor insights to see what information is being retained versus what they might need to focus on in a future program. A learning platform like WorkRamp also allows instructors to use features like questions, quizzes, or gamification for training.

In addition to self-directed learning, you can set up one-on-one mentoring or have individuals shadow another person to get a better understanding of their day-to-day responsibilities. You can tie one-on-one learning or cross-team shadowing back to your online learning by implementing a questionnaire asking the individual what they discovered and how they can implement what they learned into their management style.

Leadership at All Levels
Leaders come at all stages in their careers, and just as new things arise in the workplace, leaders must adapt to all sorts of changes and learn how to handle such situations. This means that leadership development must be continuous. It doesn’t stop after your first leadership course. However, a new manager does not have the same needs or require the same training as a veteran. So, it’s essential to adapt your leadership training for all levels and include the skills they will need along their journey.

Emerging Leaders. At the beginning of their leadership journey, aspiring leaders are adjusting to the manager role and learning management styles, language, and how to form a management plan. To help entry-level leaders, some elements in their leadership development program may include:

  • Self-assessments. Helping them discover areas of strength and where there is room for growth.
  • Management reflection. Help them discover different management styles by reflecting on managers they worked with and whether they thrived or felt stuck.
  • Leading a major project. This gives them practice with responsibilities, management, and accountability.
  • Mentor program. A mentor is always great to have. This can help the individual ask questions in a one-on-one setting and expose them to new ideas or strategies.

Middle Management Leaders. Leaders who are in the midst of their careers need leadership development that can deepen their current skills, amplify their management styles, and help them think more strategically. To help middle management leaders, some elements in their leadership development program may be:

  • Exposure to senior leadership. This helps them get a visual insight into what they can work toward.
  • Mentor program. Just like an entry-level leader, having a mentor throughout one’s career journey is vital to growth for mid-level managers. In addition, having a middle manager become a mentor or coach to someone in the entry-level leadership program can help them strengthen their leadership skills.
  • Leading a company-wide initiative. This allows the individual to practice building high-performing teams and managing cross-functional teams.
  • Self-assessments. Helping them discover how much they have grown and what opportunities they can take on.

Senior and Veteran Leaders, Senior leaders are forward and strategic thinkers, visionaries, and action drivers of a company. Part of their job is to manage an organization or business unit, and they are expected to make high-level decisions that can impact the business. Senior leaders still need to undergo leadership development, which can include:

  • Individual executive coaching. Working with a leadership coach to discuss complex, big-picture business issues.
  • Company-wide and self-assessment. This can help them understand how they are as a leader if their leadership style is helping the business and their teams grow and how they can shift their style to improve performance.

Leadership Development Leads to Sustained Success

When leadership training is done right, it can help companies unlock the full potential of their talent pools at all levels and prepare leaders to tackle all sorts of challenges.

Leadership is a continuous, ever-evolving process. Adapting this into your company’s learning culture can help retain talent and promote internal growth, which helps the business grow.

Learning is a growth engine. See how you can bring your leadership development program to your employees with WorkRamp’s all-in-one learning platform. Request a demo today.

About the Author

Fara Rosenzweig is WorkRamp's Head of Content and brings over 20 years of content experience. Her love for storytelling has earned her an Emmy Award, and she's been featured in many publications. When not wordsmithing or talking about learning and development, you'll find her globe-trotting while logging miles for her next half marathon.

1 Comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Nice article - My key take away is , any program in today's context holds good when its delivered in short bursts :) #Micro steps
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.