Leaders as Teachers Action Guide: An Introduction

Friday, March 28, 2014


There is a growing body of research that suggests business, organizational, and individual value is realized when leaders serve as teachers in their organizations. Chapter 1 of the Leaders as Teachers Action Guide provides evidence from studies conducted in corporations and academia. These findings include widespread use of the leaders-as-teachers method in organizations (90 percent), according to respondents of a 2013 Conference Board survey. Additionally, respondents reported high levels of perceived business and organizational benefits of the leaders-as-teachers approach, citing development of employees and emerging leaders as the highest benefit (70 percent), followed by the strengthening of organizational culture and communications (60 percent).

How are organizations using leaders as teachers?

Contemporary businesses and organizations of many types and sizes are implementing a leaders-as-teachers approach in many ways. Examples range from leaders teaching orientation programs to functional knowledge and skills training to compliance and regulatory training. Leaders are especially—and extensively—involved in leadership and executive development programs. Other examples include overseeing action learning projects and facilitating strategy development and organizational problem solution sessions. In many professions such as medicine, nursing, law enforcement, the military, sales, and the construction crafts, instruction by senior professionals and leaders of their respective institutions and companies is commonplace. Additionally, in all types of organizations, opportunities for in the moment teaching and coaching occur daily for leaders. The Leaders as Teachers Action Guide provides in-depth examples and mini case studies throughout the book.


One common progression for leader-teachers is to first experience a program as a participant. The leader might then observe a program while interacting with faculty behind the scenes. Next, she might teach part of a program for which the likelihood of success is high. From there the leader-teacher may teach other parts of the program that would be less familiar or comfortable for her. The ultimate progression would end with her teaching or co-teaching the entire program.

What are the primary benefits of the leaders-as-teachers approach?


The leaders-as-teachers approach provides six primary benefits:

  • helps drive business results
  • stimulates the learning and development of leaders and associates
  • improves the leadership skills of those who teach
  • strengthens organizational culture and communications
  • promotes positive business and organizational change
  • reduces costs by leveraging top talent

What future trends and best practices do you predict?

We think leaders increasingly will be expected to fill the roles of teacher and coach. CEOs now cite having highly qualified professionals and leaders as one of their biggest challenges. Skills gaps and weaknesses in leadership pipelines have increased in recent years, and this unfortunate trend is projected to continue globally for years to come. Leaders who focus on development will prove to be more successful in their organizations.

We expect to see increases in the use of in-person teaching, especially for leadership programs and very select skills programs. Finally, we project high growth of leader-teacher practices in the areas of social collaborative teaching and learning, as well as more regular in the moment teaching.

About the Author

Ed Betof, EdD, is a leader, teacher, coach, mentor, and author. As president of Betof Associates, he does C-level executive and leadership team coaching. He also serves as executive coach for the Center for Creative Leadership and teaches for the Institute for Management Studies. In 2007, Ed retired as worldwide vice president of talent management and CLO at Becton, Dickinson and Company. In addition, he served for eight years as the program director for the Conference Board’s Talent and Organization Development Executive Council, and was a founding senior fellow and an academic director for the doctoral program designed to prepare chief learning officers at the University of Pennsylvania. Ed is the author or co-author of five books, including Leaders as Teachers: Unlock the Teaching Potential of Your Company’s Best and Brightest, Leaders as Teachers Action Guide, and Just Promoted!: A Twelve-Month Roadmap for Success in Your New Leadership Role. He is a frequent speaker on leadership and career topics and a former ATD Board member.

About the Author

Lisa M.D. Owens is a learning expert who applies learning sciences to create training programs that move businesses forward. She designs training for the in-person and virtual classrooms and the web. Lisa founded Training Design Strategies LLC in 2012 to help companies achieve their goals through the power of training. Beyond her current client work, she is an instructor for Ohio University’s instructional design graduate program and on GC-ASTD’s Executive Advisory Board. She is co-author of the college textbook Your Career: How to Make It Happen, the books Leaders as Teachers Action Guide and Lo start-up di una Corporate University, and a series of articles for CorpU on creating corporate universities. Lisa holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in education.

About the Author

Sue Todd is chief strategy officer at CorpU. She works with faculty at leading business schools, including Wharton, IESE, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and others, to adapt executive education programs to the practical needs of leaders. Sue has advised Global 2000 organizations on innovative learning and leadership development strategies since 1994. With more than 20 years experience, she has consulted with firms like Coca-Cola, Aetna, Exxon, The Boeing Company, HP, Pfizer, M&M Mars, and others to address the dynamic conditions of the 21st Century. Her current work focuses on complexity science, and how it reveals cracks in current organizational structures and practices under increasing marketplace dynamism. She is identifying approaches that can prepare leaders to embrace emergence and guide organization adaptability. Prior to joining CorpU, Sue was VP of product management for KnowledgePlanet, where she directed the evolution of the first web-based learning management system, the first business-to-business eLearning marketplace and technology-based performance management solutions. She helped both media and industry analysts shape the LMS and e-learning industries. Sue has been interviewed by  The Wall Street JournalFortune MagazineUSA TodayThe New York TimesGreentree Gazette, Workforce Week, and other HR and learning industry publications. She has published articles in  Leadership Excellence, CLOTraining and  T&D Magazines. Sue has spoken at New York University, Bellvue University, ASTD ICE, Tuskegee University, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. And for two years, in 2006 and 2007, she ran Training Director’s Forum on behalf of Training Magazine.

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