Leaders-As-Teachers: The Underused Tool for Developing Current and Future Leaders

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Although leaders-as-teachers (LAT) programs have considerable benefits for both leaders and employees, only 17 percent of organizations have formal LAT programs and another 39 percent have informal programs, according to new research from ATD and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). 

What Are LAT Programs?

Instead of professional instructors, business leaders serve as the teachers (most often, employees at all levels are students). When a LAT program is effective, the leaders’ organizational knowledge, practical experience, and strategic perspectives deliver learning and development that engages employees and drives bottom-line results. 

According to Tricia Rhine, senior organizational development consultant with Providence Health & Services, one of the largest nonprofit healthcare systems in the United States, “Leaders who teach are able to connect the dots, to provide line-of-sight between what employees are learning and how that will help move the business.” 

LAT programs also serve as an opportunity for leaders to enhance their own self-awareness and identify high-potential future leaders.

What Makes an Effective LAT Program?

ATD and i4cp’s research on LAT programs began with a survey of 1,381 learning and business professionals. Among those respondents who reported that their organization used the LAT approach, 58 percent characterized their LAT efforts as effective. 


Formal, structured LAT programs were much more likely to be considered effective than informal ones with no set structure. Also, even though most LAT programs don’t have any formal selection criteria for the leaders that serve as teachers, organizations with effective LAT programs were more likely to include teaching in C-suite responsibilities.

So, what prevents organizations from putting effective LAT programs in place? Participants cited a lack of time in leaders’ schedules as the single biggest barrier. Other common barriers were: 

  • inability to tie leaders’ teaching to performance goals 
  • failure to view leaders’ teaching as a development opportunity 
  • lack of funding 
  • inability to motivate leaders.

How Do I Start or Improve an LAT Program?


Want to learn more about LAT programs, including additional best practices from the research and real-world tips for overcoming the barriers to effectiveness? Join i4cp’s CEO, Kevin Oakes, for a FREE webcast at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 1, 2015. You are encouraged to pre-register for the webcast at
The full report, Leaders as Teachers: Engaging Employees in High-Performance Learning, can be purchased at here. Members can download a free whitepaper version of the report.  

The webcast and report are sponsored by The Training Associates.  


About the Author
Maria Ho is the research manager for the Association for Talent Development. She authors research reports and other research products, analyzes data, and develops research plans and quantitative models. She also promotes and presents ATD’s research by blogging, posting on social media, and giving presentations. Maria is especially interested in performance measurement and evaluation and the impact of new technologies on training.

Prior to joining ATD, Maria was a public policy researcher, data analyst, and writer at the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C.  

Maria holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and a master’s degree in economics from Johns Hopkins University.
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