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Insight

Leadership Development Shouldn’t Be Left to Chance

You’ve probably given your leaders self-directed leadership training as part of their development plans. It should be part of your plan but not your entire one.

Let’s face it—leaders are busy and don’t have a lot of time to spend on development. That means development needs to be meaningful, and leaders who do it on their own time find it empowering. It gives them control over their development. But not all leadership training should be self-directed. That would be like just letting them go and hoping for the best. This approach leaves your leadership training to chance. It’s too risky for two reasons:

  • The “build it and they will come” approach for development only works if leaders come. What if, say, only 35 percent come? Even worse, what if no one participates?
  • Say leaders who do browse your learning library find five possible development models. They choose a different one than their peers choose. And then their peers choose a different model than their managers choose.

The result? Everyone is talking a different leadership language. No one is on the same page. There’s no accountability. And keeping track of everyone’s development goals? The inconsistency across goals makes it difficult, if not impossible. If your leaders don’t have the leadership skills to succeed, their execution will suffer. Their teams will suffer. And your bottom line will suffer. So, what kinds of development do your leaders need to change their behavior and make them better?

One format does not fit all. That’s why learners prefer blended learning journeys built just for them that balance self-directed learning with more formal, purposeful development. According to our Global Leadership Forecast research, leaders told us their number-one preferred style of learning is personalized development experiences.

But what else do leaders need to truly develop? They need a lot of opportunities to practice new skills. They also need to know how their new skills will help them, their teams, and your company succeed.

Three Reasons Your Leaders Need Purposeful Development
Here’s why your leaders need more than self-directed learning to be their best:

  • Leadership skills don’t come naturally. The debate about whether leadership skills can be developed is over. Yes, it’s true that some people have natural tendencies toward key leadership skills. But it’s also true that nobody is born to be a leader. Everyone, however, can develop leadership skills. And everyone can benefit from focused and deliberate development.
  • New behaviors and habits are developed over time. Learning new behaviors or changing old habits takes time, which is why leadership development efforts can’t be built on a single event. So, what do effective leadership development initiatives have? They involve a series of development experiences and reinforcement activities over time.
  • Core skills remain relevant. It is impossible to prepare your leaders for every situation and challenge they will confront. But you can give them a core set of skills that will improve their impact across multiple leadership situations and challenges. These are also the skills that will serve leaders through all stages of their careers. All leaders need a set of skills to thrive in their positions. They fall across three categories: communication, business judgement, and personal mastery. To learn more about these skills, visit DDI’s blog.
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