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In theory, what a leader does is simple: guide their organization, department, or team to success. In practice, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
“Leadership” isn’t a single quality but rather a compilation of them. Traits like empathy, honesty, intelligence, accountability, and integrity elicit respect and admiration from others. Together, they produce a personality that others want to follow.
The trouble is, 47% of new leaders receive no management training. Although they may be great leaders someday, they need a little help to get there. To cultivate a new generation of leaders, build a leadership training program with these key pieces:
1. Inspiring speakers
A college professor once told me that the single best thing he could do for his students was to inspire them. All of the presentations and textbooks in the world won’t make a difference if someone is not driven to learn.
Although it’s often portrayed as a single strike, lasting inspiration takes time to develop. A passionate speaker encourages the listener to dig a little deeper, which in turn makes them tune into the next session a little more.
Look at how enterprise leadership training programs are structured. Professional services firm PwC’s LeadersLab program is a series of four progressive workshops over the span of nine months. “Exposure to experienced and remarkable leaders, who shared their insights and stories, was invaluable to me in the continued shaping of my own leadership style,” Christina Spade, executive vice president and CFO at ViacomCBS, said about the program.
Invite experts from a range of backgrounds to speak with your team. Think broadly: Could someone who leads a literary magazine hold future leaders’ attention on the importance of written communication? Ask them to share how they achieved the things they did, and leave ample time for questions.
2. Peer workshops
Great leaders already exist within your company. Although external leaders might be more exciting to some employees, internal ones can give workers a more concrete look at what the leadership path looks like for your organization.
International consultancy McKinsey & Company points out that less than half of organizations worldwide have peer learning initiatives, while a third lack any sort of system for sharing lessons between peers.
A peer workshop system does not need to be complicated. Once-a-month developmental workshops around subjects like cultivating empathy, delegating effectively, and vision-boarding are plenty. Ask someone on your team who’s seen by team members as an expert in the area to lead each session.
In parallel, set up a mentorship program. Make sure employees who want to go deep in any of those leadership areas get ongoing support from the expert. If more workers are interested than a leader’s schedule can handle, use a lottery system to choose mentees.
3. An emphasis on diversity
On internal flyers, in guest speeches, and throughout internal workshops, make sure your commitment to diversity is loud and clear. Reports must be able to relate to their leaders, and leaders need to appreciate the business value of diverse experiences.
Glassdoor data shows that two-thirds of job seekers consider workplace diversity and important factor when considering employment opportunities. Candidates and existing employees look to team leaders when making judgments about whether the company welcomes people like them. Only people who feel included will want to reach for leadership roles.
Consider how inclusivity can add value to those employee peer groups. Digital transformation service Publicis Sapient has set up groups like VivaWomen!, a group for women in the workplace; Men of Color Alliance; and VivaMama!, a group for new and experienced mothers.
When together correctly, peer groups both inspire and reveal the road ahead. “Our mission is to support women on their career path — whether that’s achieving equal representation, at every level, or enabling them to strategise their career within Groupe, pivoting from one area of the business to another as our industry transforms,” explains Nancy Rowe, VivaWomen!’s UK lead.
Although leadership training doesn’t bring new revenue in the door immediately, firms that invest in it outperform their peers by a stunning 1,500%. Leadership may not be simple, but the choice to invest in it certainly is.