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How to get the most from Leadership Development

How to get the most from Leadership Development

Being a leader or technical expert might carry a leadership title, but that doesn’t mean the team will align. So how do you actually lead and take your people with you? By becoming the confident and engaging leader that others choose to follow.

In this article we look at the reasons for investing in leadership development, the scenarios where it’s needed and ultimately, how to make sure it works for both leaders and their organisations.

Why invest in Leadership Development?

Building a sustainable business, one that brings long-term success while looking after the health of the people in it, requires inspirational, consistent and clear leadership.

However, people often arrive in leadership positions with expert skills that are vital to a business, but they aren’t always leadership skills. This often plays out by not being able to get their message across or failing to engage and motivate their people. They might think they know leadership theory, but theory doesn’t make a leader.

Leadership development makes the difference between knowing what to do - and being able to actually do it.

Scenarios for Leadership Development

There are a few basic scenarios, some apply to organisations, others emerge through personal awareness of the leader themselves.

New leaders

When someone is changing roles, particularly into a leadership role, they will achieve their potential and overcome any limitations more quickly if their leadership skills are developed. Organisations need to think, what do they really need their people to do? This might be being better at communication, making better decisions or developing collaboration skills.

Identifying the blocks

We often see a trigger when something's not happening or doesn’t quite work or people are getting stuck with a problem. Organisations and individuals may know they want to be doing something differently but don't know how or the best way. There is a degree of self awareness needed here, it’s not just down to the leadership team to make the call, there’s no shame in saying ‘I need this’.

Needing to be more strategic

To progress in leadership requires developing the ability and time to think strategically. This is often quite hard to do. We see people struggle to get more strategic because they are very tactical by their nature or are still influenced by their previous roles. Leadership development helps get away from the ‘doing’ into strategic thinking.

Impact on motivation and talent

If you can’t motivate people, you can’t lead. Some people think that they can lead by control and that will get things done. It might, but at the cost of the best talent that will walk. In a ‘control’ culture, those people with less ability or less confidence in their ability are more likely to stay, so what you end up with is a less efficient, effective and successful organisation. Loss of talent and low levels of employee engagement are red flags for leadership development.

How to make sure leadership development works

Focus on the long term goal

Leadership development requires time. It's not a quick win or ‘fix’ but leaders are often seduced by short-term metrics and thinking that doing a lot of tactical things quickly will get the right results - at the expense of the longer term strategy. In a similar vein, coaching plays a part in leadership development, it’s incredibly powerful but if it moves too quickly, you and the Coach could end up working on the wrong issues or goals that won’t give you the outcomes you really need. Patience plays a big part in successful leadership development.

Focus on the ‘how’, not the ‘what’

Leadership development can often fall down when there is too much focus on different learning theories or frameworks. These things are useful to a point but they don't actually tell a human being how to do it. So for example, how do you create trust? You don't say you're trustworthy, you don't talk about it, you do it. When someone says they ‘know’ about leadership what they often mean is that they intellectually know - but they don’t or can’t do it. To successfully do it, a leader needs to emotionally know it - and this comes from emotional regulation.

Being more emotionally regulated

Emotionally regulated leaders are able to listen carefully, appreciate multiple points of view and move ideas forward. They make better decisions as a result. Even if they have a preferred view, they are usually more interested in the best way forward, not necessarily that it’s theirs. Trust is created by being consistent, by being clear, by people being able to rely on what you're going to do, how you're going to behave on a regular basis. This comes from emotional regulation and without it, you're not going to be consistent - and inconsistency rarely gets the desired results.

For more on emotional regulation for leaders, read our article ‘Why emotional regulation is a creative and innovative organisation’s secret weapon’

Respect the process

Just as leadership development is not a quick fix, it requires commitment from both the organisation and those undergoing development. Leadership development isn’t ‘done once’, it’s an on-going process.


Because of its impact on productivity, engagement and retaining talent, there’s a clear linkage to the ROI of leadership development. To get the best from the process, organisations need to be clear on what they want from it. The focus needs to be on long-term sustainable goals and the development of emotionally regulated leaders, primed to lead others with clarity and self-awareness.

Next month we’ll cover how to develop a Leadership Development programme.

For further information

If you are interested in becoming the best leader you can be or want further information on leadership development for your organisation, our leadership development programmes may be of help.

How Can We help?

How else can we help?

If you’d like our support in making these ideas work for you and your business, please get in touch.

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