Leadership Development: 4 Strategies to Build Great Leaders


manager and employees in a meeting

Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Many leadership development programs don't work. And yet leadership training is essential for equipping managers with the skills to implement their companies' strategies and promote talent and capabilities in their workers. So how can organizations create effective leadership development programs that align with the goals of the company and foster leadership competencies in employees? Here are four tips for building a successful program.
1. Make it an organization-wide program.
Rather than limiting efforts to specific divisions, departments, or individuals, implement changes across the entire company. That ensures that all managers within the organization are learning the same leadership skills and principles and that the strategy is consists across different levels.
2. Ground theory in practice.
A leader can't actually exercise her leadership skills unless she's in a real-life situation in which she's faced with real-life issues. That's why Deborah Rowland writes in the Harvard Business Review that organizations should set up "living laboratories" for leaders to spend time exercising the skills they need for leadership roles in contexts that replicate those they will face as managers.
3. Adapt to change.
The business landscape is evolving with new technologies and ideas. Many systems can improve and support human efforts to lead and execute company missions. Organizations should make an effort to adapt with times, rather than remaining commited to "the way we've always done things." Businesses that remain commited to outdated systems run the risk of disenfranchising employees—as well as delivering subpar services and products.
New systems and technological platforms can also support leadership development efforts and improve interventions. For example, in the McKinsey Quarterly, Claudio Feser, Nicolai Nielsen, and Michael Rennie cite blogs, video messages, and social-media platforms as tools that can drive change and help a leader engage with employees and the public.
4. Strive for improvement.
Leadership training isn't one and done. As people adapt to leadership roles, they need to be constantly learning and improving in their positions. Orgnizations should ensure that their leadership program includes regular check-ins and evaluations. Managers should not be exempt from trainings and should routinely attend workshops and conferences to promote their learning and professional development. They should also have regular meetings with their managers and direct reports to discuss and evaluate their own roles and goals. This ensures that the personal leadership journey is never fully complete, and leaders are constantly growing, evolving, and striving to improve.