Leadership training is crucial for any management role. Whether you have a large team or just got your first hire, leadership training can help you be the best possible leader.
A strong foundation of leadership training1https://www.ccl.org/articles/white-papers/driving-performance-development-success/ will help you effectively direct your team toward success, and ultimately, companies who invest in training have 24% higher revenue2https://businesstrainingexperts.com/knowledge-center/training-roi/. This is a key part of reaching your goals.
First, let’s answer the big question:
What Is Leadership Training?
Leadership, also known as management training courses, are specialized programs designed to help leaders learn new leadership techniques and refine old skills to run their team. These skills include assertive communication, motivation methods, and coaching.
Leadership training is ideal for anyone in a supervisory role, from people who have just stepped up to a new position to more experienced managers who want to keep on top of their game.
What Are the Benefits of Effective Leadership?
Anyone who has seen effective leadership3https://businessleadershiptoday.com/what-are-the-benefits-of-leadership/ knows it can increase productivity, boost morale, strengthen employee retention, produce other effective leaders, and benefit the company’s bottom line, among many other things.
One study found4https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2158244020914634 that effective leadership and knowledge sharing benefited work performance, firm strategy, and firm performance. What’s more, employee retention has been linked to superior leadership skills.
Transformational leaders, or those who inspire others to go beyond immediate self-interest or required expectations, share characteristics5https://www.proquest.com/openview/bbb4bb4ac7c98da78fac22000532a6f0/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750 of charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and an ability to show individualized consideration.
Good leadership training will guide you through identifying your core leadership practice and mission. One lesson we cover in our training is how we can be charismatic authentically.
Here at Science of People, we have one of the best science-based leadership trainings for high-achieving professionals. Check out People School right here or read below to see the 14 skills every leader must know.
Master Your People Skills
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Have a question about the presentation or People School? Email Science of People support.
14 Skills for Successful Leadership
1. Know Your Purpose as a Leader
Before you master anything else in your leadership classes, you will first need to tackle the basics. The basics of leadership training are about establishing your purpose as a leader and the mindset you need to cultivate in yourself and your team.
These core leadership practices include:
a. Being a role model: As a leader, being a role model means embodying the values and behaviors you expect from your team, inspiring and motivating them to do the same.
b. Making an impact: Knowing your purpose involves understanding the kind of impact you want to have, setting ambitious goals, and encouraging meaningful change in your team, organization, or society.
c. Focusing on a vision: Having a clear and compelling vision guides your decision-making and strategies, inspires your team by providing a sense of purpose and direction, and serves as a framework for evaluating progress and making necessary adjustments.
d. Encouraging collaboration: By creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and empowered, you can harness the collective strengths of your team, fostering innovation and achieving shared goals more effectively.
The Arbinger Institute is an excellent resource for understanding and developing yourself as a leader. Consider reading Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box and The Outward Mindset: How to Change Lives and Transform Organizations to learn how your thought patterns affect your decisions and how you interact with the world.
2. Unique Appreciation and Gratitude
It’s just two words, but don’t underestimate how much it does for you and your team. Being openly grateful for your team’s work by thanking them leads to you being viewed as warmer, which means people will be more interested in communicating with you and building a relationship.
Studies suggest6https://www.hilarispublisher.com/open-access/impact-of-motivation-on-employee-performances-a-case-study-of-karmasangsthan-bank-limited-bangladesh-.pdf that positively motivating a team is a great way to improve an employee’s effectiveness and efficiency.
Which is hardly surprising. You want your team to face the day feeling confident they will be recognized for their hard work and supported with their ambitions. Unsurprisingly, low morale can lead to low productivity7https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/76b0/da7caf77aeedd6b756c5cc5ffbafb309421f.pdf and has other knock-on effects, such as increased workplace absences.
The key is not only using verbal gratitude but also expressing your appreciation in unique ways.
3. A Sense of Humor
No matter the environment, humor provides numerous benefits. Laughter8https://hbr.org/2014/05/leading-with-humor relieves stress and boredom, encourages creativity and productivity, and increases engagement.
Case Study: Gordon Hinckley was a religious leader. At his funeral, scattered among the praise for his leadership and wisdom were stories about his sense of humor.
One day, while entering a meeting of senior church leaders gathered to discuss the matters of an organization with more than 13 million members, Hinckley greeted the men who were in dark suits, white shirts, and conservative ties…
By announcing, they all looked like penguins.
Inevitably, the comment was greeted with laughter. The memory lasted far beyond the moment, becoming a cherished story for years afterward.
If you’re worried, “Well, yeah, but I’m not funny,” don’t worry! Check out How to Effortlessly Develop a Sense of Humor (& Humor Types) for tips on how to make humor easier.
4. Communication and Active Listening
The ability to communicate is a foundation for building solid relationships. Building trust and motivating employees to achieve personal and organizational goals.
When you can clearly articulate your vision, goals, and expectations, your team members can align and work toward a common purpose.
Consider Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address9https://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm, Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream10https://www.rice.edu/kennedy” speech, or John F. Kennedy’s “We Choose To Go To The Moon10https://www.rice.edu/kennedy” speech. Each is an excellent example of clearly articulated visions and goals.
And while you may not be proposing sending a man to the moon, your role as a leader can be used to inspire and motivate those in your sphere of influence.
But speaking is only one part of good communication. Strong communicators can practice these actionable tips:
- Practice “active listening bursts” by dedicating 5-10 minutes to fully focus on a conversation, providing undivided attention, and reflecting back on key points to show understanding.
- Use “reflective summarization” to spend a few minutes at the end of a conversation summarizing the main points and emotions expressed to demonstrate active listening.
- Show that you are listening with nods and affirming comments, like “I see” or “Go on.”
- Refrain from interrupting. Let the speaker complete their thought before you respond, and speak at a slower rate to allow them to fully understand you.
- Paraphrase or summarize what the speaker has said to ensure you have understood it correctly before changing the subject.
Understanding Needs, Concerns, and Challenges:
- Conduct “needs and concerns check-ins,” where you spend a few minutes asking team members about their current needs, challenges, or concerns and actively listen to their responses.
- Utilize “empathy mapping” by taking a few minutes to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think about their needs, concerns, and challenges from their perspective.
- Encourage an open dialogue where team members feel comfortable sharing their concerns or challenges. This might even mean organizing your workspace, so it is more open instead of closed.
- Show empathy and acknowledge their feelings. This builds trust and helps them feel understood.
Giving Constructive Feedback:
- Implement “feedback sandwiches” by starting with positive feedback, providing constructive criticism in the middle, and ending with more positive feedback to balance the conversation,
- Practice “focused feedback sessions” where you provide specific, actionable feedback on one or two key areas for improvement, ensuring the feedback is clear and concise in a brief timeframe.
5. Interpersonal Skills
You’re tired—your team has been working hard to meet a deadline, and right at the last minute… it all falls through. Everyone is deflated, and tensions have started to rise. It’s only a matter of time before the blamestorm erupts in the office.
Does this sound familiar?
No matter how effective you become at communication and inspiration, conflict, miscommunication, or confusion will inevitably appear. Knowing how to address conflict and interact with others are invaluable soft skills to develop as a leader.
Conflict management might be one of the tougher leadership training topics—the trick is to keep calm and communicate. But it’s one of those skills that are usually easier in theory than in practice.
The type of techniques you will learn in a good management training course will include:
- Confronting the situation
- Collaborating to problem solve
- The formal complaints process
- Understanding why conflict arises
- Handling narcissistic personalities at work
- Managing stress and emotions
- And the worst one…What to do when your boss is in a bad mood
The reports “Conflict at Work11https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-research-time-spent-on-workplace-conflict-has-doubled-since-2008-301652771.html” and “Workplace Conflict Statistics12https://pollackpeacebuilding.com/workplace-conflict-statistics/” have some really startling statistics on the importance of this type of leadership training.
Did you know managers spend an average of four hours per week dealing with conflict? And 36 percent of employees deal with it ‘almost constantly’!?
Not only is this terrible for your stress levels, but it has a knock-on effect on your health and your performance. Stress can cause13https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579396/ memory problems, slow your learning ability, and weaken your immune system.
It’s better for everyone to tackle conflict when it arises and quickly resettle the team. Most leadership training courses will teach you how to handle conflict.
Beyond simply managing conflict, an effective leader will have the ability to motivate a team. This will utilize the communication skills we discussed to understand each member’s need to feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment. For some, a clear, achievable goal will be highly motivating; for others, it may be the opportunity to collaborate and feel heard by their peers.
Effective leaders take stock of each team member’s strengths and weaknesses. They create opportunities for growth and development, then offer acknowledgment for achievement. They will also lead by example, demonstrating enthusiasm, dedication, and a strong work ethic. Try one of the following action steps:
- Strengths and weaknesses assessment: Dedicate 5-10 minutes to individually evaluate each team member’s strengths and areas for improvement.
- Micro-learning opportunities: Share bite-sized resources, such as articles or videos, tailored to each team member’s development needs.
- Recognition and acknowledgment: Regularly send personalized messages or emails to recognize individual achievements and their positive impact.
- Unique development tasks: Assign short, personalized tasks aligned with team members’ interests or hobbies to foster skill growth and engagement.
6. Decision-Making Prioritization
What was your last big decision at work?
Perhaps you changed tactics last minute when trying to close a sale or tried something new on social media to reach a larger audience.
Decision-making is one of the most important skills you can learn as a leader. Research indicates that decision-making prioritization14https://www.ddiworld.com/global-leadership-forecast-2023/leadership-skills is a critical gap that leaders need to develop to succeed.
When a fork in the road appears, ideas will get batted around by your team, but when it comes to the crunch, you will have to make the final call.
Just as we all have a personality type, we also have decision-making types. Some people will excel in one particular kind of decision-making, while others will use a combination of these different methods.
Analytic decision-making: Analytic decision-makers are all about carefully examining the information in front of them before making their decision. They rely on facts, data, and observing the situation to support their chosen action.
Behavioral decision-making: Behavioral decision-makers like to make sure everyone is working together and making group-orientated choices. They will offer decisions to their team before deciding on the best course of action.
Conceptual decision making: Conceptual decision makers are more social in their methods than either directive or analytic types and integrate more creative thinking and collaboration from a team of people. They tend to base their decisions on many different perspectives and will think further into the future when making a decision.
Directive decision-making: Directive decision-makers are rational and direct. They base their decisions on their own knowledge and tend to make lightning-fast decisions.
Once you’ve worked out your decision-making style, you can purposely take some of the best attributes from the other approaches to making decisions and applying them to the situation where they best fit. (See, we said it would get harder after learning the basics of management).
Have you ever lived with a plant growing on the window sill? Plants will naturally turn towards the light—their life-giving energy source. Research shows15https://hbr.org/2022/04/the-best-leaders-have-a-contagious-positive-energy that humans react similarly to positive energy. We are naturally drawn to people who radiate positive, supportive energy.
The University of Michigan16https://positiveorgs.bus.umich.edu/articles/ has an entire center for positive organizations, with substantial research on the impact of positivity on engagement, retention, and improved well-being for employees.
Let’s be clear—we’re not talking about toxic positivity, where a person overemphasizes positive thinking and denies or avoids negative emotions or experiences.
When positivity is approached healthily, it can lengthen life, strengthen the immune system, and lower rates of anxiety and depression17https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2000-05007-002.
Consider some of the following ideas:
- Gratitude wall: Create a space where team members can post notes expressing gratitude for each other’s contributions, fostering a visual reminder of positivity.
- Random acts of kindness: Encourage team members to perform small, unexpected acts of kindness for one another or strangers, spreading positivity and kindness.
- Joyful traditions: Establish unique and enjoyable traditions within the team, such as celebrating milestones or organizing fun team-building activities.
- Inspirational guest speakers: Invite guest speakers to share inspiring stories or insights with the team, exposing them to new perspectives and uplifting messages.
8. Learning Mindset
Developing and maintaining a learning mindset is crucial for effective leadership. Take a rather unorthodox example of chef Julia Child.
Case Study: Raised in a privileged family, Julia spent much of WWII working for the department that would eventually become the CIA.
It wasn’t until she married at 34 and moved to France that she became interested in cooking and eventually studied at Le Cordon Bleu.
Julia was 51 when she started filming her cooking show that would make her the face of French cuisine in 1960s America.
In addition to her own passion as a learner and teacher, Julia Child established organizations to expand people’s awareness about cooking. Her learning mindset influenced entire generations of American cuisine.
Encouraging learning new skills and providing development opportunities can financially impact companies, such as:
- Create a learning budget or reimbursement program to support employees attending conferences, seminars, or online courses related to their professional growth.
- Establish cross-functional projects or job rotations to give employees exposure to different areas of the business and promote skill diversification.
- Encourage employees to share their knowledge and expertise through lunch-and-learn sessions or internal knowledge-sharing platforms, fostering a culture of continuous learning.
- Implement a mentorship program where employees can learn from experienced colleagues and gain valuable skills.
- Support the creation of employee-led communities of practice or interest groups where individuals can collaborate and learn from one another.
According to research, leaders are seeking more opportunities18https://www.ddiworld.com/global-leadership-forecast-2023/development-experiences for instructor-led training and professional coaching. By demonstrating and encouraging a learning mindset, you can increase creativity and investment in projects in your organization and the world.
Of the companies with effective leadership development at all levels, 54% financially perform in the top 10 percent of their industry, as opposed to 20% with no effective leadership development.
9. Identifying and Developing Future Talent
According to a forecast on global leadership needs14https://www.ddiworld.com/global-leadership-forecast-2023/leadership-skills, within the next three years, identifying and developing future talent will be one of the top five skills needed for leaders. Currently, 65% of leaders believe it is a critical skill to develop, but only 24% have received training on how to do so.
To begin the process, consider the following:
- Identify and look for leadership traits and behaviors in your employees, such as strong communication skills, problem-solving, and initiative.
- Offer leadership development programs where employees learn and apply leadership skills.
- Provide mentoring and coaching as a way for employees to learn from more experienced leaders and their own failures.
- Encourage networking to allow employees with leadership potential to meet peers who could be future colleagues and experienced leaders who could be future mentors.
You also need to learn what drives true motivation. Here are the top motivating factors you want to develop as a leader in training:
- The freedom to make decisions
- Having realistic goals
- Being recognized for achievements
- Recognizing progress on your team
- Differences in gender at work and advice for leading women
- These are the fundamentals to keeping your team members motivated
When employees are positively motivated, it improves both their effectiveness and efficiency6https://www.hilarispublisher.com/open-access/impact-of-motivation-on-employee-performances-a-case-study-of-karmasangsthan-bank-limited-bangladesh-.pdf, which leads to huge improvements in achieving organizational goals. It’s a win-win for everyone because everyone wants to be happy at work.
To better understand motivation, check out How to Get Motivated: 10 Tips to Improve Your Self-Motivation.
10. Build a Strengths-Based Team
As we’ve touched on briefly several times already, a strengths-based team focuses on leveraging and maximizing the skills and talents of individual members for collective success.
Begin by identifying (or helping your team identify) strengths. One employee could have an excellent memory for details, while another is very efficient at writing content.
As you assign tasks within a project, allocate them as much as possible based on those strengths.
Wondering where to start? Check out 10 Effective Tips On How To Lead A Strengths-Based Team
Encourage collaboration between teammates. If an employee enjoys formatting spreadsheets (this is a real thing – I know a girl), you might ask her to develop a formula and teach the others how to populate the spreadsheet to speed up data analysis.
Take time to express appreciation and recognize the specific contributions of your team members.
Be careful to continue to allow opportunities for growth and development. It’s never fun to be pigeonholed into a task that you may be good at but don’t enjoy. Similarly, only performing tasks you are already skilled at can lead to boredom and dissatisfaction.
Properly using a strength-based method not only improves efficiency and workflow but also increases motivation and satisfaction within the team because people have more opportunities to contribute with a skill they are confident in.
Leaders face one big problem:
They want to do it all.
But you simply can’t do it all! One of the hardest things to do as a leader, particularly if you’re a perfectionist, is to delegate (and sometimes negotiate) tasks. You might feel that doing all of the work yourself is the best way to get results. However, as a leader, you will have to distribute the workload among your team.
Different leadership courses might show you how to delegate in different ways, but the general steps for delegation are clear:
- Define the task at hand
- Make sure it is SMART (specific, measurable, agreed, realistic, timebound, ethical recorded)
- Identify the best team or team member for the job
- Communicate why they have been selected
- Explain the goal to be achieved
- Discuss how the task should or could be executed
- Agree on a deadline
- Keep communication open through the duration of the task
- Provide feedback after completion
There are many other aspects of delegation which leadership training courses will go into in more detail—some more than others. If you know that delegation skills are something you need to develop further, consider a course that provides a deep dive into the subject.
12. Performance Management
Performance management is creating an environment at work that allows people to perform their best and align with the company’s objectives. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure your team is performing.
How many times a year do you monitor and give feedback on your team’s performance?
Performance management is a continual process.
It is a continuous cycle of setting goals, planning how to achieve them, reviewing the progress, and further developing the team’s skills.
- Conducting annual appraisals
- Giving feedback
- Empowering employees
- Using performance management tools
- Using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- Implementing personal development plans
Learning these techniques in leadership training programs for managers will give you the knowledge to successfully monitor, analyze, and progress with your team’s performance.
Research shows that performance management applied well improves employee engagement19https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238064/re-engineering-performance-management.aspx, and shifts conversation focus from accountability to learning20r.org/2016/10/the-performance-management-revolution.
You also should ensure that your leadership training program tackles the biggest mistake leaders make:
13. Digital Leadership Skills
Did you know that companies with the most digitally-competent managers and leaders financially outperform21https://hbr.org/2021/11/todays-ceos-need-hands-on-digital-skills the average by nearly 50%?! And one study found that out of 2,000 companies, only 7% were led by digitally competent teams.
And it’s no surprise, really – everything has gone digital. Who would have thought twenty years ago we’d be able to make phone calls through our watches, pay for things just by tapping a bank card against a small machine, or access our bank accounts using a fingerprint scanner?
Imagine in another twenty years. What other technologies lay just around the corner?
Every organization will need to embrace new technologies if they want to flourish. And those with the most capable digital-ready leaders will continue to stay ahead of the curve.
When you’re looking for a leadership training course, make sure that they have some information on how to get your business or your team up to date virtually. This might involve syncing up calendars on Gmail, communicating using Skype, or any other digital tools that help people communicate faster and work more efficiently.
The ability to adapt—to take stock of present opportunities and then reassess and adjust as needed—is a crucial skill for leaders. Developing this skill can require building a support network so you can be surrounded by diverse perspectives, practicing being flexible by adjusting your plans, routines, and expectations, and reflecting on and learning from experiences.
Consider the following:
- Conduct a “random challenge” where you challenge yourself to complete a small task or solve a problem using unconventional methods or resources, fostering creative thinking and adaptability.
- Try the “reverse brainstorming” technique, spending a few minutes generating as many solutions as possible to a specific problem, but with the goal of finding the most unconventional or opposite ideas, encouraging adaptive thinking.
- Practice “mind mapping” by taking 5-10 minutes to visually map out a complex issue or challenge, exploring different connections and potential solutions, training your brain to think flexibly and adaptively.
Foster an environment that values and rewards adaptability, promoting a mindset where change is seen as an opportunity rather than a threat.
Case Study: In the early 1960s, the Japanese motorcycle company Honda22https://global.honda/heritage/episodes/1959establishingamericanhonda.html established an American expansion into LA. The company nearly lost its tenuous foothold in the American market when two of its three lead products had a design flaw that resulted in a recall of Honda’s most competitive motorcycles in the market.
The company was left with only the Super Cub, or Honda 50, a small bike. Rather than continuing to compete with the already saturated Indian and Harley-Davidson, Honda adapted their strategy to focus on the smaller, cheaper model that turned out to be extremely popular.
In time, the Honda 50 altered the image of the entire motorcycle industry, creating a casual, fun shopping experience and even going so far as changing the appearance of motorcycle showrooms from the stereotypical grease and dirt to places with associates in business suits and bright, clean conditions.
Had Honda remained determined to sell their high-priced, industry-standard but non-functional larger motorcycles, there is a chance the company wouldn’t have survived long enough in America to establish itself.
Types of Leadership Styles
Think of the best leader you have ever met – perhaps a colleague, your first boss, or maybe even a high school teacher. What type of leader were they? How did people see them? Did they manage the team in a task-focused way, or were they more people focussed and ambitious to putting power into the hands of the individual to take responsibility for tasks themselves?
Good leadership training will help you identify your leadership style. Not all leaders are the same … nor should they be!
What type of leader are you? What type of leader do you want to be?
When you are in a leadership position, it’s important to assess your own leadership style.
There are three basic leadership styles.
- Autocratic leaders are clear in their expectations, tell employees exactly how they want a job done, and make decisions on their own.
- Delegative leaders are the opposite, and instead of micromanaging, they allow the group to make their own decisions.
- Participative leaders are a mix of the other two styles and provide direction while also taking feedback from their team.
Most people want to be a good manager, but all three leadership styles have advantages and disadvantages. For example, autocratic leaders are fantastic when disaster strikes and a problem needs solving urgently, but they don’t foster the same morale and sense of unity as a democrative leader.
On the other hand, democrative leaders might build a wonderfully close team but find that some of their employees struggle to take full responsibility and initiative in their work.
You might already have some idea of your leadership style (knowing your personality type might give you a hint). Still, a strong leadership course will go into these subjects in more detail, perhaps breaking each leadership type into further subtypes.
Now what, you may ask, is the difference between leadership and management23https://hbr.org/2013/08/tests-of-a-leadership-transiti#:~:text=Management%20consists%20of%20controlling%20a,managers%2C%20not%20power%20and%20control.? Excellent question. There are many areas where the two overlap, but generally, management is focused on achieving a task or goal. In contrast, leadership is focused on a higher goal of empowering the individuals in their sphere of influence to create value.
Why Is Leadership Training Important?
Leadership training is important because a good leader can be the driving force of the team.
A leader encourages the team to reach their full potential, brings out the best in each individual, and helps each person to achieve their career goals.
But humans are tricky, tricky creatures. We are emotional, and sensitive, and proud, and stubborn, and creative—all at the same time. And leading a team means that on any given day, a leader can run into any number of unexpected situations.
Learning how to address those scenarios under pressure is where leadership training comes in. You would never expect a medical student who wants to be a surgeon to know how to run a surgical procedure without study, observation, and practice.
Similarly, great leaders study, observe, practice, and, yes—learn from mistakes.
Taking the Lead
Becoming an effective leader is not a process that comes naturally to most people, but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. Remembering these tips can help you connect better with those in your sphere of influence:
- Communication and active listening: Effective communication is essential for conveying your team’s vision, goals, and expectations. Active listening helps you understand your team members’ needs, concerns, and challenges and fosters a culture of open dialogue.
- Empathy and relationship building: Empathy allows you to understand and relate to your team members’ emotions and experiences, building trust and creating a supportive work environment. Relationship building helps you establish strong connections with your team, fostering collaboration and teamwork.
- Strategic thinking and decision-making: Strategic thinking involves analyzing complex situations, identifying opportunities and challenges, and developing effective strategies. Decision-making skills enable you to make informed and timely decisions based on available information and considering different perspectives.
- Adaptability and change management: Adaptability is crucial in a rapidly changing business environment. Effective leaders can navigate change, embrace new ideas, and lead their teams through transitions with resilience and flexibility.
All of these skills are important for effective leadership, and they complement each other to create well-rounded leaders who can inspire and motivate their teams to achieve success.
For more ideas on leadership and management, you might also check out our 14 most important management skills:
Read all 14 management skills here.
How to Deal with Difficult People at Work
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