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University of Sunderland

What are leadership development programmes?

Posted on: May 24, 2024
Leadership management programmes, Magnifier glass focus to manager icon which is among staff icons for human development recruitment leadership and customer target group concept.

Eye-opening statistics shared by recruitment company Apollo Technical paint a picture of the current state of leadership in many organisations:

  •  More than 77% of organisations report a lack of leadership
  • 47% predict a shortage of leadership or executive-level skills in the near future, with only 11% of human resources (HR) leaders believing that they have a strong pool of future leaders
  • 69% of millennials are concerned that their workplace does not develop their leadership skills
  • The number of women on boards of directors is only 15%
  • 79% of employees will quit after receiving inadequate appreciation from their managers.

Clearly, strong leadership is one of the cornerstones of good organisational management. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to great leadership, there are some commonly agreed skill sets, competencies, mindsets, and tools that can have a profound impact on the ways in which businesses are led and managed. This is where leadership development programmes enter the equation.

What is a leadership development programme?

Leadership development programmes (LDPs) provide the opportunities and guidance that employees – especially those in leadership roles – need to develop ‘new skills to manage their careers, lead others to success, and contribute great work to the organisation.’ In short, they help new leaders, existing leaders, and future leaders to achieve their full potential.

The best LDPs and training courses are well-rounded and balanced, designed to address all aspects of leadership. The specific nature of leadership initiatives is likely to vary in line with a business’ unique objectives, however they tend to comprise five key elements: communication, collaboration and management, accountability, influence and negotiation, and change management. They’re likely to develop a range of other skills, including coaching and mentoring, goal and milestone-setting, delegation, and conflict management.

LDPs can be delivered in-person, remotely, or via hybrid models – by in-house teams or external training providers – depending on the organisation and its individual requirements. Before embarking on a personal leadership training scheme, it’s worth assessing the type of leadership you are hoping to develop, and avoid making some of the most common leadership development planning mistakes.

Why should organisations invest in leadership training?

Our workplaces of today are often challenging, multi-faceted, dynamic, and international. For any organisation to be truly successful, it requires leadership teams who can motivate and inspire team members to achieve the best possible outcomes. After all, leaders and senior executives are often the ones engaging in high-stakes decision-making and problem-solving.

A Gallup survey identified a number of key talents, attributes, and leadership skills that great leaders possess:

  1. They offer complete transparency – alongside fostering trust and open communication
  2. They centre decision making around productivity, not politics
  3. They motivate and engage all employees with a compelling mission and vision
  4. They establish a culture of clear accountability
  5. They are capable of driving outcomes and overcoming adversity and resistance.

While all this sounds great in theory, it’s unfortunately not the reality – or sometimes even the priority – of some leaders and leadership styles. In organisations where this is the case, businesses stand to lose out on many of the advantages that effective leaders bring to the workplace.

Strong leadership is so critical to wide-scale, long-term organisational performance. Examples of the business benefits that come with leadership investment include:

Strategic succession planning

Developing future leaders, in advance of them stepping up, supports business continuity and helps to plug crucial skills gaps.

A healthier bottom-line

The financial aspect of running a business is always important, and leaders who are able to cultivate high-performing teams are a key aspect to boosting productivity, efficiency, and profit.

Better employee engagement, recruitment, and retention 

LDPs demonstrate to team members that they – and their professional development – are valued and prioritised, and that they will be supported on their chosen career paths – whether their future lies within the organisation or not. This not only helps to attract high-quality talent but leads to higher rates of satisfaction and a greater number of employees who are eager to remain at the company.

Continuous learning and personal growth

As well as keeping employees happy, prioritising ongoing learning and development enables team members to innovate, explore new opportunities and perspectives, put new skills into practice, and foster a culture where improvement and excellence is prized.

Better change management

From redundancies to changes in strategic direction, change within business is a fact of life. Change management focuses on empowering others to define, shape, and contribute to change – and results in smoother transitions and staff who feel more supported.

Ability to meet organisational objectives

Ineffective leaders will not help drive organisations forward. A leader who excels across all aspects of the role – from supporting and upskilling others to increasing productivity to improving company culture – is far more able to help an organisation meet both short-term and long-term goals.

How can the effectiveness of leadership training programmes be measured?

Do you know what good leadership development looks like – and how to measure it? What is the return on investment (ROI) of LDPs?

Leveraging 360 feedback is an increasingly popular method of gaining insight into how a leader is developing in the eyes of their peers and direct reports. HR professionals could investigate, for example, whether employees have noticed any major differences or emerging leader qualities in an individual. It’s important to act on feedback to ensure that the process is valuable. This could mean investing in further training or providing other support or resources if they are still lacking in a certain aspect of the role.

Asking those in leadership positions to engage in mentorship initiatives for other high-potential individuals – such as offering advice and feedback on a junior leader’s progress and development – can also be a useful measure.

Ready to invest in your own leadership qualities – and nurture them in others?

Gain the skills to develop the senior leaders of tomorrow – alongside key human resource management skills – with the University of Sunderland’s online MSc Management with Human Resources course.

Immerse yourself in the world of transformative organisational management and leadership, ready for your next big career move. Via 100%-online study that fits around your commitments, you’ll gain an in-depth understanding across the spectrum of international human resource management, including talent development, leadership, resourcing, and much more. 

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