An effective leadership development program is essential for organizations that want to unlock their leadership team's potential and achieve meaningful success in the modern business environment. However, there is still a substantial gap between reported leadership needs and investment in leadership development programs.
One survey from Development Dimensions International found that more than half of CEOs said that developing the next generation of leaders was their top concern, the highest rated among reported leadership priorities. However, Training Magazine research found that investment in leadership development programs has declined since 2017.
Leadership development programs aren't simply about equipping leaders with the skills they need to succeed (though that's certainly a critical component). They also bring team members together in a judgment-free setting to voice their ideas, thoughts and concerns, ultimately helping them build better camaraderie and a stronger sense of community.
All of this has far-reaching benefits for your organization in terms of productivity, retention, and performance.
The importance of a leadership development program
A leadership development program brings multiple individuals together under the guidance of a trained executive coach or consultant to help them develop their leadership skills and competencies, enabling them to become more effective leaders for their organizations. Leadership development programs typically consist of between 8 and 16 individuals, providing ample opportunity to share experiences, insights and challenges with other leaders in similar circumstances.
Leadership program participants are typically organized in one of the following ways:
- Single team: Individuals within a single organization who all report to the same leader and work alongside each other every day.
- Cohort: Individuals occupying similar positions, though not necessarily reporting to the same manager (or even within the same organization).
- Affinity group: Individuals belonging to a shared identity group (i.e., gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.) who experience many of the same workplace challenges.
An executive leadership development program is important because it enables participants to receive feedback from their peers, offering a multitude of different perspectives from those facing the same (or similar) challenges. Of course, participants in a leadership development program also benefit from the insight and experience they gain from one-to-one interactions with their coaches, giving them the best of different kinds of leadership development.
When is it time to invest in a leadership development program?
Every leadership team (and individual leader) is different, and leadership development programs are not best for all circumstances. While leadership teams that are already intact and functioning would still benefit from a leadership development program, focused team development is probably most appropriate for that team's particular challenges and goals.
Leadership development programs are usually best equipped to enable cohorts of individuals to build a sense of community among each other, sharing thoughts and challenges around shared experiences. If your organization has identified a set of emerging leaders with senior management potential — or wants to provide additional resources for affinity groups — a leadership development program may be an effective option.
Leadership development program vs. leadership development coaching: What's the difference?
What about the individual leader? Leadership development programs differ from individual leadership development coaching in one key way: A program brings a group of individuals together, whereas coaching centralizes the relationship between one coach and one coachee.
Leadership development coaching is most effective for individuals who have displayed a need to improve their own specific leadership skills, distinct from the functioning of their team as a whole. These leaders benefit most from an individualized coaching strategy that is tailored to their needs and provides specific feedback to real-time work situations on an ongoing basis.
On the other hand, a leadership development program enables groups of individuals to learn alongside one another, collaborating openly and building off each other's strengths and weaknesses. They may not have demonstrated a specific (or immediate) need for coaching, but they still stand to gain through the deliberate cultivation of their leadership competencies in a cohort setting.
The benefits of an effective leadership development program
Here are some of the top ways that an effective leadership development program can benefit your leadership team:
- Team development: Leadership development programs give individuals on the same team the chance to become better acquainted with fellow team members — understanding their individual work habits and personalities and helping them learn how to work collaboratively. For leaders, this helps them accelerate the development of newly-formed teams.
- Identify growth opportunities: During leadership development programs, coaches may document areas of progress and identify areas of focus and improvement for individual leaders. This information can be passed on to managers and HR staff, within the bounds of confidentiality for participants, to help them with succession planning as they consider emerging leaders for promotion.
- Work through challenges: Leadership development sessions serve as an open forum for individuals to vocalize problems and concerns and work through shared challenges with other members of the team. Not only does this help build trust between team members, it also helps create (and reinforce) strong channels for conflict resolution.
- Build stronger relationships: Senior leaders have the opportunity to occasionally sit in on development sessions, allowing them to talk directly with team members and learn more about them in a different setting. This is a great opportunity for leaders to identify skill sets and unique personalities that otherwise wouldn't be evident from normal reporting relationships.
- Provide helpful content: Executive coaches and consultants provide a wide range of comprehensive content that gives leadership program participants a deep source of information they can use to identify new skill sets, put coaching techniques into practice and constantly self-assess and improve their leadership styles.
Key elements of a successful leadership development program
The following executive leadership development program components are essential to the success of your coaching experience:
An effective leadership development program starts with a professional leadership assessment that helps identify your team's strengths and weaknesses. At The Bailey Group, our leadership assessments and interpretation leverage our expertise in behavioral science, psychology and business practices to provide organizations with a more complete range of leadership insights.
Our leadership assessments consist of normed assessments, psychological interviews, results summary and analysis, among other coaching components.
Every leadership team is different, and that means every team will require a different approach to leadership development. At The Bailey Group, we use the information we gather from our leadership assessments and team member interviews to understand the competencies, weaknesses, goals, expectations (and more) of both your leadership team and its members.
Armed with that data, we offer content that matches those unique characteristics, ensuring your team's leadership development experience is relevant to all team members and delivers meaningful results.
Combination of group and one-on-one coaching
Our approach to leadership development combines team learning with one-on-one coaching to ensure leaders are getting an appropriate balance of insights. While group learning is essential for bringing teams together and building relationships, individuals might be less inclined to share certain thoughts or feelings in a group setting.
One-on-one coaching enables coachees to share their leadership experience in a judgment-free setting while also receiving individualized feedback and input from their coaches they might be uncomfortable sharing in a team setting.
Creating a safe space for open dialogue is one of the critical components of a leadership development program, without which the chances of success are low. It's important that individuals feel that they can openly express their thoughts and perspectives without fear of judgment or retribution from peers or managers.
Safe spaces help ensure that everyone feels comfortable sharing their viewpoints. This not only helps to build a more complete picture of where the team stands as a whole but also enables both coaches and leaders to find applicable solutions that include everyone.
The true mark of a successful leadership development program is the ability for leaders to apply what they're learning to real-world situations and achieve the desired outcomes for the individual, team and organization.
Our coaches at The Bailey Group work with leaders to identify real-time opportunities to practice their new skills and knowledge. In addition, we provide ongoing monitoring to help them handle new situations as they arise while also offering regular feedback so they can learn from their performance and impact. We also provide continuous assessments to track all progress and ensure everyone is meeting the objectives we identified together at the beginning of the process.
Partnering with the industry's top team of executive coaches
At The Bailey Group, we take a holistic approach to leadership development that combines our collective expertise in psychology, behavioral science, and business operations. Many of our coaches have sat in senior leadership seats themselves and understand the unique and complex issues today's leaders face.
Are you ready to invest in a leadership development program and transform your organization from within? Check out our blog for more leadership insights, and reach out to our team to schedule a free consultation.