Leadership Development Training For Managers At All Levels

September 1, 2021
June 26, 2023
Leadership And Mentoring

Not every great leader planned to become one, but they’ve probably been on the receiving end of some great leadership planning! Whether it’s being paired with a great mentor, given the chance to lead on a project or sent on an amazing course, leadership development training is so often the making of a magnificent manager.

And the design of your leadership development program is crucial to getting it right. You want to provide training that isn’t pitched too high, so as to scare people off, but isn’t pitched too low, or else you risk losing their interest. All of the time, you’re keeping in the mind the formats and initiatives that work for people within those relevant and realistic guidelines.

It’s not an easy job, but you’ve got this — and we’ve got you too.

Leaders at different levels need different types of training

If you’re rolling out one-size-fits-all leadership development training, you’re unlikely to give anyone what they actually need. Like all good things in life, offering bespoke programs takes more time, but it’s well worth the investment!

Everyone likes to feel like they’re being given the red carpet treatment, so think of your learners as workplace movie stars. Back when people really believed Mission Impossible meant impossible, Tom Cruise probably needed a lot more guidance than he does with the franchise approaching double digits!

Imagine a naive director trying to teach him to suck eggs on set – that’s how well a one-size leadership program would go down. Instead, think about where people are in their journey and where their missions probable and preferred need to take them!

Leadership training for today’s rising stars

First up on the list, training and developing high-potential future leaders — an essential practice for the long-term success of your organisation.

Why? Because promoting from within not only offers people the progression carrot they crave, it helps them stick around and can be far more cost effective. Someone who knows the company inside out might be able to hone their leadership skills faster than a great external leader could get under the skin of the business.

Of course, this is a process that starts with small steps! Leadership training at this level could include:

  • A program of self-assessment exercises, to help them work out the type of leader they want to be and you identify their skill set.
  • Helping them craft the necessary management skills in practice (you can put them in charge of an internal initiative, for example, to help build their confidence and leadership style).
  • Supportive, interactive group sessions.
  • One-to-one mentoring with a leadership and development coach or a manager within the business.

The secret here is not just identifying potential leadership talent, but getting them to invest in their self-development too.

Leadership development for middle managers

L&D at this level is all about putting what’s been learnt so far into practice and using that as a base for honing leadership talents.

By this stage, middle managers will certainly know the core leadership skills but they may still be exploring how they — personally — will act when leading the team.

You can help them step into the role using these management training tactics:

  • Placing them in a leadership position for a high-level project (go on, challenge them!)
  • Connecting them to a senior company leader for personal coaching or mentoring.
  • Encouraging them to build industry connections.
  • Role modelling how to communicate, engage and guide.
  • Holding leadership training using live, more complicated contexts.
  • Conducting assessments — both self and 360-degree.

Leadership skills for C-Suite and Directors

Once your colleagues reach this level, they’ll be ready for a more nuanced form of leadership training. Senior leaders are expected to do, and be, far more — meaning they’ll also be very busy!

Rather than taking them out of their workflows of days or weeks at a time, ongoing learning and development is key. These are people with a wealth of knowledge and experience, but we all encounter new challenges and ideas – so it’s a case of exposure to and guidance through those.

  • Encourage them to arrange one-to-one coaching sessions with specialist consultants.
  • Co-create personalised and experiential training pathways — ask them what they want and need, then help them achieve it.
  • Work with them to really define who they are as a leader, their leadership style and how they’ll use their skills to influence positive, long-lasting change.

Remember, how is as important as who

The medium is the message, as they say. So how you present and manage a leadership development training program is every inch as important as who you’re training and what you help them to achieve.

A dusty hand-me-down document does little to inspire future leaders. And your C-Suite execs don’t have time to wander your digital filing systems looking for 360 feedback forms.

Instead, look to bring all of your leadership development materials together in one place — bonus points for giving participants somewhere to connect and discuss the experience as well.

Not sure where you’d find such an L&D tool? HowNow empowers you to grow tomorrow’s leaders, today. Drive social learning among leaders, create personalised leadership pathways and measure skills in the same place all of your learning lives!

Building great leadership skills starts with a short demo of our all-in-one learning platform.

Examples from companies with great leadership development programs

We covered this in more detail (and with more examples) in our ultimate guide to modern leadership, but it’s worth giving you a run through on how some of the best in the business deliver leadership development training.

Adidas: Building a value-based leadership approach

Speaking with the Top Employers Institute, Wouter Hol, Senior HR Director at Adidas Group Amsterdam, explained how they’re creating “a framework and set of behaviours we can hold ourselves accountable to” and rooting it in three core organisational culture elements: confidence, collaboration, and creativity.

And to foster that collaborative ethos, people at every level of the business were involved in the shaping their new framework.

Building it together, around core values, helps connect people to purpose, understand why they’re doing it and ensure it’s demonstrated in our everyday actions. Plus, it helps leaders feel more connected to their employees and how they act, think and feel.

Amazon’s Pathways: Creating a talent pipeline for leaders

Something Amazon have recognised is that the leaders they’ll need in the future might not exist in the present. At the current rate of change, the ways we work and skills we need are shifting so fast.

So, rather than hiring or promoting leaders based on the skills they have now, they’re looking at people’s character, traits and potential to step into the future roles. And this is at the heart of their five-year Pathways Program.

Steve Harman, Director, CEU Customer Fulfillment, explained that “The goal of the Pathways Program is to find the best talent we can at the best schools across the world and develop them into really big leaders.”

And even outside of the program, Amazon talk effusively about potential and growth. Anish Mukker explained that Amazon’s goal is to “invest in professional growth of participants with an aim to build a talent pipeline of leaders.”

Here’s a final quote from the company’s program description:

“Pathways members will develop leadership skills and gain a deep knowledge of the business through a series of progressively challenging assignments across Amazon’s growing supply chain network.

“Pathways leaders are expected to be mobile and scale with the growth of the business, lead and develop large teams, solve problems with creative solutions, and deliver results on behalf of our customers!”

Dell technologies: Tapping into internal experts

Like so much in the world of L&D, context is key! How does this thing relate to the goals, people and day-to-day practices in your company?

Leadership development training is no different, so we’re glad Dell are proudly tapping into subject matter experts (SMEs) to drive growth. Jackie Wood, Consultant, Dell’s Global Leader Development team, explained that:

“After doing analysis and scoping the project, we identify subject matter experts (SMEs) in the business to work with us to validate the objectives of the program…Once the objectives are defined, we research the topic as well as use our subject matter expert(s) to validate the content.”

Essentially, their SMEs are sense checking whether projects will work and feeding that back to leaders. This is an important between whether something we believe works in theory can be applied in practice.

When leaders are trying to develop a contextual understanding and approach, there’s no better person to lean on than an internal expert. They help us plug gaps in our knowledge, skills and experience, so it’s important we park our egos and harness their powers as much as possible.

Dominos Pizza: The power of promoting from within

“For us at Domino’s, great leadership is about strong communication and influencing skills, problem solving, and inspiring teams to raise their game; so far we’ve trained more than 18,000 people in these key skills.”

Notice the wording of Simon Wallis, Chief Operating Officer, Domino’s Pizza Group. He’s not saying they’re only giving leaders these skills, they’re giving them to 18,000 across the company!

Why does this matter? Because we are giving more people skills and competencies they might need to step into a leadership role.

And this achieves a lot of things at once. People feel like we’re investing in them, we’re building a bigger pool of potential leaders, ensuring more people feel connected to the company mission and raising the skills bar in our teams.

Check out our other leadership development resources