Business Leadership Today

Three Common Types of Leadership Development Programs


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

Leadership development programs in the workplace are designed to enhance employees’ leadership and managerial competencies on both personal and professional fronts.

These programs aim to foster the advancement of high-performing employees within their roles and the broader organization and cultivate the skills needed to lead teams to long-term success.

Such leadership development programs are research-based and often administered by the organization’s HR department, but there is a wide array of options for employees looking to develop their leadership skills.

There are several types of leadership development programs, each designed to enhance the skill sets, abilities, and confidence of current and future leaders. These include professional coaching and mentoring, structured education and training programs, and action learning. 

This article will provide a brief overview of leadership development programs and outline several types of leadership development programs. 

What Is Leadership Development?

Leadership development encompasses a broad spectrum of actions, programs, or efforts, all aimed at improving an employee’s leadership acumen and confidence in leading others and the organization at large.

The quality of an organization’s leadership wields a significant influence across the organization and can impact many factors, from employee engagement and retention to long-term profitability and innovation.

While CEOs, business owners, and senior executives are obviously prime candidates for leadership development, it’s important to note that anyone entrusted with management responsibilities or those aspiring to step into a leadership role can reap substantial benefits from refining and enhancing their leadership skills through leadership development programs.

What Are Leadership Development Programs?

Leadership development programs are instrumental in fostering key leadership skills, encompassing effective communication, goal setting, public speaking and presentation skills, strategic risk-taking, time management, organizational planning, talent management, team building, delegation, conflict resolution, and culture management, among others.

These programs can identify employees who demonstrate strong leadership qualities and equip them with the requisite skills and characteristics essential for leadership roles.

When implemented effectively, these programs can significantly improve personal growth and well-being. They play a pivotal role in cultivating a more dynamic and productive work environment, nurturing more fulfilling relationships, and enhancing business outcomes.

Why Does Leadership Development Matter?

Leadership development not only equips individuals with the necessary technical and interpersonal skills to excel, but it also instills a greater sense of fulfillment and gratitude for the company’s investment in their growth.

It also fosters a more positive work environment, eliminates barriers to growth, innovation, and productivity, and improves the organization’s performance and profitability.

While there is a multitude of approaches to leadership development, depending on where you are on your leadership journey, and a plethora of options for those aspiring to refine their leadership skills, including an extensive selection of training courses, effective leadership development transcends the teachings of a standard training course.

Good leadership development will go beyond checking the management boxes and will help future leaders transform interpersonal interactions, cultivate a compassionate approach, and bolster the organization’s team cohesion to create a positive work environment in which all team members can excel.

Types of Leadership Development Programs

There are many types of leadership development programs, but the most common ones include professional coaching and mentoring, structured education and training programs, and action learning.

Professional Coaching and Mentoring Programs

Professional coaching involves working one-on-one with a CEO or other leader to develop leadership skills and facilitate personal and professional growth.

Professional coaching is often favored by leaders as a tool for skill development, given its tailored learning experiences and personalized growth strategies. Unfortunately, there has been a decline in the focus on coaching as a leadership development tool within organizations in recent years, which coincides with a great need for effective leaders in today’s workplace.

By providing professional coaching, organizations can seize the opportunity to boost retention and offer impactful development experiences to both current and future leaders. 

Even in the absence of a formal coaching strategy, organizations can nurture a coaching culture by training leaders and team members to integrate a coaching methodology into their communication and feedback processes.

Structured Education and Training Programs

Structured education and training programs are comprehensive programs typically offered by business schools or other professional organizations. They are designed to provide a well-rounded understanding of leadership principles, practices, and trends.

These programs form an integral part of leadership development, playing a pivotal role in equipping individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary for their professional growth and career advancement. 

These programs offer a variety of learning opportunities delivered through multiple platforms. This could include degree programs that offer in-depth knowledge and understanding of leadership theories and practices, certification courses that provide specialized knowledge in certain aspects of leadership, and workshops and seminars that offer intensive training sessions on various leadership topics.

The curriculum of these programs is comprehensive, covering a wide array of topics. This could range from leadership theories that provide a conceptual understanding of leadership to practical problem-solving approaches that leaders can apply in their day-to-day roles. 

The aim is to equip leaders with a broad set of skills and knowledge that they can apply in various situations to effectively lead their teams and contribute to their organization’s success.

Action Learning

In this type of leadership development program, a small and diverse team collaborates to tackle real-world challenges and complex problems, guided by a facilitator. This hands-on approach provides participants with valuable practical experience and opportunities to apply their skills in real-world contexts.

Action learning is focused on taking action and reflecting on outcomes to enhance the problem-solving process and streamline the solutions developed by the team. The objective is to augment an employee’s professional expertise, skills, and competencies that wouldn’t be developed through their regular job duties.

Assignments can encompass taking on new responsibilities, tackling a new program or project, or solving highly complex, multi-faceted problems. The goal of the process is to encourage participants to embrace their curiosity, reflect on their experiences, and commit to continuous learning and improvement in order to generate effective solutions.

Action learning provides participants with the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone, acquire additional knowledge, and facilitate their professional growth. It aids in honing their critical thinking skills, tapping into their creativity, and enhancing their collaborative abilities.

There are two categories of action learning: applied and developmental. Applied action learning teams prioritize diversity and often include stakeholders, end-users, and other members who can provide unique perspectives, while developmental action learning is a more constrained process that usually involves up-and-coming leaders from all parts of the organization.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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