Developing leadership skills

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LeadingIn times of economic turbulence, strong leadership is vital. John Fay advises how leaders can boost their skills with effective training.

Leadership is key to how an organisation and its staff operate but even at the highest level, leaders can always benefit from additional training to boost their business and personal skills. Those at the helm of a business set the precedent for how other staff should behave and what skills they should aspire to and so it is important leaders are appropriately skilled to set a shining example to others.

A good leader must be trustworthy and authoritative, and enthusiasm is a must as people always respond better to someone who appears to be a team player and working towards the same common goal. A leader is not only responsible for maintaining existing high standards but also for raising the bar to give others a level to aspire to. Confidence is also a great attribute for a leader as this inspires others to have faith in their own abilities and therefore translates into greater staff performance.

Photo of John Fay"It is vital to take time to choose a leadership training package which fits your ideals and style as this will benefit the organisation as a whole and will lead to success and cohesion for the future."

These skills may not be a given in all leaders - and this is where training can help nurture abilities. Employees look to leaders as an example of how they should behave and as a model of success, so well trained and enthusiastic leaders will reap the rewards - their own behaviour will cascade through the ranks and ensure staff think alike and have the same drive and determination.

Identifying training needs and taking steps to address skills gaps is crucial for progressing businesses in a positive and successful way. And it is not just business sense which can be improved. Social and personal skills, such as organisation and communication, drive a business forward. But commitment and passion are also vital to influence others to follow your lead, so getting trained up on these attributes can reap rewards.

The first step in choosing a training programme is to identify what you want to achieve, by setting goals and objectives, and to establish how these aims can be met through learning. Leaders may be good at what they do but they can always be better, so it is important to have a game plan to ensure your leadership training is tailored to getting the right results.

Business leaders may also feel they would like to develop the potential of staff members, to nourish future leadership capability. This can also be addressed by leaders boosting their own skills. Showing your strengths and setting yourself up as an aspirational leader will make you an ideal development role model and will prove to employees you consider training an important asset in the workplace.

Identifying what you hope to gain from leadership training is obviously important, but identifying which staff members would benefit most from training is key. Line managers and supervisors, for example, may have closer contact with staff than the CEO, so they would be a better choice for focused development. Employees work with line managers on a day-to-day basis, while contact with CEOs may be more sporadic, so those dealing directly with employees are most likely to get results.

The old-school form of training sees an instructor demonstrating the basic tips on boosting their skills - but how much of this style of teaching is actually taken in by candidates? A variety of training methods will lead to a varying amount of knowledge learnt, so choosing effective training will be beneficial to all.

"Social and personal skills, such as organisation and communication, drive a business forward. But commitment and passion are also vital to influence others to follow your lead, so getting trained up on these attributes can reap rewards."

Leadership training can take many forms, with some opting to take part in outdoor pursuits or other creative workshops, but there is no guarantee an unusual environment will make people listen and learn. The best training has an effect on its participants long after the seminar or workshop is over. It has to be thought-provoking and interesting enough to keep people talking after the programme has concluded so the information is recycled and re-learned time and time again.

The training must target certain skills and must have clearly defined objectives and goals. Staff should be aware of what they are expected to gain from the training ahead of beginning a session, so they can focus their interest on achieving what has been set out for them by following clear instructions to achieve the desired end result.

Follow-up training meetings will help reinforce the messages projected during training and a refresher session is also a useful way of determining how much knowledge has been stored from training and whether there are still potential skills gaps which need to be filled. Training costs time and money and it is important to ensure it is a worthwhile exercise for everyone involved.

Investing in worthwhile leadership training is rewarding for all but it can only work if your initial aims and objectives are clear and everyone is aware of what they want to achieve.

A great training programme will help a leader become a great model for a business and for its people. It is vital to take time to choose a leadership training package which fits your ideals and style as this will benefit the organisation as a whole and will lead to success and cohesion for the future.

Leadership expert John Fay was awarded an MBE for his work teaching leadership, confidence and citizenship skills to young people during a 10-year period. He is the founder of SFL, a change management, leadership and development company. For more information visit www.sflworld.com

To see his Apprentice blog click here

To read his feature Obama is a leader, Clinton is a manager click here

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