Building Great Leaders

Passing The Torch: 6 Habits of Highly Effective Leadership Programs and One Way to Totally Screw it Up

It’s time to pass the torch down to the next generation of workers. With an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day, 4 million positions will need to be filled by new generations (a majority of these in leadership roles). Gen X and Gen Y (aka Millennials) are the next in line to take over.

Most organizations want to tout themselves as companies that support their employees on their quest to become even better, but in reality, some do a much better job than others. Still, that hasn’t stopped a rash of leadership programs to crop up in every Fortune 500 or mom-and-pop shop in response to an increased demand for better-trained leaders and improved talent management.

There are six things that transcend all great leadership programs, but checking all of the boxes doesn’t mean you’ve knocked it out of the park. Make the following characteristics leadership habits in all of your training initiatives, and avoid the following pitfall to build a culture of strong leadership at your organization.

  1. Strong Models and Mentors

Hopefully you’re not building leadership from scratch: You should already have some great examples of leadership within your company. Capitalize on those leaders by utilizing them as models and mentors for other employees. Highlight what makes them great leaders and let them prove their fruits of their labors daily.

  1. A Culture of Leadership

Leadership programs fail when they aren’t supported by a culture of leadership. That means your entire organization is dedicated to creating and encouraging leaders by offering opportunities, trusting employees to their jobs, and giving kudos when kudos is due.

  1. Part of Talent Management

Often leadership training is housed under the umbrella of HR or L&D, when truthfully, it should be part of a talent management strategy. No matter how your organization handles talent management, leadership training should be seen as a way to advance employees in the company and keep the best of the best in-house. Grooming future leaders is an important part of making employees validated and satisfied.

  1. Takes a Blended Approach

It’s true that much of leadership training can be done face-to-face, but it might not be the best delivery method for all content. Tips, articles, and reminders, for example, could be delivered via mobile device. TED Talks can be easier shared online, while simulations and role-playing should be done in a classroom setting. By blending different delivery methods, employees get to choose from an entire menu of leadership training according to their skills and preferences.

  1. Looking Within

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can hire your leadership problems away. Leadership training should be done within an organization to find hidden gems and nurture skills in-house. Hiring simply based on leadership woes might be a Band-Aid, but there’s still a bigger problem if you can’t find, groom, and utilize the leaders you already have.

  1. Adopt What Works

Know a company that has done a great job with leadership training? It’s wise to find out what works in your industry, and then adopt that program for yourself. Former GE CEO Jack Welch, for instance, offers a corporate leadership e-course that is highly accessible (and extremely successful). Utilizing tools, tricks, and programs from the best in the business makes sense.

But Don’t Just Hit Play and Walk Away…

If you do utilize leadership programs from other organizations or thought leaders, make sure that you don’t just hit “play” and walk away. By taking time to frame their programs with context and applications unique to your company, you ensure you’re building up leaders that can really make a difference within your organization, and allow your employees to see their direct impact on your organization’s big goals. Relevant leadership training will get them excited about their upcoming role, and create stronger meaning to the material, which in turn, will make it more likely to be remembered and utilized.

Leadership training should be perpetual. By consistently working to offer leadership training and opportunities to employees, it’s easier to see which individuals have the “it” factor–and which may need just a little more polishing to get there. Whether you have 5 employees or 500, make effective leadership training a benefit and your organization becomes the beneficiary.