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  • How Effective is Leadership Training at Business Startup for Employees?

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    Most people don’t go to school for leadership. Most leaders come into their position either by being groomed for the job, or by simply falling into a situation that requires them to develop leadership skills. In many ways, that’s a problem. It can set organizations up with leaders with poorly-developed leadership skills, and poses a catch-22 for people who are interested in taking on a leadership position, but have no experience. If you don’t have the experience, no one will hire you to be a manager, but if you don’t get hands on experience, it is very difficult to become an effective leader. The obvious solution to these problems would seem to be leadership training: educational materials and theoretical training to help equip people with the skills to be good leaders. But it’s not as simple as that. You can teach leadership skills all you want, but how effective is leadership training in reality?


    The Difference Between Training and Development


    Before we dive in on the effectiveness of leadership training, it’s important to make a distinction between leadership training and leadership development. Training is based on a set base of “best practices,” and by its nature, cannot deviate from a single way of doing things. It uses a formal curriculum and is either taught in the classroom, online, or both. The problem with leadership, is that leading different people requires a manager to change their approach based on the situation and on the individual. Training can help people learn more outdated, authoritarian tactics, but it has a hard time keeping up with today’s workplace demands, which depend on flexibility and innovation. Leadership development, on the other hand, is not taught in a formal classroom setting, but involves mentoring, hands-on experience, and growth over time.


    Many Training Programs Don’t Offer Good Return


    Leadership training is a big business. In 2012, a study found that companies spent about $14 billion on these training programs, which could include classroom instruction and/or e-courses. But even industry experts wonder how effective their products and services are for giving leaders the skills they need to succeed. In many cases, trainees have an empowering and inspiring experience in the training session, then come back to the office…and promptly forget what they learned. As much as 50% of the learned information will likely disappear in the first two weeks following the program, and theoretical knowledge is difficult to apply without experience. The result? Businesses waste vast amounts of money on training programs that offer very little in the way of return.


    People Bump Up Against Hurdles


    One of the biggest problems with training people to be better leaders is that internal systems within a company often enforce the status quo. People armed with newfound theoretical knowledge try to apply what they’ve learned, but keep running into hurdles against their innovation—thanks to the existing rules for how things are done. This causes people to become embittered and feel hopeless to affect positive change in their workplace, and they tend to slide back into old habits. Then, the cycle continues.


    Adding Context to Make Leadership Training and Development Effective


    To fight back against these common pitfalls, companies need to think ahead when planning their training and development. They need to evaluate current systems, and rebuild them if necessary, identifying key values and goals, and setting up the organization for change following training and development. This is often a difficult process, involving feedback from employees, constructing new policies, and examining problems unflinchingly. However, the rewards for doing so can be immense: empowered leaders, inspiring positive change throughout the organization.


    Who Gets the Leadership Positions?


    Whether you train, develop, or hire for leadership positions, the process can be extremely difficult. An effective, fair, and respected leader is worth their weight in gold, and certainly some of that knowledge can be passed along. But in most cases, there is little focus on development, which can leave companies scrambling to fill vacancies. Inexperienced leaders show their inexperience, which can lead some organizations to favor the most senior member of the team to take over when someone leaves the company—even if they don’t show much flair for leadership. To fight this, mentoring and leadership development in anticipation of vacancies is often the best way to develop the right talent for further down the road. This will also allow companies to promote diversity in leadership, ensuring development of leadership in women, ethnically diverse team members, and people with disabilities. A diverse leadership team helps to improve companies’ innovation and revenue, making it a must for companies who want to gain a competitive edge. The bottom line? Leadership training might give your employees a good baseline, and it may be a standard practice for many businesses, but to build the next generation of leaders and ensure ongoing excellence, it may be best to focus on leadership development instead.

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