How would you describe a good leader?
“Someone who inspires the team“? Perhaps, but that’s too abstract.
“Someone who’s an expert in their field or has in-depth knowledge around a specific area“? That’s usually true for leaders, but not what makes them a leader.
Being a good leader is more about having a rich repository of so-called soft skills that, combined together, grow well-performing teams.
High-flying employees with years of experience are often promoted into managerial or team leader roles simply because they’re good at their jobs. And there’s some logic behind this. But being a top-performing employee doesn’t mean you’ll make a good leader from the start.
With the right team leader training and the right motivation, though, good employees can become great leaders.
“Some are born great…”
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” When Shakespeare wrote his famous line, he certainly didn’t have corporate or business leadership in mind. But his sentiment reflects in some ways the challenges posed by team leadership training today.
A few people do seem to be more naturally suited or “born” to leadership roles (cue the Great Man theory). But you’re unlikely to find many of them in your organization. Then there are those whose situation and skills combine to define their success. Again, this is a rather unpredictable variable and one you can’t really account for.
Most of those that thrive in a leadership role (or “achieve greatness”) do so because they’re given the right leadership training and support. And there are various reasons why you might need to train your new or future leaders.
Perhaps you’ve promoted someone who’s been with you for a long time and knows the ins and outs of their department, but has never taken on a leadership role. Or, you’ve hired from outside your organization and want to solidify or build on their existing experience or leadership skills. You might simply want to encourage all employees to improve their leadership capabilities and strive to embody leadership behaviors.
Either way, team leadership training is something that can help you meet those goals.
What makes a good leader?
We’ve talked about how training for leaders is largely about soft skills. But what are those “soft” skills? Let’s have a look at ten topics that should have a place in your leadership training:
Leaders who can see and admit to their faults are one step closer to gaining the trust and respect of their team. But acknowledging accountability doesn’t come easy—particularly for new leaders who are trying to demonstrate credibility and respect without any existing provenance.
Including accountability in your team leader training helps reinforce the essential skills of transparency, self-reflection, and honesty. And that impacts the entire organization. When managers openly own their mistakes, they set the example for the rest of the team.
Can you train someone how to be authentic? Well, you can and you should. Leaders set the example for the rest of the team. When they bring their true selves into the workplace, the message is loud and clear: employees get also to be authentic and build trustworthy relationships.
But there’s another aspect, too, when we’re talking about leadership training. Being authentic doesn’t mean crossing the lines of professionalism. And this is a lesson that leaders should learn in order to deliver it, too.
Confidence is often considered a personality trait, something you’re born with. And while it’s true that some people are more confident than others, self-belief and assertiveness are skills that can be taught. And should be taught when we’re talking about leaders.
Team members are likely to trust a leader who’s confident—not arrogant—and will get motivated to be assertive, as well.
No team runs smoothly all the time. Having the skills to know how and when to intervene in potentially explosive situations is an important aspect of team leader training. Believe it or not, conflicts bring issues into the spotlight and help generate solutions. That is if conflicts are handled properly.
And, with the right conflict management training, your leaders will learn not only to resolve conflict but to grow from it too.
Effective decision-making is about avoiding uncertainty and making informed and timely choices. And a manager’s day-to-day is crammed with decisions. Sometimes, they need to how to approach a project or when to set a deadline. Other times, they have to resolve conflicts within the team. Or, simply, they need to decide how to respond to a client.
Smaller or bigger, easier or tougher, a team leader’s decisions directly affect the success of their team. And the business. That’s why the ability to make sound decisions and use good judgment are crucial elements of any good leadership development training program.
Must-have topics in leadership training, delegation and empowerment can boost employee wellbeing, morale, and productivity. Managers will succeed and turn into great leaders if they trust their teams to complete tasks independently and give them the freedom to be accountable for their own choices.
Diversity & Inclusion
Adding diversity & inclusion in your leadership training demonstrates a commitment to embedding equity in your culture—rather than just treating it as a buzzword. Leaders who are committed to and understand inclusion go on to live out its values and inspire those in their team to do so too.
Emotional and cultural intelligence
Workplaces are becoming more diverse (about time too!). Being able to read emotions and adapt to cultural differences helps teams work together more effectively. Even more, leaders who not only understand but also proactively support differences, build more creative teams.
That’s why emotional intelligence is now considered a vital part of team leadership training.
Being modest means that you have your feet on the ground and are considerate of other people’s needs. By including humility in your team leader training program, you step away from an outdated approach that presents the team manager as the “boss” and team members as the “subordinates”.
Leaders who embrace humility can truly make a difference in the workplace. They improve employee relationships, give voice to everyone on the team, and elevate group performance and success.
Inspiring and motivating teams creates a happier, more engaged workplace. But it takes work. It requires a specific set of skills, and a clear vision of a team’s future direction and purpose.
Leadership training based on inspiring others shows how words, actions, and beliefs can be used to create a common vision. And a more motivated and productive team.
How to deliver leadership training
Your leaders are busy and faced with a number of challenges on a daily basis. To avoid team leader training being viewed as just another “challenge”, it needs to be engaging, accessible, and relevant. And the only way to meet those requirements is by delivering your training online.
Online leadership training supports a flexible, intuitive, and interactive approach. And it leads to high course completion rates and better results. Here are some use cases to help you when designing your own online leadership training program:
1. Use branching scenarios to build skills
Branching scenarios are online training activities where learners participate in realistic (but digital) scenarios, make decisions, and test the outcomes.
By exploring possible consequences, managers can improve their problem-solving skills and
spot areas for improvement. With online leadership training, they can access the extra resources they need, all from the same digital platform.
2. Build real-world experiences with simulations
Online training simulations feature realistic images, situations, and characters so managers can experience the same challenges and obstacles they’ll encounter in the workplace.
The aim is to give new leaders the chance to gain real-world experience and acquire task proficiency. But these simulations also make handy knowledge refreshers and “moment of need” resources to brush up on skills or improve comprehension.
3. Nurture a learning community through webinars
Webinars are a great way to bring team leaders together to exchange valuable information and address pressing concerns. They also support the sharing of common challenges so they can be addressed and resolved before they escalate.
*Tip: Give participants a list of talking points in advance, and record sessions for those who can’t attend.
4. Introduce a mentorship program to transfer knowledge
Mentorship programs encourage managers to share insights, best practice tips, ideas, and experiences. All of which help improve leadership skills. This can be particularly useful for first-time managers who need coaching.
*Tip: There are two different mentorship approaches to consider when building your online leadership training program: The first is pairing managers with other managers. The second teams up managers with people in their teams. Both add value and are worth developing.
5. Support open collaboration through social media
Social media groups keep communication in one place and serve as an online meeting space. They empower managers to drive their own and each other’s team leader training by posting resource links, sharing ideas, asking questions, and helping find answers. Such groups are a great way to boost informal learning and give busy managers the flexibility to focus on topics that challenge them.
*Tip: Create an open, honest, and safe environment by keeping groups closed to the public and by limiting group size.
6. Identify knowledge gaps with online training assessments
For training to be truly effective it needs to be targeted. Help managers identify where they need most help by offering training assessments, like multiple-choice tests and quizzes. Simulations and role-playing activities aren’t useful just for practicing, but also for identifying skills gaps and areas for improvement.
*Tip: Provide immediate feedback and adapt your online leadership training courses to address any significant gaps you’ve discovered.
7. Provide resources that encourage deeper learning
With an online leadership program, it’s easy to provide a digital library of resources managers can use as and when they want to grow their knowledge.
From case studies and stories to academic research, presentations, and industry benchmarks, encourage your leaders to broaden their knowledge and pick up valuable tips from the real world.
8. Boost knowledge retention with certification programs
Using an online certification program, team leaders can focus on and become proficient in one particular skill before they move on to the next. This approach leads to better knowledge retention because learners must reach a level of proficiency before they can learn something new.
Focusing on one area also reduces the chance of students feeling overwhelmed.
*Tip: Survey your management team so you can design a program that meets their unique needs.
Leadership training for all
Improving leadership abilities isn’t just for managers or formal “leaders”. As we’ve seen, team leader training centers around soft skills. And these skills represent behaviors that most, if not all, employees can benefit from.
In fact, many organizations now have performance objectives in place for all employees (regardless of grade, role, or responsibilities ) focused on improving their leadership capability. Some even have a company-wide “leadership statement” that everyone works towards. And, looking at the skills we’ve covered here, it’s easy to see why.
Great leaders are great for business. So whether you’re developing leaders of today, nurturing potential leaders of tomorrow, or encouraging leadership behavior in all employees, implement your leadership training program, and greatness will follow.