Skip to content
All posts

How to Develop Leadership Skills: Start Here

As a leadership coach, consultant and trainer, I am frequently engaged in conversations about how to develop leadership skills.

Graphic Showing Stress

It's an important topic, and there are clear steps to take. Learning how to develop leadership skills is the easy part. What comes first is usually much more difficult.

What needs to precede this exploration of how to develop leadership skills is a deliberate and committed focus on freeing up time and head space for leadership development.

No one can focus on how to develop leadership skills until:

They can set time aside for development.

I've seen it happen over and over again. Companies invest in quality leadership development programs. Participants are honored to be included and revved up after attending. And then, nothing. No real and sustainable change occurs in the individuals or in the organization. Why not?

Usually, it's because everything goes back to "business as usual" between formal sessions. Participants have full-time jobs and are measured by their performance in those roles. Anything else they do, including development work, is optional. Busy, stressed people seldom invest themselves in the optional work. They just can't do it all.

Because they want to develop as leaders, this time pressure and inability to work on their own development becomes a source of frustration and even resentment.

That's why companies exploring how to develop leadership skills need to start by figuring out how to set aside time for this development.

One technique we use in all our People First Productivity Solutions programs is to start with a course on Delegating for Development. Teaching managers and emerging leaders to delegate so others can develop has two benefits. First, it frees up time for the person doing the delegating. That's time they can re-invest in their own development. Second, it expands team capacity and gets everyone engaged in learning and development.

There is clear support for developing leadership skills.

It's also difficult for individual to focus on how to develop leadership skills if they don't feel supported in doing so. That's why it's so important to involve senior management in the program design AND as participants in the program.

Saying there's support for participating is inadequate.

Demonstrating there's support includes doing the following:

  • Allowing time for participation, reflection, trying new approaches, project work, etc. (see above)
  • Modeling participation. Nothing says "this matters to our company" more than senior executives making time to be a part of the program.
  • Checking in with participants frequently. Managers and others should show continued interest in the program's impact and on individuals' development.
  • Making the leadership development program more than a training event. Build on the workshop(s) with coaching, project work, cohort accountability and more.
  • Elevating "leadership development" above "management training." While there may be a need to do both, dignifying individuals as leaders (at any level) is far more inspiring.

There's a clear and stated purpose for development of leadership skills.

The business case for leadership development is compelling. Check out this free webinar if you'd like to know more about the research that backs up the need for leadership development.

Buy why, specifically, is your organization investing in these individuals at this time? They need to know what's expected and why you're asking them to do all this extra work. Inspire them and let them know that this is a gesture to convey how much you believe in them and in their future with your organization.

Put yourself in the shoes of the busy, stressed managers and high potentials you'll invite to participate in a leadership development program. What would you need to make it safe, feasible and exciting to maximize this opportunity? That's your starting point. If you need help figuring out the steps and constructing an effective program, we can help. We're People First Productivity Solutions, and we build organizational strength by putting people first.

Next Step for You on How to Develop Leadership Skills

1. Subscribe to our weekly CONNECT2Lead Newsletter for special offers, content, and blog.

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic small

Deb Calvert is a certified Executive Coach, Keynote Speaker, Certified Master with The Leadership Challenge® and Trainer. She is the founder of People First Productivity Solutions, building organizational strength by putting people first since 2006.