Managing people

Is leadership training worth it?

Truly competent and inspiring leaders steer teams toward success, encourage innovation, and enhance productivity. Can training create great leaders or is it a waste of time and money?

30 August 2023

Leadership training programs have become a popular choice in pursuit of nurturing good leaders. These programs aim to cultivate essential skills and qualities in individuals, empowering them to lead confidently and competently. 

Despite its benefits, some are critical of whether leadership programs are worthwhile investments. The pushback is that these programs can cost thousands, and their impacts are usually long-term. On top of that, what if the individual leaves the organisation? How can organisations protect their investment? 

This article delves into the effectiveness of leadership training, highlighting its benefits, shedding light on common mistakes in organising such training, and exploring alternative approaches.

What is leadership training?

Leadership training equips individuals with the skills, knowledge, and attributes to guide teams toward excellence. Leadership is a learned skill, and these training programs dive into diverse topics ranging from communication and strategic thinking to emotional intelligence and conflict resolution. 

The training mode can be through workshops to more formal settings such as a postgraduate degree. 

Benefits of leadership training

Depending on the goals of the participant and the intention of the training, generally, there are many benefits to leadership training. Some include:

Confidence building and self-awareness

One of the primary benefits of leadership training is the self-confidence it offers participants. Learning about effective leadership strategies and applying them in real-world scenarios can help individuals feel more assured in their roles.

Improved team dynamics

Leaders who undergo training often develop a better understanding of team dynamics, fostering healthier relationships within their teams. This leads to improved collaboration, reduced conflicts, and a more productive work environment.

Adaptability in an ever-changing world

Leadership training programs often expose participants to various leadership styles and approaches. This helps leaders become more adaptable, capable of adjusting their strategies based on the needs of their teams and the ever-changing business landscape.

Enhanced employee engagement

Leaders who have undergone training are more likely to engage and motivate their team members effectively. This contributes to higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced turnover rates.

Strategic thinking ability

Leadership training encourages leaders to think strategically, considering long-term goals and the organisation's vision. This ability to see the bigger picture is crucial for making informed decisions that align with the company's direction.

Common mistakes 

Implementing a one-size-fits-all approach

One of the prevalent mistakes in leadership training is adopting a generic approach that doesn't consider the participants' or the organisation's unique needs and challenges. Effective training should be tailored to address specific gaps and goals.

Lack of follow-up

Training doesn't end when the program concludes. Many organisations fail to provide ongoing support and follow-up sessions, essential for reinforcing learning and applying new skills in the workplace.

Neglecting practical application of skill

 Leadership training that focuses solely on theory without providing opportunities for practical application can hinder the program's effectiveness. Hands-on exercises, simulations, and real-world case studies are crucial for skill transfer.

Disconnection from business challenges

Training that aligns differently from the actual challenges faced by leaders in the organisation can lead to a gap between theory and practice. Relevant, scenario-based training ensures leaders can apply their learning directly to their roles.

Ignoring the importance of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a cornerstone of effective leadership. Neglecting to address emotional intelligence in training can result in leaders who need help with empathy, communication, and relationship-building.

Addressing limited leadership styles

Effective leadership comes in various styles. Focusing solely on one style in training can limit leaders' ability to adapt to different situations and personalities.

Not including a training reimbursement clause

Many organisations have a training reimbursement clause for senior leaders that have been placed in specialised programs and education. It states that the individual may need to partially or fully pay back the costs. Note: It is important to get legal advice on whether or not you should include this clause in the employee agreement. The appropriateness of this can range depending on your business.  

Alternatives to leadership training

While leadership training has its merits, it's essential to explore alternative approaches that can complement or even replace traditional training methods:

Mentorship programs

Pairing emerging leaders with experienced mentors can offer personalised guidance and practical insights. Mentorship provides a nurturing environment for skill development and knowledge transfer.

Job rotations

Allowing individuals to rotate through different roles within the organisation can broaden their perspective and enhance their leadership skills. Many companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and Unilever are known to rotate their leaders so they can get exposure to diverse challenges, foster adaptability and strategic thinking.

Tackling learning projects 

Have leaders immerse themselves in real business problems. This approach combines learning with practical problem-solving, enabling leaders to learn while on the job.

Attending leadership workshops and seminars

Short, focused workshops and seminars can be beneficial for addressing specific skill gaps or emerging trends. These sessions provide a concentrated burst of learning without the commitment of extensive training programs.

Peer learning networks and groups

Creating communities or having leaders join existing communities where they can share experiences, insights, and best practices can facilitate ongoing learning and collaboration.

To train or not to train?

When effectively designed and implemented, leadership training can bring significant benefits for both individuals and organisations. It equips leaders with essential skills, enhances confidence, and improves team dynamics.

However, when assessing whether to put your leaders on a leadership program, take note of whether the program has practical applications and addresses business needs. While leadership training is valuable, it's not the only approach to nurturing effective leaders. Mentorship, job rotations, attending workshops, and peer learning networks offer alternative ways to develop leadership skills and promote growth.

A combination of well-designed training and other developmental approaches can contribute to a robust leadership talent pipeline that drives organisational success.

Catherine Ngo

Content writer, presenter and podcaster

Catherine is passionate about unravelling the latest news and insights to help HR managers, business owners, and employers.

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