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When to Train Managers to Lead

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The average age that companies train managers to lead is 42, which is about ten years after they begin supervising people. 95% of employers believe leadership development should begin by the age 21. This means that we begin to train leaders 21 years too late. WorkTrends found that companies that scored the highest in offering their employees training and development were 40% higher in employee engagement scores than those companies that scored the lowest in their T & D offerings. A 2014 University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School study in conjunction with the Human Capital Institute found that 85% of executives surveyed said there was an “urgent need to step up leadership development.” So how do we prepare our organization to build effective leaders?

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The Importance of Leadership

Both the late Warren Bennis and Peter Drucker, pioneers of contemporary leadership study, are attributed with essentially stating that managers are people who get people to do things right and leaders are people who get people to do the right thing. But if people are doing things right, then wouldn’t they most likely also be doing the right things? Not necessarily.

For six months Indeed.com analyzed millions of listings on their site and found that the professional attribute most frequently preferred or required in job postings was leadership.

John C. Maxwell, renowned leadership author with more than 26 million books sold, simply says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”  Think deeper about that and then consider all of the greatest successes and the greatest failures, not to mention everything in between. You would see that effective leadership, or the lack thereof, is the one constant. Certainly circumstances within and at times beyond an organization’s control may contribute to success or failure, but how leaders interpret and respond to those circumstances is what really results in success…or failure if there is a lack of leadership.

The Need for Leadership Development

Clearly, there isn’t as much leadership development in companies and by individuals as is needed. In addition to the fact that leadership training isn’t offered as much as it should be, not enough attention is given to the amount of time it takes to become an effective leader. Evolving to become a manager takes work and practice. No different than becoming a master architect, musician, physician, athlete, teacher, or an expert in any other work or profession, you must work hard and practice to become extraordinary - to truly make a difference.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his best-selling book, Outliers, suggests the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of “practice” to achieve a level of mastery in anything and become world-class. Certainly, that doesn’t guarantee greatness. But the idea is that leadership, or any other skill or talent, isn’t simply innate or genetic. To become extraordinary at what you do, inborn talent is not enough. You have to work at it, learn it, practice it. The very best in engineering, medicine, teaching, accounting, sports, and every other field prepare and practice. Why should the work, preparation, and training to become an outstanding leader be any different?

An adequate level of employee engagement, commitment, and loyalty are critical to a company’s success. A diminishing degree of trust and credibility, being unable to deal with crises and chaos, and under-performance in companies and organizations, are just some of the critical issues that demand effective leadership. Great leaders focus on how they make their employees feel as well as how they help their employees perform. This in turn significantly influences the degree to which leaders are respected.

The need for ongoing leadership development, coaching, evaluation, and measurement is critical to building and growing a team that makes an organization or business as successful as possible. Leaders look throughout their organizations for innovation and new ideas. Successful leaders coach and mentor others, further increasing their capacity to perform at higher levels on a consistent basis.

Leaders must always be forward-looking. They need to learn how to increase their influence, how to delegate to others, and how to let go of control in order to bring out the best ideas and talent in their people in order for the organization to always be moving forward and improving. This requires a great deal of confidence within the leader and trust in others. This is the core of what many leadership development programs are all about.

The Impact of Investing in Your People to Lead

According to the Value in Investing in Leadership Development report, for those in their work roles between 1 and 2 years, 52% were found to be effective leaders before leadership development and 85% were found to be effective leaders after leadership development. (That’s a 64% increase). For others in their roles:

  • 3-5 years: 56% were found to be effective before and 85% after training
  • 6-9 years: 59% were found to be effective before and 87% after training
  • 10+ years: 60% were found to be effective before and 87% after training

A Dale Carnegie study of 1,500 employees found that only 29% of employees are fully engaged. An astonishing 71% are only partially engaged or worse - totally disengaged.

Research supports the idea that people in workplaces where they feel the most productive and are valued for their work, and who believe they are making a difference (among other attitudes), are so engaged because of leadership in the workplace. In fact, investing in employee development improves performance, increases satisfaction, attracts quality talent, addresses weaknesses in the workforce, creates a pipeline for future leadership, and actually benefits the company by creating a “best place to work” environment and culture.

Leadership development results in greater engagement, which in turn results in more successful workplaces. It can cost a company up to 1.5 times an employee’s annual salary to fill a vacancy due to turnover.5, 7 Investing in employee training and development results in greater engagement and retention as well as increasing the value of that individual to others, the company, and the bottom line.

Leadership development is universally considered a “soft-skill,” and because of that it takes a back seat to other priorities and resources in too many companies. We know, however, that an authentic commitment to developing the leadership skills of everyone
in the organization leads to greater engagement, more goals being met, improved productivity, and increased revenues. Extraordinary companies regularly offer leadership development opportunities and expect those at all levels of their workforce to commit themselves to becoming better leaders every day.

Leveling Up

Leadership development is universally considered a “soft-skill,” and because of that it takes a back seat to other priorities and resources in too many companies. However, we know the true importance of soft skills; that an authentic commitment to developing the leadership skills of everyone in the organization leads to greater engagement, more goals being met, improved productivity, and increased revenues. The Center for Leadership and Development powered by New Horizons is dedicated to improving businesses and improving lives.

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Morgan Landry

Morgan Landry

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