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  • Writer's pictureMichael Soderling

Get your leadership training program to really take off

Have you ever wondered if it’s even worth training leadership?

The article ‘Team Development Interventions: Evidence-Based Approaches for Improving Teamwork’ says that inherited traits account for around 30 percent of leadership, while experience, training and other factors account for the remaining 70 percent. Furthermore, the article mentions that accumulated research indicates that leadership development efforts improve the effect of organisations by up to 29 percent. This in turn has a positive effect on job satisfaction and staff turnover.

The article goes on to discuss what promotes transfer, i.e. that participants are not only satisfied with the training but that it makes a real difference. Three factors are specifically highlighted: the content of the leadership development program, the participants’ levels of motivation and organisational support.

Content. The leadership program should ultimately help the organisation achieve its goals, and the article’s authors discuss the importance of conducting a needs analysis. When I get inquiries about delivering a program I always like to be part of the needs analysis. An external consultant can ask questions that perhaps no one internally had thought about, increasing the chances for relevant program content. There is also another point to letting a consultant meet internal stakeholders. Doing so builds trust and creates positive expectations, so that when participants arrive on the first day there is less risk of them feeling they are attending yet another mandatory training exercise.

Motivation. When I meet participants who display less motivation, their explanations are often centred around that they have been given insufficient information beforehand. When I dig a little deeper, however, it always turns out that that narrative actually reflects top management lacking involvement or sufficient ‘buy-in’. This lack of commitment trickles down and manifests itself as a lack of motivation in the participants. One of my most successful leadership programs began with a meeting with the CEO and HR manager where it was abundantly obvious the CEO was not only engaged, but also realised the importance of displaying commitment. He himself participated throughout the program as a trainee.

Organisational support. In addition to the CEO demonstrating commitment there is another important point to note. All the managers from the CEO down received the same conceptual framework and learnings. You may ask yourself why that is important. Well, if the first-line managers return from training charged with knowledge, ideas and terminology that top managers aren’t familiar with, it won’t take long before things return to business as usual. Furthermore, participants were given homework that was integrated with daily operations. Obviously, that in itself promotes transfer.

Connecting motivation and organisational support is also important. Every participant went through a conversation with their manager and myself before and after the program. The initial conversation ensured alignment on expectations on development. The second conversation comprised follow-up on development as well as helping the participant and their manager creating a plan for continuous development, post training. It’s a small investment that has a big impact on transfer. Given the promise inherent in the figure of 70 percent mentioned above, it would be a waste not to:

  • Create engaging and relevant content

  • Make sure participants are suitably motivated

  • Prepare the organisation so that the trainees can practice what they learn

If we put this in place, your leadership training program will really take off.


Source: Lacerenza, C. N., Marlow, S. L., Tannenbaum, S. I., & Salas, E. (2018). Team Development Interventions: Evidence-Based Approaches for Improving Teamwork. American Psychologist, 73(4), 517-531.


The clients who reach out to me are managing directors, management teams, and executives who want to realise the potential in their organisations and accomplish extraordinary results. They reach out to me because of my ability to transform individuals, teams, and organisations.

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