The development of leaders

Building a competent, knowledgeable and skilled leadership team is very likely to be the largest investment in learning and development that an employer can make.

Developing your leadership team allows an organisation to have confidence in the way the business is being managed and will continue to be managed in the future.

What do our leaders need?

All leaders need to have a vision. They need to inspire this vision through people and inspire them to work towards this vision. Agility is needed more than ever before. They need to be ready to react to change and to think proactively to be competitive, also on a global level.

Why invest in your leaders?

There are many benefits for employers to invest in their leadership (or potential leadership) team. Leaders need to have the right ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills to keep the company competitive in an ever-changing market. This is also needed to continue leading it in the future. Leadership learning and development also contributes to greater collaboration between the leadership team and supports the leadership team in delivering best practices in both the current and future of the organisation.

Above all, like any other learning and development initiatives, investment in your leaders will also enhance employee engagement and improve employee retention and consequently, productivity and efficiency.

How do you develop a leadership development programme?

Just like any other programme, employers must identify what the desired outcomes of the programme are. It is important to ensure that the programme is not designed and delivered in isolation, but should complement a wider range of HR management and development practices.  This may include a performance management system or effective reward strategies.

An audit of the current skills and competences available amongst the leadership team will help identify what the desired outcomes are and what skills need to be developed. It is also worth looking at how the rest of the employees perceive and feel about the current leaders. What is their experience in being led by them? One would also need to look at what are the desired skills, competences and behaviours that the organisation needs in order to achieve its long-term strategy and goals.

The plan should also include what support will be given to the leadership team and what resources and training interventions are going to be available to deliver the programme.

What methods can you use to deliver a leadership development programme?

An organisation must also take the decision on which delivery methods to use. This may depend on the leaders themselves (that is, their learning preferences) as well as budget and company culture.

However, practical training methods may be the most effective. These may include delivery methods such coaching, mentoring and work-based projects. Methods which allow leaders to become more self-aware (such as coaching) are mostly effective. These can enable the leaders to become more accountable for his/her development.


A final thought on leadership development is the follow-up on the learning. Like any other learning that takes place, the process should not end once the programme has ended. Ideally, the individuals would have an action plan to put their learning into practice and so that actions become behaviours. This is then supported by a forum which allows continuous communication and development of the leadership team. Ultimately, the programme must be adapted to the changes that the organisation may be going through.

About the author

Maria Bartolo Zahra is Managing Director and HR Advisor at SurgeAdvisory. She has over sixteen years of human resources and business advisory experience.