Whether you are supporting staff currently in leadership roles or encouraging future leaders to build new skills, having an effective training program can be fundamental in helping your employees find success in your organization.

At its core, any leadership program should reflect the organization’s values and vision. The curriculum should have a clear structure that outlines how participants will develop and grow skills that empower them to design and execute meaningful strategies that will help your business overcome its challenges.

Should leadership development be a top priority?

The individuals who are in charge of your company play an essential part in shaping its people, its performance and its culture. Investing in their professional growth is one of the best ways to attract and retain talent. If you have a need or interest in improving leadership across your organization, it might be time to elevate your development programming.

To give leadership training programs the weight they deserve, it’s important to identify the leadership roles that are needed to guide your company forward. Team members from Human Resources (HR), Learning & Development and the C-Suite should work together to define what an effective leader is in their organization.

  • What are the skills they possess?
  • What are the skills they need to develop?
  • Are they team leaders?
  • What future job opportunity should they be prepared for?

Creating a leader persona and evaluating current talent to see where gaps may exist can help formulate a path forward.

older man leading a team meeting

What is leadership development?

Leadership development is about empowering individuals with the knowledge and capabilities that will allow them to influence and guide people, processes and teams toward desired outcomes. Developing leadership skills encompasses traditionally tangible talents like goal setting as well as soft skills like empathy.

These growth initiatives often fall into the hands of HR, L&D or Organizational Development (OD) professionals, who are tasked with creating the systems and experiences to support productivity and people development.

Leadership training is typically not a one-time educational event. To meet evolving business needs and growing employee expectations, it’s essential that talent professional provide ongoing opportunities to help their people learn and hone essential leadership qualities and skills.

How is leadership development different from management development?

While the terms leadership and management are often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction between the two. Leaders have the capacity to motivate and coach others, while managers have skills in overseeing people and projects to ensure tasks are completed.

Common Skills Found in a Good Leader versus a Good Manager

Chart comparing leadership and management skills

You may find that your organization has managers, who are responsible for supervising a team as well as coordinating the execution of the group’s work. You may find leaders who do not have any direct reports and still are able to rally employees around a common goal. You may also find personnel who fall into both categories of manager and leader.

Why is leadership development training important?

Inspiring, effective leaders are vital contributors in a thriving business. They are instrumental in galvanizing people to contribute to a common cause as well as supporting employee engagement and wellbeing. When those who are at the helm of a team, department or the entire organization create an environment that promotes confidence and makes people feel valued and included, the whole workplace culture reaps the benefits.

Developing leaders is also central to growing market share and the long-term value of the business. Executives need staff members inside their companies, who are ready and able to shepherd the organization into the future. Yet, only 11% of organizations surveyed in the 2021 Global Leadership Forecast reported that they have a strong or very strong leadership bench.

What is the impact of effective leadership development?

When training professionals design a successful leadership development program, the effects extend far beyond the participants through:

Increased Motivation

Employees are often energized when they have the chance to learn. Delivering leadership development training can engage staff, provide pathways to career growth and give the business a safety net by developing a pipeline of influencers. Additionally, when personnel have strong leadership skills, they are often more adept at supporting and encouraging others, which can amplify organizational motivation.

Improved Workplace Performance

Employees are often energized when they have the chance to learn. Delivering leadership development training can engage staff, provide pathways to career growth and give the business a safety net by developing a pipeline of influencers. Additionally, when personnel have strong leadership skills, they are often more adept at supporting and encouraging others, which can amplify organizational motivation.

Elevated Employee Retention

Great leaders have a knack of inspiring and empowering people. A leader’s approach to team building or how they help people overcome challenges can be pivotal to helping contributors build new skills to support their own productivity. When staff have influence over their work, feel encouraged to use their skill sets and have confidence in their own capabilities, employee engagement tends to increase. Positive engagement scores also correlate with improved retention, which can bolster the company’s bottom line.

What core leadership capacities should be prioritized in training programs?

Attitudes toward work are shifting. Personnel want more from those they are expected to follow. They are looking for the opportunity to contribute to something bigger than themselves, the chance to be inspired and a place where they will be valued and supported in their career development.

Approaches like a command-and-control leadership style no longer serve employees nor organizations. Increasingly, successful leaders need soft skills – or more appropriately, power skills – to be effective. To support program participants, focus on empowering them to become:

  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Enthusiasts
  • Communication Champions
  • Cognitive Diversity Drivers
  • Bastions of Belonging
  • Coaching Connoisseurs

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Enthusiasts

The Oxford Dictionary defines EQ as the ability to understand your feelings and those of other people and to behave appropriately in different situations. At Emergenetics, we know that starts with self-awareness. By gaining a deeper understanding into oneself, individuals can
learn to recognize their strengths, blind spots and innate tendencies.

We encourage anyone interested in leadership development to begin by using the Emergenetics Profile. The tool empowers them to realize how they innately think and behave, while providing insights into other preferences. By building an appreciation for the value in different perspectives, leaders can increase empathy and EQ.

Communication Champions

If influence and motivation are central to leadership, the importance of communication skills cannot be underestimated. The way individuals are communicated with will have a direct impact on their energy. If a team member has tools, like Emergenetics, that reveal the ways others prefer to share and receive information, they can match rapport in a way that inspires, connects and motivates.


Effective verbal and written capacities are not enough. Employees want to have a voice in their roles, organizations and futures, so it’s vital that leaders are also excellent listeners. Be sure to provide strategies and trainings that encourage active listening, demonstrate how to give and receive feedback as well as promote two-way conversation.

Cognitive Diversity Drivers

To thrive in the future, companies need staff members who are comfortable embracing different perspectives. Numerous studies have shown the role that diversity, and particularly cognitive diversity, plays in achieving better outcomes. That means productive executives and
workplace influencers should be curious about alternative approaches, willing to change and welcoming of diverse points of view.

By creating a leadership development program focused on expanding the ways personnel think and revealing the value of reaching beyond their mental models, individuals can harness cognitive diversity to drive problem solving and performance.

Bastions of Belonging

Engaged employees know that they are valued members of the organizational ecosystem, and feel seen, heard and appreciated. Good leaders are willing and able to design a safe space where each person is included. It starts with being able to appreciate the gifts that come from a diverse group and committing to listening to their concerns and interests.

Help leaders develop capacity in team building, creating positive group dynamics as well as valuing different experiences. This sort of open and psychologically safe environment will allow staff to see that their voices matter and encourage them to share inputs, challenges and ideas confidently.

Coaching Connoisseurs

Great leaders guide, empower and support skill development in others so that each contributor is able to bring their best selves to work. At Emergenetics, we know that when employees use their strengths, they tend to be more engaged and more productive. Additionally, when staff members can get constructive feedback on opportunities for further growth, they expand their own abilities and typically appreciate the career development support.

By providing leaders with tools and frameworks – like the Emergenetics Profile – to deliver meaningful feedback and encourage staff to utilize their strengths, they can build capacity in others and inspire future success.

What does leadership look like through the Emergenetics Attributes?

The way people prefer to think and behave will likely inform their innate approach to leadership. As program participants are getting familiar with their natural styles, it can be useful to consider their Emergenetics Profiles and identify some of the common tendencies and strengths of each preference.

Icon of three people with Emergenetics profiles
  • Analytical Thinkers are likely to bring a bottom-line focus to their work and utilize a data-driven, logical approach.
  • Structural Thinkers often excel at creating order and identifying processes to guide people and projects forward.
  • Social Thinkers typically see business from a relational lens and may lean into a collaborative, people-centric style.
  • Conceptual Thinkers are energized by the big picture and often inspire through ideation and innovative solutions.
  • First-third Expressive leaders often have a knack for listening and maintaining poise in all situations, while third-third Expressive leaders are often an energizing and gregarious force.
  • First-third Assertive leadership may bring an innately democratic approach to work while third-third Assertive individuals tend to lead through pacesetting.
  • A first-third Flexible leader is likely to bring focus and purpose to directions and decisions, while a third-third Flexible leader keeps options open and encourages ongoing revisions to the path laid ahead.

Who should attend a leadership development program?

The word “Director” or even “Manager” does not need to be in a person’s title for them to join a leadership development program. While team members who are in traditional executive roles can certainly benefit from ongoing education, there are likely many people in your business who would be strong prospects for building core leadership skills. As you conceptualize or evolve your leadership programs, consider the following audiences:

  • Aspiring leaders
  • High-potential performers
  • Managers and team leads
  • Project organizers
  • Directors and executives


A senior leader, new leader and future leader will likely have different training needs based on their prior experiences, knowledge and roles. They may also have different expectations about what sort of growth and development they should participate in.

What do people look for in a leadership development program?

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of these training initiatives is that one size does not fit all. A study from DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast asked how leaders wanted to be educated and revealed:

  • 39% were interested in formal in-person training
  • 42% sought assessments to diagnose leadership strengths
  • 48% wanted developmental assignments
  • 48% looked for external coaching

Given the data, Talent Development professionals should consider using a multi-pronged approach to training while also providing some flexibility to program attendees so that they can learn in the way that best suits their interests and needs.

What are the non-negotiables of a successful leadership development program?

Leadership training programs are likely to look different from business to business based on the capacity and strengths of your HR and L&D teams as well as the employee population. To increase your odds for creating one of the best leadership development programs you can, consider four principles:

  • Offering variation
  • Providing insight into strengths and blind spots
  • Integrating feedback loops
  • Making it easy

Offering Variation

Given the fact that people have different learning preferences, it’s best that development programs include a mix of experiences such as:

  • Formal trainings
  • Experiential learning
  • Assessment-based solutions
  • Coaching

Examples of Each Type of Experience

A chart describing formal training, experiential learning, assessment-based solutions and coaching

Having a diverse range of trainings options will speak to the multitude of learning needs of their audiences to keep them engaged and present. Having variety can also support strategy execution as HR and L&D leaders are likely to find that a core leadership skill may be easier to work on via coaching or a stretch assignment, versus a classroom learning.

Providing Insights Strengths & Blind Spots

The best ideas come from a group of people – not just one leader. By prioritizing self-awareness in your leadership development program, you can help participants see their innate gifts as well as understand where they may need support from others.

Psychometric assessments like the Emergenetics Profile can be particularly effective in showing individuals where their brilliances lie while also bringing attention to blind spots to be aware of. Through this self-discovery, leaders come to realize the value of these blind spots and appreciate those who can fill those gaps.

Integrating Feedback Loops

It is imperative to listen to your program participants and those on the periphery to continually optimize your leadership training. Make sure that you are including multiple opportunities to hear from stakeholders including those attending leadership development sessions, those they collaborate with and the personnel who they oversee.

There is a plethora of information that you can collect, so consider what elements will have the greatest impact on your desired outcomes. Some ideas include post-training surveys for attendees, skills assessments or 360 reviews to assess changes in day-to-day behaviors.

Making it Easy

Often, the people who you want to attend a leadership training are some of the most active individuals in many organizations. To encourage them to participate and apply their newfound talents, find ways to reinforce the benefits of participation. Consider options like:

  • Offering short, bite-sized trainings
  • Allowing leaders to participate at their own pace
  • Turning classroom content into how tos or infographics
  • Providing templates to support feedback, change management
  • or other essential skills

How do you build an engaging leadership development program?

Creating or optimizing leadership development programs requires care and attention. To support staff currently in leadership positions as well as your future leaders, it’s important to invest time up front to design a strategy that will help develop skills that your participants need as well as position your business for success in the long-term.

9 Tips to Amplify the Effectiveness of Your Leadership Programs

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Identify your goals.

Consider the overarching objectives of your business and identify how your work in leadership development will align to and support the targets. With this knowledge, you can set specific goals, which may be quantitative and qualitative in nature. You may wish to set targets around number of participants and performance improvement metrics or set objectives around sentiment and perception of quality.

icon of three people

Understand your audience(s).

Determine who you want to attend your leadership development trainings and create personas for each group, such as aspiring leaders, senior leaders or managers. Take time to analyze and learn about their challenges, career growth objectives and interests. Consider surveying peers, collaborators or direct reports to uncover their perspectives on leadership qualities that are required or lacking.

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Plan a holistic learning journey.

One training will not fit everyone, so identify opportunities to provide different types of experiences at different times. Think about how your attendees prefer to learn, such as hearing from experts, having hands-on practice, working with a community or trial and error. Weave in multiple learning situations and remember that you do not have to create everything. Be mindful of outside sources and internal experts who can offer additional paths.

Icon of arrows in multiple directions

Identify must-haves and opportunities for freedom.

In addition to determining pathways for your leadership development program, it is important to assess where you will hold firm and where you will be flexible. There may be certain leadership skills that individuals must possess in your organization, and you might offer different avenues that encourage staff to build those capabilities.

Icon of a cheerleader

Find your cheerleaders and executive sponsors.

Getting champions outside of the HR or L&D department excited about your curriculum will only boost your chances of success. Find senior leaders who believe in your work as well as influencers who are excited to participate. Equip your champions to support the initiative by providing talking points, asking them to share an update in a company meeting or using their quotes about the learning experience in your internal communication channels.

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Define your action plan.

As you are considering your many development opportunities, you will likely have more ideas than you can reasonably implement. In this case, your executive sponsors and cheerleaders can help you with action planning. Get their inputs on priority needs to shape your rollout plan. Identify some short-term targets as well as long-term milestones to create a comprehensive strategy.

Icon of a megaphone

Keep employees informed.

Put on your promotion hat when you start to engage in step 7. While much of your focus will be spent creating curriculum, sourcing outside content and designing the actual program, put some thought into how you will keep staff members aware of training opportunities and engaged in the work.

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Measure results.

Keep executive sponsors on board by speaking to the tangible impact your leadership development programs are having on business initiatives. With so many competing activities happening within an organization, having relevant metrics and success stories will boost your odds of maintaining and expanding on your plans. Using the goals identified in step 1, determine key performance indicators (KPIs), measurements and feedback mechanisms to assess impact.

How can Emergenetics amplify leadership skills?

Building excellent leadership development programs takes time and energy, and Emergenetics can help you fast track your staff along their path to success. Through the Emergenetics Profile, leaders discover their innate Thinking and Behavioral preferences to boost self-understanding and reveal personal strengths.

employee centricity blog

Our training programs and workshops deliver additional insights to enable individuals to recognize the value of cognitive diversity and the strengths of every Attribute.

Through our self-directed digital learnings and online portal, leaders discover strategies and applications to help them communicate, motivate and coach personnel based on their unique preferences. We also provide resources that empower leaders to understand their people and gain useful strategies to inspire performance.

If you are interested in giving your people practical tools to improve their EQ and increase their ability to effectively lead others, our team is here to connect!

We can provide stand-alone trainings that weave seamlessly into your leadership development programs or equip your Learning & Development professionals with the skills and knowledge to utilize Emergenetics themselves and amplify leadership learning.

Connect with our staff today by filling out the form below!