Exploring leadership training topics
Organizations spend a lot of time and money on leadership training, but much gets wasted because of a lack of focus and effort put into learning development planning.
Any type of effective training has to be guided by the expected and desired outcome. Being explicit in what they should be able to do upon completing the training improves training outcomes.
Since you’re training leaders, you want to know what the leadership ship is trying to accomplish, because that will determine what skills will be the most valuable.
This article will help you identify common training topics that are effective for leaders. This article will help you identify common leadership training topics that are effective for most leaders and then give you some tools to identify which situations demand which topics and how you can arrange them accordingly.
Starting with the goal of the leadership training topic
Early in my work designing training, I received a piece of advice that is being very important ever since: always start with the goal in mind.
When you start any training, you should be able to tell the student “this is what you will be capable of by the end of this training.”
The reason for this is simple: it allows you to validate whether they learned what they needed to learn. It helps the student focus their attention and make sure that what they learned is actionable. Making lessons actionable is hard, especially with abstract topics like leadership.
If you want your student to benefit from your training, you need to give them a concrete goal that they can work towards throughout that training.
Identify the skill and development need
If you’re providing leadership training, there must be some immediate need that you can provide for. What goal does the leader have that you’re helping them meet?
If it’s individualized training, that can be a very specific goal. If you’re providing it to a group of leaders within your organization, it might be around a mission that supports the changing culture or an approach to a particular project or problem the organization is facing.
Since you are identifying immediate and concrete steps as stated in the step before, you should be able to identify how that connects with the learner’s objectives this makes it more interesting and easier to pay attention and internalize the lessons that you are trying to provide them.
Validate their need for the lesson
You should know whether the topic that you’re providing these learners is appropriate to their needs. For example, you would not want to spend a lot of time teaching a leader how to delegate when they don’t have any direct reports.
The context of the leader and the challenges they face should inform the topics that you develop towards.
Breaking down training topics: the portfolio, the theme, and the topic
Before we get into the specific topics, you might explore for your leadership training, talk about three different levels where topics could resign: leadership portfolio, themes of leadership, and specific topics.
The leadership portfolio is the umbrella of leadership skills that support someone as they help coordinate the efforts of others. This is the constellation of skills, ranging from communication to strategic planning to emotional intelligence, that develop in effective leaders.
These are not individual topics on their own and would be too broad for short training, but might represent a longer period of study.
If you were developing leadership training and need a topic, you’re likely focusing on a sub-topic of one of those themes. You would aim for something specific enough to be actionable as soon as the training is complete and that you can cover within the allotted time.
Consider something like communication. Leadership communication is probably too broad a topic (unless you want to offer a surface-level survey.) Here, you would probably want to break the topic down into more specificity to provide useful guidance.
This might be something like how to deliver an effective presentation or conveying emotion through text chat. Another example might be “how to provide meaningful feedback” rather than the more basic “how to communicate with your employees”.
Thinking about the portfolio of leadership skills and then the thematic elements that support them, then connecting that to the topics might help you identify the priority of topics you should use.
Also, having this format allows you to consider a longer series of trainings that incorporate more topics that support a theme to be explored in more detail throughout multiple training or help fill in the gaps for the portfolio of leadership skills.
In the next section, we’ll explore sub-topics that emerge from our main themes.
Whether you’re a leader, communication is a core professional skill. Communication is essential to being able to work with others effectively.
Here are some subtopics that you may want to explore for leadership development within the sphere of communication:
- Presentation skills: The ability to deliver effective presentations will support a leader’s goals time and time again
- Informal influence: While some leadership tactics come from titles, the most effective tools stem from using informal influence to guide the team and other important people
- Storytelling: Leaders that can tell an effective story can motivate, inspire confidence, and help shape the direction of the team
- Communication styles: Understanding the different communication styles will pay off when working with team members and people outside the immediate organization
- Writing skills: Skills in writing can assist in many levels of leadership, from clearly communicating directives to reporting and managing stakeholders
Theme: Strategic Planning
Being able to create a leadership hypothesis for the direction of the team and then getting into the details of how to execute it is poor to high-level leadership functions.
Some subtopics that can support developing strong strategic capability:
- Root-cause analysis: Taking a complex issue down to the underlying cause is a skill that leaders can use to drive continuous improvement
- Problem solving: Once the leader has identified the underlying symptoms, crafting a high-probability solution can be improved with problem-solving methodologies that can be trained
- Opportunity mapping: The skill of identifying and prioritizing opportunities for teams is one that can be trained and will benefit the team
- Business model development: Even for leaders of small teams, understanding how to develop and improve a business model can be effective
- Applying strategic models: Strategic models sharpen thinking and find new solutions. Leaders can get trained on these models.
Theme: Vision Setting
We expect our leaders to point the way, and setting a clear vision is the first step. You don’t know that you’re going in the right direction if you don’t know the destination.
Leaders develop vision setting by using several skills that can be a part of leadership development:
- Problem articulation: Training leaders on how to frame problems makes it easier for them to find solutions. This skill is about analysis and perspective, but can be trained.
- Values integration: Having a grasp of team and organization values, and integrating them with the vision
- Prioritization: Priority is critical in getting things done, you can provide leaders with tools to make tough choices
Effective leaders coach their people when needed, providing encouragement or guidance to support team goals. We shouldn’t expect this skill to emerge naturally, and we can provide direct training to support the leader-as-coach.
Topics in this area might include:
- Making useful assessments: Leaders who can judge the needs and growth areas of their team in ways that are productive and actionable contribute to their development
- Identifying development plans: Translating needs and interest into a development plan that is clear and actionable for the team member is a skill that leaders can (and should) learn through training
- Using the right type of encouragement: Encouragement is part of the relationship between leader and team, and it is more nuanced than many assume, so training in this area can build stronger bonds
- Building trust and rapport: Learning the gentle art of rapport and trust building in teams plays a critical part of the ‘forming’ and ‘norming’ phases of team development, which builds the potential to deliver
- Delivering effective feedback: Feedback is one of the core tools of the leader, and there are great insights available to improve its use