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Leadership training techniques

Training for team leaders often consists of lectures, one-on-one coaching, on-the-job training, feedback from subordinates, superiors and peers, mentoring, and outdoor challenges (Bass and Riggio, 2006; Yukl, 2005). Effective leadership development involves a combination of these practices as well as the following specific techniques that focus on leadership skills training:

  • Behaviour role modelling: this technique is based on demonstration and role-playing to enhance interpersonal skills for leaders. after being shown the effective behaviours, either by the trainer modelling the behaviour or on a video, trainees practise the necessary behaviours and receive constructive feedback. this technique is useful for concrete behaviours that are effective in particular circumstances but may not be as suitable for teaching flexible adaptive behaviours or cognitive knowledge.
  • Case studies: this technique uses descriptions of events in an organisation, ranging from detailed descriptions of events over time or brief descriptions of specific incidents from a leader’s career. Detailed cases about how specific situations or events were dealt with (e.g. operations or maintenance activities) may be used to practise analytical and decision-making skills for leadership. after the individual, or group, develop recommendations, these are compared with what the organisation or leader actually did. A benefit of case studies is that they increase understanding about situations that leaders can encounter, and different ways that can be considered for dealing with the situation.
  • Simulations: Simulations require trainees to analyse complex problems and make decisions while leading their team; however, unlike case studies, trainees have to consider and deal with the consequences of their decisions as the scenario unfolds. Simulations can either be large-scale, with a large number of participants involved in role-playing, or smaller scale, e.g. a single team in a high-fidelity simulator. Low-fidelity simulation games can also be used, such as tactical decision games (see Chapter 10). trainees receive directed feedback on their interpersonal skills (leadership, communication, teamwork), and cognitive skills such as decision-making and situation awareness.

The aim in all of the above techniques is to allow team leaders to observe, learn and practise leadership skills. Learning improves as trainees are provided with the opportunity to learn to deal with challenging and varied situations. trainees also receive guided feedback about their performance and are encouraged to use this to reflect on their own experiences and performance to increase their learning.

Day and Halpin (2001) reviewed best practices in industry for developing leaders, including leadership training practices such as formal training, executive coaching, mentoring and outdoor challenges. having examined leadership development in these organisations and the different types of leadership development training, they presented best practice principles:

  • • Successful leadership development efforts require an influential champion (preferably a senior manager).
  • • Leadership capacity is everywhere; leadership development initiatives should be orchestrated throughout the organisation.
  • • The most effective leadership development practices are tied to specific business imperatives.
  • • leadership development is used to socialise managers on key corporate values and build a strong, coherent culture.
  • • leadership development is a systemic process and not a single event.
  • • Successful leadership development depends more on consistent implementation than on using innovative practices.
  • • An important job of leaders is to make more leaders. high-potential leaders make for effective leadership preceptors in designing and delivering the curriculum.
  • • leadership development is about creating entrepreneurial change agents who provide creative solutions in ambiguous situations.
  • • leadership development is an investment in the future. like most investments, it may take years before the dividends are realised.

Leadership development is related to organisational culture and strategy, and best practice organisations recognise that this training is an investment in the future.

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