5 Exploring training
Leadership development and training is big business. A recent report found that US companies spend $14 billion annually on it. There are numerous organisations offering courses, both physical and virtual, that promise to train you in key skills or provide you with relevant knowledge.
This course has given you a taster, but you may have decided that there are key areas you want to learn more about in order to meet your goals.
You don’t have to be a leader to benefit from developing leadership skills. Followers can gain as much from leadership training as leaders can. Followers are the leaders of the future and a good organisation will take the time to develop them too.
So where do you start?
Many organisations provide training for their staff, either internally or externally, depending on their size and structure. Before you start to explore what might be available to you externally, investigate the in-house options that are on offer.
Contact your Human Resources department or talk to your manager about what is available. It could be:
- a dedicated leadership training programme
- a workshop covering a specific skill
- an afternoon of networking with existing leaders from within your organisation.
If there is currently no provision that meets your needs, perhaps you could offer to organise something.
Find out if there is a budget for external speakers and consider whether this would be an event for your department only or whether you would make it available to staff from across the organisation. If you did – that might be a useful networking opportunity and help with some of the internal politics!
Be aware that you don’t need a leadership qualification to prove that you are a good leader. It may be useful to you in a variety of ways, but it is not a substitute for practical experience.
First you need to ensure that you choose a reputable training provider. Professional organisations such as those listed in the previous section will offer their own programmes of training or may endorse certain courses and qualifications. Visit their websites or call them to find out more.
An online training catalogue such as findcourses.co.uk will list relevant courses, which will give you a starting point for further research about the providers, course content etc.
How do you know if an external training programme is going to be valuable? Ask the following questions:
- Will this course help me to develop the right skills and take me closer to achieving my goals?
- Is the course practically or theoretically based, or a mix of the two? What suits my needs best?
- Do I feel inspired/motivated by the content/style of delivery etc. of the course?
- Will there be regular opportunities to receive feedback on my progress?
- What kind of support does the course offer, for example, peer support, coaching, mentoring etc.?
- Will the course/qualification be recognised by my future employers?
- Can I talk to previous participants before signing up?
Do as much research as possible before signing up. These courses can be expensive and you don’t want to choose something that isn’t going to add something to your CV, build your leadership skills and confidence, or allow you to develop a useful peer support network – preferably you’d like all three!
If you do take a leadership training course, there are numerous learning activities you might be expected to participate in. Activity 6 gives you one example.
Activity 6 Leadership shield exercise
Draw the outline of a shield on a piece of paper or a page from your leadership journal. Divide it into four quadrants and allocate each quadrant a different category as follows:
a) two of your leadership skills
b) the part of your current work that you like best
c) two values that influence how you lead others
d) a recent success or accomplishment.
2. Which quadrant was the easiest to complete? Why?
3. Which quadrant, if any, reveals something about you that others might not know?
4. On a training course, you would be asked to discuss your choices with a partner or in a group. Find someone to talk to about this exercise.
Your background, values and personal philosophies inevitably affect the way you interact with and lead people, and this exercise attempts to highlight some of those characteristics. Did it reveal anything new?
Taken from The Leadership Training Activity Book, Hart and Waisman (2004)
If you want to explore the academic side of leadership in more depth, there are many institutions offering relevant courses.
In the UK, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has a searchable database of undergraduate and postgraduate courses (see References for the web link).