Current State

About seven out of ten organizations believe leadership development training is needed for every employee, according to Brandon Hall Group’s study, Creating Leadership Development for Everyone 58% of organizations are working to build a culture of continuous leader learning. The trend, which has evolved over the past few years, is to democratize leadership development as much as possible.

Complexities

More than 80% of organizations surveyed said democratizing leadership development has the following significant benefits for both employees and employers 

However, offering leadership development across an entire enterprise — especially large ones — has challenges and competes with many other learning priorities, research respondents said. In addition, more than 60% said fully democratized leadership development could send the wrong message.

Consequences

Despite the interest in offering leadership development to all employees and the acknowledged benefits it provides to employees and employers, only 35% of organizations provide some type of leadership training for every employee now.

The problem with this is that the nature of leadership is changing. Leadership used to be associated with management and top-down authority. But in a hybrid workforce where various types of teams — from traditional work teams to cross-functional teams, project teams and more — are called upon to drive business results, strong leadership behaviors must be demonstrated more broadly and at all levels. 

Every year when Brandon Hall Group asks about the most critical human capital management priorities, leadership development ranks at or near the top. More organizations should act on their instinct — that fully democratized leadership development is critical — and expand leadership training to all levels of the organization. Clearly, there are some challenges and obstacles, but they are worth addressing and overcoming. 

Critical Questions

Among the challenges to democratized leadership is a basic one: What are the best ways to introduce leadership to new employees or employees who have not previously experienced this type of training? 

Brandon Hall Group POV

The goal of fully democratized leadership development is to create a cohesive leadership culture transcending all levels and geographies. With everyone operating from the same set of leadership behaviors, a rich, inclusive collaborative culture can be built. 

However, there are different levels of proficiency. In democratizing leadership, organizations must decide the foundations that should be established for all employees, which then can be built upon and added to over time. 

Competency Mix 

We asked research respondents to provide their ideal mix of five competencies that were seen in previous research as critical for foundational leadership training. Here are the averages: 

Emotional intelligence, or EQ as it is often referred to, emerged as the competency deserving considerably more attention than the other competencies. This makes sense because it is comprised of four related domains — self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Each can help leaders face any situation with lower levels of stress, less emotional reactivity and few unintended consequences. 

Imagine if everyone in your organization were strong — or at least more developed — in emotional intelligence. It opens the door to more open and effective collaboration, feedback, development, conflict resolution and more. Everyone operates with the same understanding of how to conduct oneself and the impact their behaviors have on others. 

Strong emotional intelligence also influences resiliency and change readiness, which is important because of the VUCA environment in which organizations often work. Embracing diversity and promoting inclusion is critical to modern literacy and ranks just a tick below resiliency. Strategy and execution also are important. While new or frontline employees might not leverage this right away, it is a foundational skill that should be introduced and then built upon. While digital literacy is viewed as less important, it is still a good foundation for leading and collaborating, especially in an increasingly virtual world. 

The other key building block to strong leadership, which is missing from this list, is business acumen. Everyone, whether they are in a line role or working in some leadership role, must operate in the context of their business and industry and understand the needs of internal and external stakeholders. Consider introducing business acumen in basic leadership training, especially if employees are not exposed to it in onboarding or other areas of training. 

Mix of Learning Modalities 

Respondents indicated that experiential learning — including coaching, mentoring and on-the-job training — should be used most often in delivering leadership training for all employees. Here are the averages for different types of learning used: 

When looking at leadership development overall, we agree that experiential learning is best for helping leaders apply strong leadership behaviors in a variety of situations. But when it comes to prioritizing learning modalities, employers need to consider several variables, most notably scale. 

When you train all employees — which can be tens or even hundreds of thousands – experiential learning at all levels of the organization is generally not scalable. When introducing leadership foundations — such as emotional intelligence — formal and informal learning are better suited for providing knowledge and reinforcing it. Over time, or as employees move into new roles and responsibilities, more experiential learning (as well as continued reinforcement and peer discussions) can be leveraged to drive the practical application of leadership principles in various situations. 

It’s important that organizations carefully consider their learning strategy for democratizing leadership development at scale.


About

Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact success@brandonhall.com.

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 28 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

Claude Werder

Claude Werder oversees Brandon Hall Group's analyst team, new product development, corporate development, the HCM Excellence Conference 2015, publishing, and social media and marketing strategies for Brandon Hall Group. In that role, he manages Brandon Hall Group’s research priorities, Membership Program and Member Center, and Brandon Hall Group’s exclusive KnowledgeBases of research data and HCM solution providers, services and products.