Leadership Training and Development

Though many may assert that leaders are born, not made, companies around world will disagree. As of 2001, 75 percent of companies in the United States that employed more than 10,000 workers were spending over $750,000 annually on leadership training. The aim of these companies is to have their employees cultivate the characteristics of a leader in order to help advance careers and maintain a professional and functional workplace. While most training is provided by the human resources departments of the companies, of late, many employers have sought to hire those who have already built up a set of leadership skills. As a result, many colleges have opened leadership programs of their own. In 1994 there were more than 300 leadership-building initiatives instituted in schools and by 1998 there were more than twice that many.

Since the early 2000s there has been an influx of scientific research on the topic to enhance training practices and effectively develop leaders. Many state that there is a severe disconnect between the training and the underlying theory. Some argue that the implementation of training remains unsuccessful and others swear by its marvelous effects on the corporations. Some assert that leadership inspires cohesiveness, while others state that leadership that emphasizes individual power compromises teamwork. Some theorists maintain that programs of leadership development, what should essentially be termed leader development, focus too much on the individual and disregard the social context and the application of a leader. Interaction as a leader with those under your position of power is as crucial as the confidence and esteem that the programs instill, they argue. These dichotomous views are continuously perpetuated, resulting in a flood of research and largely divergent practices.

The characteristics of an effective leader and employee have changed rapidly since the rise of technology. For instance, since most companies now operate globally, a successful employee must have the tolerance and capacity to communicate effectively with people of different cultures. Since technology is in constant motion and affects businesses substantially, leaders today must have flexibility, enthusiasm and a desire to move forward with change, despite the difficulties of perpetual adaptation. Other skills identified with leadership are delegation, conflict resolution, creativity, problem solving, approachability, emotional intelligence, charisma, interpersonal skills, self control and self awareness. To develop these skills, leadership trainers use methods such as feedback, mentoring, simulations, workshops and goal setting.

For the most part, leadership training and development is tailored to a company's needs—since the skills required for Microsoft and Goldman-Sachs will vary drastically, with no exact formula that will suit all—and is suited to the individuals undergoing the process. Through employee surveys and general observations, companies analyze their goals and the skills required to make them more successful and then evaluate the employees to see what is lacking. Furthermore, employers seek out young talent in the company early on to train them for future positions. Leadership development is a continuous project, where the individuals undergo exercises at least annually and companies take stock of what they lack every three to five years.

Some companies follow a transactional leadership model that focuses on the tasks at hand and is motivated by the rewards and punishments set in place by the establishment. Transformational leadership seeks to empower employees by assigning them important tasks and emphasizing change and the effect of every single employee on the company's well-being; this model is more thrilling and fast paced than the former. Some theorists argue that these two models should not be mutually exclusive; rather companies should draw from both to create a new program that incorporates features of empowerment with elements of direction.

Though many can identify leaders from years past, such as former presidents and influential writers, there is yet to be a consensus on what constitutes leadership objectively. Instead, corporations do not preoccupy themselves with the theoretical and instead find the gaps in their company, establish the best ways to improve, train individuals in that area to fulfill that requirement, and loosely and subjectively use the term "leadership" for lack of a more descriptive term, since the term inspires employees to be all they can be.

Leadership Training and Development: Selected full-text books and articles

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