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6 tips on how to build leadership programmes that work

28th November 2016 | Nigel Paine

Nigel Paine shares tips based on his experiences developing leaders at the BBC and beyond


 Building Leadership Development Programmes (9780749476939)

Leadership development has to be profound and inclusive and reach deeply into the workforce. It is clearer than ever, now, that what leaders do is seen by everyone. This means that good leaders can build great organizations. And good leaders emerge from great organizations and what they do is share insight, and attempt to make sense of the world in a way that others can understand and react to. Here are six conclusions about how to build leadership programmes that work.

1. Context is critical. Leadership development does onto occur in a vacuum or in isolation. It requires context, in other words, what do you do in this organization, with these issues and these people. Vanilla leadership simply does not work.

2. Leadership is not an event, but a process. As soon as you see leadership development as an inoculation which people queue up to receive - that hurts a bit - but is over soon, you create an illusion that the effort involved is timed. It may be intense, but it will finish relatively quickly and is, therefore, quickly forgotten.

3. A blended approach works best. Research would seem to indicate that a blended process, that combines on-line with face-to-face, delivers the optimum outcomes. This allows time to think quietly on your own, and time to engage with others. Both are important.

4. Make sure you transfer some responsibility for good leadership to the leader. If your leaders react to leadership development as someone elses problem, they will resist taking on both the responsibility and the effort to put things right. There must be consequences for non-participation, and not making the required changes.

5. Top leadership should be behind this, and give it time to take effect. All the most successful programmes have the total commitment of the highest levels of leadership in the organization. And that commitment means more than authorising expenditure, or attending a launch event. Commitment means active involvement and participation from the very beginning.

6. Not stop/start but a continuous process. Every day at work, represents a leadership challenge; every day gives leaders the chance to practice new leadership skills or simply a different way of approaching the task of leadership. If the process of learning about leadership is in some way disconnected from the practice of being that leader, nothing much happens.

The next blog post will continue the discussion with six more factors that lead to successful leadership development.

About the author: Nigel Paine is a change-focused leader with a worldwide reputation and extensive experience in leadership and consultancy. As the Head of Training and Development at BBC, he built one of the most successful learning and development operations in the UK. He now runs his own consultancy, which focuses on leadership, creativity, innovation and e-learning, working with companies in Europe, Brazil, Australia and the US. He is an academic director and member of the international advisory board at the University of Pennsylvania, board member of Management Issues and a Masie Learning Fellow.

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