Skillsoft Blog

Four Guiding Principles to Ensure Effective Leadership Development

By Leslie Positeri

It’s a challenge every company faces: Whether it’s an immediate need or just preparing for the future, leadership development is a must. But, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell a lot of you, effective leadership development is a lot more complicated than sending your managers off to a half-day seminar at the local Marriott. My team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has undertaken this challenge with fairly positive outcomes.

LLNL faces the same challenges I’m sure many of you encounter, so I’d like to take this opportunity to share our successes with my counterparts in L&D. After going through the implementation process from start to finish, here are the four guiding principles that we used in designing our leadership development program.

Define a common set of leadership competencies

You’ve got to start somewhere, and you can’t build a development program if you don’t know what it is you need to develop. It’s defining these competencies that can be a challenge. We began by conducting a self-assessment that identified both our strengths and gaps in leadership capabilities. We relied heavily on internal organizational development (OD) consultants to help us find commonality across the institution.

Our OD consultants are embedded in our organizations and are highly regarded and trusted by senior leadership. They see what skills are needed and utilized on the frontlines of the workplace every day, so their input is crucial in defining and redefining what we are striving for with this program.

The second aspect to this is to offer some kind of structure or framework for addressing these competencies. We use what we call the Leadership Ladder Model and it lays out our development programs at multiple career levels beginning with the individual contributor and steps up to our executive team. Employees get introduced to this model early on because you don’t have to be a supervisor or manager to have or need leadership competencies. We believe that you can be a leader at any level in the organization.

Find a cost-effective learning approach that leverages technology

I don’t think I’m the first person to say technology is an amazing tool. One of our challenges in implementing our program was a tight budget. How could we provide training, tools and resources to the masses and still take into consideration the various learning styles of the individual, address the unique needs of the organizations and keep on budget?

We know the workplace is changing and even the educational system is adopting technology into the classroom. We did the same. A blended learning approach lets us leverage the conveniences and benefits of online learning in a manner that’s just as—if not more—effective than a strictly instructor led training curriculum. We can customize content and offer actual on-the-job learning when and where it’s needed.

Be flexible to meet the needs of the organization

In many companies, there’s an overall institutional strategic mission, but each department or organization has its own specific goals and mission. LLNL is no different. Each of our organizations has a unique culture, terminology and partnerships, so how they learn and what they need to learn as a group is going to vary. To address the unique needs of the organizations, we built Competency Knowledge Centers (CKCs). Basically, these are learning portals that each organization can customize based on need, learning style and content. They are designed from a standard template we developed populated with content from Skillsoft Leadership Advantage™ (SLA) and tailored to the culture of the organization.

Allow for easy replication

Considering the tight budgets and limited staff to implement such a large program, the CKCs are easy to duplicate, change and adapt because they are built from a standardized template. A benefit from using the CKC model is that the institution is using a consistent set of information and resources; the information is just presented in a way that resonates with the unique culture of the individual organization.

Accounting for these four principles has helped us build an engaging, practical and, so far, successful leadership development program for our employees. Of course, every organization has its idiosyncrasies to account for, so adjustments and tweaks to the formula may need to be made. But I think this is a good starting point for any business to take on the challenge of leadership or career development.

Leslie Positeri is a Senior Training and Development Specialist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a Skillsoft customer. Leslie was recently recognized as Learning Champion of the Year by Skillsoft.

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