I recently spent a week with two groups of leaders from across Canada, and one of the central topics was leadership development for both existing and emerging leaders. But what, exactly, is leadership development?
Leadership development can often be a catch-all phrase that means different things to different people, and here is what I understand it to mean. In my experience, leadership development has three realms: leadership training, leadership coaching, and leadership mentoring.
Leadership training involves structured programs, courses, and experiences designed to provide specific leadership knowledge and skills. It typically follows a curriculum with defined objectives and outcomes and often includes workshops, seminars, or online courses. Leadership training can be individual, cohort-based, or for an entire organization.
For example, imagine a company that wants to improve its managers’ decision-making skills. They organize a leadership training program covering problem-solving, critical thinking, and strategic planning. Employees attend workshops and complete assignments to develop these skills. The training can be provided in-house, through a leadership consultant, or via an academic institution.
Leadership coaching is a one-on-one, personalized process where a trained coach works closely with individuals to enhance their leadership abilities. The coach provides guidance, feedback, and support to help the leader identify and achieve their goals. Leadership coaching typically involves assessment and is often tailored to the specific needs and challenges of the leader.
For example, the CEO of a growing tech startup hires a leadership coach to help them navigate team-building challenges so that everyone is moving in the same direction. The coach starts with an assessment such as the Birkman Method and has regular sessions with the CEO, providing insights, strategies, and feedback to improve their leadership effectiveness.
Leadership mentoring involves a more experienced individual (the mentor) guiding and sharing their wisdom with a less experienced person (the mentee). It is a long-term relationship focused on personal and professional development. Mentors offer advice, share experiences, and help mentees grow as leaders.
For example, a seasoned executive leader mentors a high-potential leader within the same organization or another company. They meet regularly to discuss career goals, leadership challenges, and strategies for leadership growth. The mentor provides valuable insights based on their extensive experience.
Under the Leadership Development Umbrella:
Leadership training is a formal, structured approach to learning leadership knowledge and skills through organized programs. Leadership coaching is a personalized, one-on-one process where a coach provides guidance and support. Leadership mentoring is a relationship-based approach where an experienced mentor shares wisdom with a less experienced mentee.
And, of course, healthy organizations and leaders often combine elements of all three to continuously improve their leadership capabilities.
So … what is your next leadership development step: is it training, coaching, or mentoring?