YES! Leaders Can Be Trained: Evidence-Based Best Practices for Leadership Training

Data from more than 300 leadership training studies, totaling 26,573 trainees, confirms that leadership training and development programs pay off — big time.

In fact, according to the study titled Leadership Training Design, Delivery, and Implementation: A Meta-Analysis, the average leadership training program takes an average leader at the 50th percentile and boosts them to the 78th percentile[1]. To further enhance the effectiveness of leadership training programs, the study looked into aspects of training design, delivery and implementation that further elevated development.

To maximize results, the study recommends:

  1. Use multiple delivery methods. When possible, use multiple delivery methods (e.g., information, demonstration, hands-on practice) when delivering training. Multiple delivery methods were found to enhance learning, transfer of training (i.e., knowledge and skill retention after training ends) and improve bottom-line results.
  2. Conduct a needs analysis. Before designing a leadership training and development program, conduct a thorough needs analysis to properly identify what needs to be learned/developed and identify the desired outcome(s) based on stakeholder goals.
  3. Hold multiple training sessions. Instead of a single training session (even if it is long), offer multiple training sessions that are separated by time (e.g., one day, week or month). Since longer (total) training time was found to be most effective, aim for more training sessions and/or longer (within reason) individual training sessions.
  4. Provide feedback. Be sure to provide one-on-one, preferably face-to-face, feedback to training participants. Moreover, choose an internal or external trainer to implement training and feedback sessions — self-administered leadership training was found to be much less effective.
  5. Leaders can be made! Resist the temptation to think that leaders cannot be trained. While it is true that leaders are born, they are also made[2]. Leadership training programs, especially when delivered correctly, dramatically improve leadership skills and abilities.

[1] Lacerenza, C. N., Reyes, D. L., Marlow, S. L., Joseph, D. L., & Salas, E. (2017). Leadership training design, delivery, and implementation: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102, 1686–1718. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000241

[2] Judge, T. A., & Bono, J. E. (2000). Five-factor model of personality and transformational leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 751–765. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.85.5.751

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.