Leadership Development: Definition, Process And Styles

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Leadership development is a process that can help you prepare for leadership roles. Many organisations have individuals in leadership roles who motivate teams, make strategic plans and implement them to ensure that the company meets its goals. By developing your leadership skills you may be a more attractive hire for a company looking for potential future leaders. In this article, we look at the concept of leadership development, its importance, its benefits for organisations and some common leadership styles.

What Is Leadership Development?

Leadership development is a set of activities designed to improve the skills, abilities and confidence of high-performing employees and prepare them for leadership roles within an organisation. It usually includes a series of programmes on collective leadership in the organisation that can help current and future leaders perform their roles effectively. Organisations can select employees with leadership potential for these programmes, where they can develop skills such as decision making, team building and management, project management, network building, strategy development, coaching and mentoring, communication and motivational and inspirational skills.

Related: How To Develop Leadership Skills (With Practical Tips)

Importance Of Developing Leadership Qualities

A leader of an organisation plays a crucial role in the company's growth. After undergoing leadership training, you may give the organisation an advantage over its competitors. Here are some of the ways in which a leadership enhancement programme can lead to your success in an organisation:

  • Leaders can improve financial performance. Companies with a higher human capital tend to deliver more than companies with lesser human capital. Leadership training can reduce long-term costs, create new lines of revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

  • Leaders can attract, develop and retain talent. High-performing and strong leaders tend to hire employees with a similar approach. Internal leadership nurturing also reduces the cost of developing and coaching employees from an external coach or mentoring agency.

  • Leaders can execute strategies. Organisations require leadership strategies and employees with leadership skills that align with their overall business strategies. An individual with leadership qualities can contribute to shaping the culture and strategy of the organisation.

  • Leaders often increase the rate of success in business. Organisations encouraging leadership aim to unlock their employees' full potential, magnifying their achievements and increasing their ability to lead in a disruptive and changing environment.

Related: What Is The Importance Of Leadership In The Workplace?

Benefits Of Leadership Development Processes

It is crucial for organisations to have a good leader who can be valuable to the company and leadership training helps in retaining existing and future leaders. Here are some of the benefits of a leadership nurturing programme:

Early identification of potential leaders

Many organisations prefer hiring or promoting leaders internally, as existing employees may have a better understanding of company goals, structure, products, services and the team than external hires. External hires may have more experience or a larger set of skills, but they may not match the internal knowledge of the organisation's existing employees. Leadership training programmes can enable the organisation to identify potential leaders with leadership skills and mentor future leaders. It can also allow the organisation to learn more about these employees' skills and capabilities and make a clearer promotion choice.

In-depth training for high-potential individuals

Leadership enhancement training may or may not be department-specific, but there are certain characteristics that all leaders know irrespective of their department, such as self-awareness, self-development, strategic thinking, thoughtfulness or cross-cultural communication practices. Some leadership skills you develop may be role or domain-specific as they may require specific technical knowledge. It may be that you have broad leadership skills but relatively less technical knowledge of the industry. Leadership programmes can enable you to fill your knowledge gaps and prepare you to take up more responsibilities in the future.

Related: Leadership Roles (With Examples And Functions Of Leadership)

Increased employee retention

Accessible leadership programmes may encourage individuals looking for professional development opportunities to stay longer in a company. If an organisation hires internal candidates for leadership positions, employees see opportunities for growth and a future with the organisation. Internal hiring for leadership roles is also the safest option for organisations. The company can consider hiring talent externally if there are skill or knowledge gaps despite training.

Improved diversity and inclusion in the office

Leadership programmes can offer open access to marginalised groups within an organisation and get the revenue benefit of having diversity in their talent pool. In addition, organisations with women in leadership roles can also see higher profit margins. In an increasingly diverse workforce, companies adopting cultural diversity may be more likely to outperform those without cultural diversity.

Implementing Leadership Programmes In An Organisation

Mentoring and coaching are two of the most effective ways of nurturing leadership. Since development programmes are different for every company, the organisation may select one that best fits its requirements and leadership goals. Coaching primarily focuses on building confidence amongst potential leaders. It can empower you to develop a new, strategic perspective towards managing regular tasks with increased productivity. It can also give you the flexibility to think freely and creatively.

Mentoring can be effective in training junior employees for future leadership roles. Trainee development programmes may also include reverse mentoring, which can help bridge the knowledge gap and bring two generations closer. It often empowers the mentee or the junior employee to emerge as a strong leader.

Related: How To Demonstrate Leadership Skills At Work: A Guide

Types Of Leadership Styles

Developing leadership is an essential process for the growth and success of the organisation and that of your career. Organisations often identify the leadership style they wish to adopt, depending on their objectives and goals and implement relevant leadership programmes for current and potential leaders. Here are the eight most common leadership styles:

Democratic leadership

Democratic leadership is when the leader makes a decision based on the team members' inputs. Every employee in the team has the right to state their opinion, and the leader may take a decision based on popular vote. Democratic leadership enables all employees to understand how they can use their authority to make higher-level decisions in the future.

Autocratic leadership

Autocratic leadership is the opposite of democratic leadership. An autocratic leader takes all the decisions without considering any input from the team members. They would not consult you or give you any prior notification, and they would expect you to adhere to their decisions. This leadership style is rarely effective.

Related: What Is Autocratic Leadership?

Laissez-faire leadership

Laissez-faire leadership is the least intrusive form in which the leader offers full authority to the employees. This type of leadership is common in new start-ups. This style may empower you by allowing you to work according to your convenience and comfort, without interference from senior managers.

Strategic leadership

Strategic leadership often combines the company's primary operations and growth opportunities. In this style, the leader accepts the executive interests while ensuring that working conditions remain stable. Many organisations prefer this leadership style as it supports both employee and company goals.

Related: 7 Leadership Theories For Career Growth

Transformational leadership

Transformational leadership focuses on transforming and improving the company's conventional processes by improving employee capabilities. In addition to a list of weekly tasks and goals, transformational leaders may ask you to overcome additional challenges to develop all-round skills. Some examples include reducing deadlines or assigning extra tasks with short timelines. Transformational leadership is popular among growth-minded companies as it allows the employees to recognise their potential and capabilities.

Transactional leadership

Transactional leaders reward their employees precisely for the work they do. A transactional leader may offer you an incentive plan to motivate you to complete the allotted tasks. This leadership style helps establish the roles and responsibilities amongst the employees but may also encourage doing the bare minimum. Transactional leadership can be effective if used consistently alongside unexpected forms of appreciation.

Related: What Is Transactional Leadership?

Coach-style leadership

A coach-style leader focuses on identifying and developing your strengths. They focus on strategies that motivate teams to work together in a better way. This leadership style is similar to democratic and strategic leadership but focuses more on individual growth. Instead of focusing on the same goals and skills, coach-style leadership focuses on building a team with different skill sets and expertise. Coach-style leadership can also help improve your communication and encourages you to learn skills from those around you.

Bureaucratic leadership

Bureaucratic leadership is often common in older and more traditional organisations. In this leadership style, leaders listen to the inputs offered by the employees but only accept inputs that align with the company's policies or past practices. This leadership style often refrains from implementing new or non-traditional strategies which may involve a risk. If you work under a leader using this style, you may feel restricted in how you can perform your role.

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