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Leadership Development Training

Leadership Development Training

Good leadership in any team or organization of pretty much any size or type is more important than ever in today’s highly competitive and fast-changing world. However, most leaders are not “born” to be effective (or have an “innate” ability to lead) but with a little focus, are “made” or developed over time in order to make the best possible contribution. If this is the case, the question then becomes “In what leadership development training should we ideally invest?

To answer this question we need to focus on what should be the core content of a leadership development training initiative and then what is the best vehicle we should select by which to deliver it.

In this article we will be looking at the core content side of this question.

Leadership Development Training – Competencies versus Style

Although there are many ways to categorize leadership development, one popular way to do this is to separate it into the two big headings of leadership style and leadership competencies. Leadership style relates heavily to the way that leaders relate to other people and essentially to how they communicate in a range of situations. It is also concerned with the degree to which leaders can change or “flex” their style when circumstances require a new or different approach.

Although style is undoubtedly important, a leader’s ability to flex it successfully often rests on the skills that he or she has available in his or her “toolbox”. For this reason a competencies-based leadership development approach may be the best way to put together a structured program.

What competencies should we include in our leadership development training?

There is no single answer to this question, but as the chart below indicates, one approach that we can take, which has widespread application in many organizational settings, is to “cluster” competencies into the four areas shown.

Management & Leadership Development Diagram

Let’s look at these four clusters in a little more detail.

Starting at the first cluster at the bottom right above-“Functional knowledge”, there are a range of competencies which relate to the extent to which any leader knows about the organization of which he or she is a part in functional terms. This will of course vary by organizational type but is general, any leader in any one function should have a basic knowledge or the other major ones and what they do, so as to ensure that effective and intelligent cooperation or teamwork can occur when it’s called for. Perhaps most important for most organizations amongst these functional areas is customer service and this is therefore often given the greatest focus in this quadrant in terms of training, although financial management and budgeting often runs a close second.

In the next cluster at the bottom left of the chart above is “Personal awareness” or what some may call self-awareness. The simple idea here is that no leader can manage others until they can understand and manage him or herself. In this category are therefore a range of competencies which must be either already relatively well-mastered or which should be developed further. Some of these (such as ethics or emotional intelligence for example) are not necessarily easy to train or possible to develop quickly. However, these are often foundational skills which will provide a stable foundation upon which other skills can be learned at a later stage.

In the next cluster-“Interpersonal skills”, there are a range of competencies which cover how a leader relates to other people, either one-on-one or one to many. Communication skills (including the capacity to listen) is perhaps the most critical or foundational competency here but leadership development training often also pays very high attention to both coaching ability and teamwork/collaboration today. In general considerably more money is generally invested by large organizations in training or development in this particular cluster, than any of the other three.

In the final cluster-“Creative/Change Ability”, there are a range of competencies which relate to how a leader manages situations which call for a creative approach and/or the ability to deal with change (both small and large in scale. The ability to think critically and strategically is often key here, as well as the capacity to evolve a compelling vision and manage the resultant journey to be travelled with good project skills and the ability to analyze and solve problems as they arise.


Leadership development training can take many forms and is usually best delivered by conducting a proper training needs analysis exercise for the intended recipients. However, in broad terms, early thought needs to be given to whether to focus on leadership style training or leadership competency development.

In the latter, which is often the best foundational approach to take, this article has proposed a four-quadrant model which clusters competencies into the areas of Functional knowledge, Personal awareness, Interpersonal skills and Creative/change ability. The ten competencies under each of these cluster headings provides a useful starting point to evolve a leadership development approach that can help any organization’s leaders to be better able to cope with the many situations they encounter.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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  1. Brenda R.December 1, 2012 at 4:43 am

    Thank you for posting this article and articulating the distinction between competencies and styles. I noticed that there was no mention of cross cultural competence in the interpersonal section or inclusion and diversity within creative change section. Please consider these components in your model. Management and leadership is operating in many instances within very diverse and/or global contexts.

  2. Dr. Jon WarnerDecember 16, 2012 at 9:44 pmAuthor

    Thanks Brenda and I think you make a valid point about cross cultural competencies and diversity. There are others that could have been included in all 4 quadrants of course -its one of the things that is lost in producing a model such as this.

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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