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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Weitzer

When it comes to leadership development, choosing the right approach matters.

Not all leadership training is the same…nor are all leadership experiences designed to achieve similar results.

When selecting a course, consider your goals relative to the experiential design. While cost may be a significant influencer in your final decision-making process, it should be among the last factors considered. After all, you are making an investment in yourself. Make sure you get what you need.

Here is a brief description of each of the varied types of leadership programs available in the market. Be aware that there will be nuances among programs, even within the broader categories. This summary is by no means meant to be the final word, but rather a place to begin your search and provide a more informed position of inquiry.

Advanced Academic Course of Study

Traditional MBA programs can help professionals enhance their career opportunities by providing skills and knowledge in a broad spectrum of business-related topics. Accredited MBA programs are generally built around a core curriculum that includes accounting, economics, management, quantitative analysis/statistics, and strategy. Depending on program philosophy and faculty expertise, other course offerings might include finance, marketing, supply chain strategies, human resources, business law, international business, entrepreneurship, communications, and business analytics. Curriculum is typically designed around theoretic models supported by research.

Leadership Degrees, Certificates, and formal Continuing Education

There are an increasing number of institutions of higher education constructing “leadership” certificates, degrees, and associated forms of leadership training. As these have evolved, most appear to be designed in a traditional, single topic-single course theme design model, often repackaging existing curricula into shorter learning modules. Examples of these courses may include leading teams, effective interpersonal communication, decision-making, coaching, motivating others, cultural awareness, professional communication, leading change, technical writing, and negotiation. For the emerging leader with little or no exposure to the cadre of topics, or the moderately seasoned leader who recognizes an opportunity for skill enhancement in specific areas of study, such training may be beneficial. The curriculum often provides a detailed exploration of some of the research and popular literature focusing on best practices, and provides opportunities to explore the topic through reflection, group activities, and case studies.

Leadership Academy

A leadership academy refers to the worldwide group of leaders dedicated to improving the efficacy of those in leadership roles. Its core mission is to support the authenticity of the leader, enhance awareness of the leader’s role, responsibilities, and influence, and foster the development of leaders across generations, industries, and cultures. Academies embrace the synergistic relationship between a thoughtful driving intellectual mindset and inner, guiding awareness. Utilizing personalized assessment, a development strategy is defined and supported through a framework of core leadership principles that will support refinement of the leader. The academy model features a focus on the individual leader’s purpose and passion, and supports performance by raising awareness regarding the circle of influence on organizational dynamics. Graduates of an academy, typically have a newfound appreciation of their roles and responsibilities, and have an action plan for furthering their leadership influence and impact on performance.

Leadership Support Networks

Leadership support networks can be formal or informal groups of leaders dedicated to supporting each other through group think, shared experiential learning, and other forms of professional learning. These networks typically have a group facilitator whose role is to identify key topics of interest and resource expertise, while coordinating meeting agendas and providing individual coaching and consultation referral. These networks are typically designed for the senior leaders, non-CEO C-suite leaders, and leaders in specialized areas (e.g., Human Resources, Information Technology, Marketing).

Specialized Leadership Programs focused on skill enhancement/team building

There are a number of specialized leadership programs designed specifically to foster the development of a specific set skills of those who may be in (or may soon be in) a leadership role. These programs have an established, uniform series of topics delivered consistently to each participating cohort. Topics may include building strong teams, supporting employee engagement, building trusted relationships, leading culture and change, time management, effective delegation, conducting performance reviews, leading across generations, conflict resolution, facilitating productive meetings, optimizing team performance, coaching and providing feedback, networking, and refining presentation skills. Often, programs have a set curricular design and utilize an internally standardized curriculum and delivery process to ensure continuity across trainers and programs. Larger organizations may develop their own brand of leadership training following this formula.

Community-based Leadership Programs

Community-based leadership programs (typically offered through chambers and other civic organizations) provide short duration training with a focus on personal empowerment and civic engagement. Topics might focus on self-awareness, group dynamics, motivation, self-management tools, basic project management, business networking, social and community awareness, and general business issues. In addition, these programs provide a high degree of value to candidates seeking to better understand and positively impact their communities and service organizations.

There are many characteristics and attributes that contribute to the uniqueness of each category of leadership program. It is important to weight the attributes against the goals you have for yourself and your developing leader. Each has its merits and intended audience. In fact, designing a long-range plan that is sure to result in a highly skilled, well-rounded leader is likely to require a combination of programs at different times. Recognize that no one program will meets the needs of your entire organization, nor was any program designed to be a perpetual resources throughout your career. The first step in selecting an appropriate program for leadership support is to ask yourself the question, "What do I need right here, right now?"


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