The importance of leadership training for upskilling employees

Cydnie Smith
Smiling woman with long dark hair in a black shirt.
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What qualities or characteristics make a great leader at your organization?

As you reflect on this question, I want you to grab a pen and paper and jot down five things that come to mind.

Take as long as you need to work through this exercise.

Once you complete this exercise, take a moment to look at your list. What are some of the things you wrote down? 

  • Problem-solving skills?
  • Excellent communication?
  • Supportive demeanor?
  • Innovative visionary?
  • Commitment to achieving (and helping others achieve) a desired goal?

Spend some time examining the characteristics you believe a great leader should possess, and as you do so, I want you to consider your employees. How many members of your workforce exhibit all of the qualities you outlined? 

Likely, there aren’t many – mainly since studies show that only 10% of people are natural leaders.

When it comes to leadership qualities, you’re either born with them or not. So it makes sense that leadership positions are reserved for a select few, right?

Well – what if I told you that’s not always the case? What if I said every employee in your organization could be a great leader?

As the legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi once said: “Leaders aren't born; they are made.” And how are they made? That’s where leadership training comes in.

Why does employee leadership training matter?

It’s a common misconception that leadership training is reserved exclusively for management. But, the truth is, anybody can be a leader in their own right. 

Leadership is not just about holding a management position or having a fancy title. It’s about being a person of influence, inspiring others to become their best selves, and helping your team to achieve a particular goal. Thus, it is essential to equip all employees with leadership skills, regardless of their job titles, to ensure that they contribute to the growth and success of the organization. 

So today, we’ll explore everything you need to know about leadership training, including topics like:

By investing in leadership development programs, you can help your employees cultivate the skills and qualities required for effective leadership, ultimately leading to increased productivity, profitability, and overall organizational success!

What is leadership training or leadership development training?

Leadership training, or leadership development training, is a formal program designed to help employees develop the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to lead others effectively. The primary goal of leadership training is to create strong, confident, and capable leaders who can motivate and inspire employees, solve complex problems, make strategic decisions, and drive organizational success. 

As we discussed at the beginning of this article, it’s more than just a program reserved for management, senior directors, or other leadership teams. But instead, it is a crucial part of upskilling that can extend across all organizational levels and industries. 

“Wait – other industries?”

I know, I know. When you think of leadership training, it can be difficult to shake the image of corporate men and women dressed in suits and heading to another boardroom meeting.

But leadership training is a valuable learning experience that can address any organization's unique challenges and needs. 

So why don’t we look closely at leadership training that may vary across industries?

A "split-screen" of two workers. On the left, a retail cashier in an apron stands behind a counter, imagining themself as a manager, who is holding two gold keys. On the right, a construction worker in coveralls pushes a wheelbarrow across a construction site, while imagining themself as a manager-type, wearing a suit and holding a clipboard.

Take manufacturing and construction, for instance. While these industries are categorically similar, they may require different leadership styles, strategies, and approaches based on their unique characteristics, challenges, and goals. 

In the manufacturing industry, where the emphasis is on efficiency, productivity, and quality control, every employee must be highly organized, detail-oriented, and able to delegate and complete tasks effectively. Think about it – one slight misstep could mean life or death. So, a manufacturing leadership training program may incorporate topics like operational efficiency, quality control, supply chain management, and problem-solving. It may also equip employees with the skills to set clear goals, establish effective processes, and monitor performance.

In comparison, construction is a more dynamic industry that requires employees to be adaptable, responsive, collaborative, and manage risk effectively. As a result, a leadership program for this industry may focus more on empowering employees, building trust and collaboration, and fostering innovation. Additionally, construction-focused leadership training may teach employees to manage tight schedules, budgets, and resources while ensuring high-quality work.

Now let’s pivot to the retail industry. The retail environment is much more customer-centric and sales-focused than construction or manufacturing. So, leadership training in this industry may differ tremendously from our previous examples. Employees must be highly responsive, empathetic, and able to communicate effectively with customers, employees, and stakeholders. In this case, leadership training might focus on communication skills, sales techniques, and customer relationship management to optimize sales and profitability.

On the other hand, despite being equally customer-focused, the restaurant industry requires staff to operate a tight ship while keeping each other engaged and motivated. So, instead of focusing on customer relations like retailers, a restaurant’s leadership training may emphasize operational efficiency, team management, and customer satisfaction.

In a nutshell, the specific nature of leadership training may vary depending on your organization’s unique needs. Nevertheless, regardless of the nature of your organization, investing in leadership training can significantly impact your business's growth and success. But what is that impact? And what do all of these industries – and many more have in common?

They all rely on their people's performance to create a workplace that employees will want to join and continue to work with. Perhaps, at any leadership level, the most important aspect of a leader’s job is to reduce employee turnover and churn.

Why is leadership training necessary for upskilling employees?

Let’s go back to your list of leadership qualities for a second. Say you wrote down things like problem-solving, excellent communication, support, innovation, and achieving business goals. 

We know that these are some of the qualities that make a great leader, but improving these skills in your employees can make a significant impact on your organization. How? Think about it this way:

  • If your employees communicate more effectively with their colleagues, they'll collaborate better across projects and achieve their goals.
  • If employees can make sound decisions and solve problems efficiently, your organization will save time and resources.
  • If your workforce is constantly driving innovation within your organization, your business will not only continue to grow, but you may also gain an edge over your competition.
  • And if your employees support each other and inspire each other to improve their overall performances, they will contribute to a more positive and productive work environment.

Ultimately, leadership training is integral to upskilling because it equips your employees with skills and knowledge to improve their performance and add value to their organization. Of course, this is just a brief synopsis of why leadership is essential for upskilling your employees. So let’s dive deeper into some of the benefits of leadership training, shall we? 

How can leadership training benefit your employees?

When it comes to leadership training, it’s not just about teaching your employees new skills. It’s also about what they gain from learning those new skills. 

In addition to better communication, decision-making, problem-solving, and team-building skills, here are some ways investing in employee leadership training can benefit your employees.

  • Increase employee confidence and self-awareness: Leadership training programs help employees to understand their strengths and weaknesses, identify their leadership style, and develop a leadership philosophy. It also provides opportunities for your workforce to practice leadership skills and receive feedback, which can help build confidence and improve their performance, increasing job satisfaction and motivation.
  • Improve time management: Effective leaders know how to manage their time and prioritize tasks to maximize productivity. Leadership training can teach employees these skills, which can help them become more efficient and effective in their work.
  • Enhance creativity: By encouraging employees to think outside the box and take risks, leadership training programs help them develop the skills necessary to promote innovation and creativity. It teaches your workforce to create a culture of experimentation and risk-taking while ensuring employees evaluate and implement ideas effectively.
  • Provide a clear path for career advancement: Leadership training can help employees qualify for leadership positions and take on more significant roles within the company. More career opportunities mean increased job satisfaction, improved job security, higher salaries, and reduced employee turnover.

Happier, more confident, efficient, and creative employees will likely be more productive, engaged, and committed to their work — leading to greater organizational success. 

Speaking of organizational success…

How can leadership training benefit your organization?

The benefits of leadership training don’t just affect your employees but can extend to every level of your organization. So let’s look at a few examples of ways leadership training can positively impact your business.

"With leadership training, everyone wins!" A table split into two columns. Column one, "benefits for employees": Increase employee confidence and self-awareness, improve time management, enhance creativity, and provide a clear path for career advancement. Column two, "benefits for organizations": Increases productivity, increases employee retention and engagement, improves service quality, and keeps organizations ahead of the curve.

Increases productivity

Leadership training programs can help employees work smarter, not harder. Employees can accomplish more in less time by learning time management skills, prioritization techniques, and effective delegation. When employees are more productive, your organization benefits from increased efficiency, higher quality work, and better results.

Increases employee engagement

One of the critical benefits of leadership training is that it can increase employee engagement. Leadership training can help employees develop a sense of purpose and meaning in their work. They learn how their work contributes to the organization's overall goals and how they can make a difference – giving your employees greater motivation to succeed, increasing their overall engagement in their roles, and boosting morale within your team.

Increases employee retention

Nearly one-third of workers cited “lack of career advancement” as the main factor influencing their decision to change employers. Leadership training programs can help organizations create a culture of learning and development that encourages employees to grow and thrive. When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and stay with the organization long-term – reducing turnover and recruitment costs.

Improves service quality

Leadership training programs can help employees develop empathy, active listening, and problem-solving skills. When employees understand their clients' or customers' needs and expectations, they can provide better service, build stronger relationships, and increase customer satisfaction (and sales!)

Keeps organizations ahead of the curve

From an employee perspective, leadership training can help develop the skills they need to think creatively and implement new ideas. They learn to think outside the box, challenge assumptions, and take risks. But how does enhanced creativity affect your organization? When employees become more innovative and creative, new ideas, products, and processes can help the organization stay ahead of the competition.

By investing in leadership training, organizations can benefit from improved productivity, innovation, and employee engagement while providing employees with career advancement and personal growth opportunities. And as you can see, investing in employee leadership training is a win-win for the individual and the company!

Okay – we’ve established how your employees and organization can benefit from leadership training. Naturally, the question is: “How do I add leadership training to my existing upskilling program?”

But before discussing implementing leadership training, we must first understand the different leadership styles.

Are there different leadership styles? 

A leadership style refers to the specific approach or method to teach individuals how to exemplify leadership qualities within the workplace. There are many different leadership styles, but today we will focus on the six most common ones: transformational, delegative, authoritative, transactional, participative, and servant leadership. As we review each leadership style, I want you to reflect on your organization. What are your top priorities for your team? Which style best aligns best with your current infrastructure and business goals?

A character stands in the middle of the image, looking confused and scratching the back of their head. A thought bubble covers the top half of the image, with the list of leadership styles scattered within it, with icons: Authoritative (clipboard), transformational (speech bubble with a smiley face), participative (speech bubbles with a question mark and check mark), delegative (handshake), transactional (two people with an arrow between), servant (hand holding a heart), and blended approach (blender).


Transformational leadership is a leadership style that focuses on motivating and inspiring others to achieve exceptional performance. This style is ideal for industries like tech, for example, because it can help empower team members to think critically and outside the box, resulting in more innovative solutions that improve business outcomes. Further, it can help develop your team’s collaboration skills, foster workplace encouragement, and teach them how to inspire each other with a shared vision that aligns their goals with your organization's mission.


Delegative leadership develops crucial skills like task delegation and decision-making. It also teaches your employees how to guide and support their fellow team members. This approach is ideal for organizations like restaurants that value collaboration and teamwork. Delegative leadership works best when the team members are skilled and experienced, allowing them to use their knowledge and expertise to make informed decisions that benefit the organization.


Authoritative leadership is a leadership style that emphasizes setting clear expectations and guidelines. With authoritative leadership, your employees will learn how to make decisions based on their expertise and experience – which is ideal for organizations that require a decisive leader who can make quick and informed decisions. The authoritative leadership style works best in high-pressure situations where quick decisions are needed (think front-line workers!)


Transactional leadership uses a reward and punishment system to motivate team members. In a nutshell, it relies on setting clear expectations and goals and then providing rewards for achieving them. 

Transactional leadership works best in environments like call centers or sales, where tasks are routine and predictable. It creates a clear sense of accountability for team members and motivates them to perform at their best.


Participative leadership is where employees involve their team members in decision-making processes. Through this leadership style, employees learn how to effectively listen to their team members' opinions and incorporate them into final decisions. This approach creates a sense of ownership and accountability for team members.

Participative leadership is ideal for organizations that value collaboration and teamwork. It creates a sense of unity among team members and encourages them to work together to achieve their goals.


Servant leadership teaches employees to prioritize their team members' needs above their own. Instead of simply assigning tasks or expectations, servant leadership focuses on supporting and empowering team members to achieve business goals. This approach creates a positive work environment and fosters trust and loyalty among team members.

Servant leadership is an excellent way for organizations to prioritize employee well-being and job satisfaction. This style of leadership training helps foster a positive work culture and can help improve your team member's performance.

As you think about which leadership styles best align with your organization’s needs, you may wonder: “Do leadership styles matter, though? Isn’t it more important to have a comprehensive program?”

Do leadership styles actually matter?

Some say that different leadership styles matter, while others argue that they don't.

Let's dive into both arguments, shall we?

On the one hand, proponents of different leadership styles believe that when employees embody a particular style, they can significantly impact their team's productivity, motivation, and overall success.  For example, a transformational approach to leadership that inspires and motivates your workforce to achieve their goals may be more effective than transactional leadership, which simply provides rewards or punishment based on performance. Additionally, an autocratic leader who makes all decisions without seeking input from other team members may stifle creativity and innovation. In contrast, democratic leaders who seek input from their colleagues may foster a more collaborative and innovative environment.

On the other hand, those who argue that leadership styles don't matter believe that an employee’s skills and competencies are more important than their leadership style. For example, an employee with strong communication skills, emotional intelligence, and the ability to build relationships with their team members may be more effective than one who follows a specific leadership style. Additionally, some argue that different situations may require different leadership styles, and an adaptable employee who can adjust their style based on the situation may be more effective than a leader who is rigid in their approach.

So, which side of the coin is correct?

Ultimately, while leadership styles can have an impact on a team's success, it may be more important to focus on developing an effective training program that integrates skillsets from all training styles. A well-designed training program can help leaders develop the skills and competencies necessary to lead effectively, regardless of their style. By developing these skills, leaders can become more adaptable and effective in different situations, leading to better team performance and success.

What are the best leadership training topics to include in your program?

Now that we’ve broken down what leadership training is and why it’s important, as well as exploring the  different leadership styles, you may be wondering when you can start building a leadership training program of your own!

But before you can start developing your leadership training, we must consider what content your leadership training should cover. To answer this question, I’ve compiled a list of the twelve best leadership training topics across three different groups – leading others, organizational leadership, and ethics and social responsibility – you should include in your training program.

List of leadership training courses in a 4x3 grid titled, "Leading others + organizational leadership + ethics & social responsibility." The first column is aligned with courses that fall under "leading others": Inspiring their team, project planning and delegating, and coaching and mentoring. Columns two and three are related to "organizational leadership": Embracing the unknown, finding solutions, leading innovation, navigating the digital world, managing meetings effectively, and working smarter, not harder. The fourth column is "ethics and social responsibility": Effective communication skills, navigating differences and managing conflict, and building trust and respect.

Leadership training that focuses on leading others

Inspiring their team

Motivating and encouraging employees is a crucial part of organizational success – and who better motivates your team than your team? Leadership training helps your team inspire each other to achieve their goals and perform at their best. It can teach your workforce to recognize and reward their individual and collective achievements, help them provide feedback and support when needed, and work together to create a positive and supportive work environment.

Project planning (and delegating)

Planning and effective task delegation are some of the most critical skills your team members must possess. Project planning includes setting goals, defining the project's scope, and assigning responsibilities to team members. Effective project planning and delegation can help reduce stress, increase productivity, and ensure tasks are completed on time and within budget. Leadership training can help develop this skill, helping improve your employees’ communication skills,  ability to delegate tasks effectively, and ability to manage their time and workload.

Coaching and mentoring

Coaching is a leadership skill that can help your team members provide feedback, support, and guidance to each other to help improve their skills and achieve their goals. Effective coaching involves active listening, providing constructive feedback, and being willing to adapt your coaching style to meet the needs of each team member. It also provides an opportunity to close generational gaps and utilize employee strengths for the betterment of your organization. Whether Millennial, Generation Z, or Baby Boomer, each generation has different talents and expertise that can provide valuable mentoring opportunities. Your leadership training program should cover topics that explore how to explore these coaching opportunities to contribute to the growth and evolution of your workforce.

Leadership training within an organization

Embracing the unknown

Your team must adapt quickly to new situations in today's rapidly changing business landscape. Coping with change means embracing the unknown and being able to pivot when necessary. It's about anticipating and responding to changes in the market, industry, or internal operations. Leadership training develops skills like decision-making to help your employees navigate uncertainty and overcome the challenges of change.

Finding solutions

Employees will encounter problems daily. Whether it's a technical issue or a personnel problem, they need to be able to find solutions quickly and efficiently. Problem-solving involves identifying the root cause of the problem, brainstorming potential solutions, and then choosing the best course of action. Leadership training helps cultivate problem-solving by teaching your workforce how to assess risks and then make a decision that benefits the organization as a whole.

Leading innovation

Innovation is the lifeblood of any successful organization, so fostering a culture of creativity and innovation within your team is vital. Your leadership training should focus on innovation and creativity and encourage your team to think outside the box, take risks, and develop new ideas. Additionally, it teaches them to be open to feedback and constructive criticism.

Navigating the digital world

Today, many teams work remotely or have members in different locations. Virtual leadership is about being able to lead effectively in a digital environment.  Covering virtual leadership teaches employees to communicate clearly, establish trust with other team members, and use technology effectively to collaborate and get work done. It also helps your workforce manage their time and energy effectively, as well as their workloads and productivity levels.

Managing meetings effectively

Meetings can be a time-consuming and unproductive part of your workday if not managed effectively. But our goal here is to help you save money and boost productivity. Thankfully leadership training can help! Topics about managing meetings effectively involve setting clear goals and agendas, inviting the right people, and staying on topic. This training can help your team learn how to manage the time spent in meetings, ensuring that everyone has a chance to contribute and providing actionable follow-up after the meeting.

Working smarter, not harder

Managing your time and energy is essential for achieving organizational goals and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Time management training involves prioritizing tasks, setting goals, and managing workloads effectively. Energy management involves understanding an individual’s energy levels throughout the day, managing stress, and learning the importance of taking breaks to recharge when needed. I mean, no one wants employee burnout, right?

Ethical and socially responsible leadership training

Effective communication skills

Effective communication skills are the cornerstone of great leadership.  Whether a manager or team player, employees need to be able to communicate their vision, goals, and expectations clearly to the rest of the team. Effective communication means listening actively, asking open-ended questions, and providing constructive feedback. It also means being able to communicate with different types of people, including those with varying communication styles or different cultural backgrounds.

Navigating differences and managing conflict

We’ve already established that leadership is a mentality (regardless of position). That means, as a leader, there are times that employees may encounter conflicts. Conflict can arise from various factors, including differences in opinions, values, or personalities. Thus, it's essential to learn how to navigate these conflicts effectively. Employees must be able to identify the root cause of the conflict, listen to all parties involved, and find a solution that works for everyone. Conflict resolution is not about winning or losing but finding a compromise everyone can live with.

Building trust and respect

Building trust and respect in the workplace is essential for creating a positive work environment. Employees should be reliable, honest, and accountable for their actions. But these qualities aren’t always innate – which is where leadership training comes in. Leadership training that builds trust and respect focuses on improving employees’ willingness to listen to others, take feedback constructively, and respect others' opinions and perspectives. 

At the end of the day, leadership skills are essential in any workplace, and these training topics can help you develop those skills within your team regardless of their positions.

How to find a leadership training program that suits your future leaders?

Well, we’ve officially made it to the end of our leadership training journey. 

You have a list of the leadership qualities that your employees should exhibit. You know that developing these qualities is essential for increasing productivity, profitability, and overall organizational success. You know that leadership training is the missing piece of your upskilling program. 

But how do you actually build your leadership training program?

 Well, the first step is to assess your eLearning options.  

As you embark on the quest to build the perfect leadership development program for your team, you’ll likely come across several different options for course creation, including custom courses, content authoring tools, and bundled courses. So, let’s explore these options and key considerations to help you make the best choice for your organization. 

Custom courses

Custom eLearning courses are tailor-made to meet your organization's specific needs. After carefully considering your organization's culture, goals, and leadership requirements, you can design these courses to focus on specific leadership skills or areas of weakness. I must admit that custom courses are often more expensive and require a lot of time and resources. But they offer more flexibility, provide a more personalized learning experience (which your employees will love), and can be more effective in achieving your organization's goals.

Content authoring tools

eLearning authoring tools are software programs allowing users to create and develop online courses. These tools offer a range of templates, multimedia, and interactive features to create engaging and effective learning experiences. This option can be more cost-effective but requires more time and resources to develop and maintain.

Packaged eLearning content programs

Bundled programs are pre-designed training courses that cover a range of leadership topics. These programs are often less expensive than custom courses but may be less effective in meeting your organization's needs.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer for building your leadership training program. It may be a combination of the above options, along with some that aren’t mentioned. The decision depends entirely on your organization’s culture, goals, and leadership requirements. 

Before diving in head-first, I recommend auditing your training needs to fully understand your organization's learning objectives, business goals, and skill gaps. You can also check out these articles on custom courses and authoring tools to help you make a more informed decision.

In fact, before you take the plunge into leadership development training, it’s important to determine what training you need and how you will deliver it to your learners. Luckily, our Learning Hub is available to you to explore more eLearning concepts and techniques to help you meet your organizational goals!

Smiling woman with long dark hair in a black shirt.
Cydnie Smith

Cydnie is an experienced writer, editor, and blogger who believes that accessibility plus a dash of creative storytelling is essential to cultivating a memorable learning experience.

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