The Power of Continuous Leadership Development

Recently, I had two experiences that struck a chord with me and highlighted the importance of continuous leadership development and maintenance in both personal and professional settings.

The first experience was a trip to the beautiful village of Garrykennedy in County Tipperary. After a calming forest walk, we walked along the pier where many boats are moored.  We came across several boats left unused and in disrepair. Some of these boats were beyond saving, while others could be restored with a little TLC. This observation led me to reflect on the importance of maintaining and developing our skills and abilities, just like maintaining a boat to keep it seaworthy.

The second experience was a conversation I had with someone who had recently attended a leadership development program in their corporate setting. Despite knowing they had attended the course; they couldn’t recall much about it and weren’t sure if they had implemented any changes as a result. This conversation reinforced the idea that leadership development programs can be ineffective if they are not linked to the individual’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance deliverables.

Image of a rusty boat on a beach

Just like boats, our skills and leadership capabilities need continuous maintenance and development to stay afloat and thrive.

Standing Still is Moving Backwards

These experiences led me to draw two key conclusions. Firstly, standing still is going backwards. In life and in leadership, when we don’t use a skill or don’t upskill, we can become stagnated and find our skillset out of date. The longer we leave anything unattended, the harder it can be to get it back to a state of repair. This is particularly relevant in today’s rapidly evolving business environment, where staying ahead of the curve requires continuous learning and development.


The Cost of Ineffective Leadership Development Programs

Secondly, leadership development programs can be a waste of money if they are not strategically aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives. As I mentioned in a previous article, “Effective Leadership Development –  Is it worth your money?,” ineffective programs can be a “tick the box” exercise, failing to deliver meaningful results. To avoid this, any training, development, and leadership coaching must be linked to the business strategy and goals, as well as the individual attendee’s KPIs and performance deliverables.


Aligning Development with Business Strategy

For business owners and those responsible for overseeing the development of their staff and teams, there are two key reminders:

  1. Any training, development, and leadership coaching must be both linked with the business strategy and goals and also linked to the individual attendee’s KPIs and performance deliverables.
  2. All resources, including people, need to be cared for and maintained so that they can perform at their best. This includes providing the necessary support and resources for employees to develop their skills and stay up-to-date with industry developments.


In addition, understanding the optimum conditions for the transfer of learning within an organization is crucial. Research suggests that several factors influence successful transfer of learning, including:

Motivation: The Driving Force Behind Learning and Transfer

These are key factors identified by Colquitt and colleagues (2000) that increase the transfer of training. Motivation to learn and motivation to transfer are essential for ensuring that employees are engaged and committed to applying their new skills and knowledge.

The Role of Organisational Climate in Learning

Organisational Climate: The organisational climate plays a significant role in fostering transfer of learning. A supportive and inclusive environment can increase employee motivation to learn and transfer what they have learned.

Maximising Training Through Strategic Interventions

Pre-Training, During Training, and Post-Training Interventions: These interventions are critical in maximising the transfer of training. Pre-training interventions can include setting clear goals and expectations, during training can include active learning and feedback, and post-training can include reinforcement and support from within the organisation.

Understanding Trainee Characteristics

Trainee Characteristics: Individual differences such as IQ and self-efficacy can influence how much employees learn and transfer to their jobs. Conducting a needs analysis before training can help identify trainee characteristics that predict training transfer.

Designing Effective Training Programs

Design of Trainings: Trainings should be designed to encourage active, self-regulated learning that facilitates the acquisition of complex skills. This can include interactive and engaging methods that increase learner motivation and participation.

The Critical Role of Managerial Support

Managerial Support: Managerial support is essential in influencing whether employees choose to participate in non-mandatory developmental activities. Leaders can shape the degree of learning transfer through informal reinforcement of transfer activities.


Leaving Nothing to Chance in Leadership Development

In the words of Belgian sailor, Annie Van De Wiele, “The art of the sailor is to leave nothing to chance”, and the same can be said of developing the leadership population within any organisation.  There is more chance of success if leadership development is focused and the conditions for learning are fertile. By adopting this mindset and focusing on continuous development and maintenance, we can ensure that our team’s skills and abilities remain relevant and effective in today’s fast-paced business environment.

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