In today’s increasingly complex and dynamic environments, leadership is regarded as an important part of organisational success. Management training and development is considered a vital facet of the organisational community and environment. Various studies show that companies that align their management development and strategic goals are successful in competitive business environments.
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However, can these organisations remain competitive without the interventions of trained managers? Companies need effective managers who hold relevant practical, interpersonal, and conceptual skills to lead organisations in complex business situations. In a fast paced world, effective organisational management is necessary for the development of a positive workplace that helps employees to realise optimal performance.
In an ideal world, all managers are expected to be leaders. Nevertheless, not all appointed managers possess good leadership skills. The most effective leaders are characterised by good management skills. As a result, organisations invest heavily in specialised leadership programmes to instil effective leadership skills in managers. This essay seeks to establish whether managers can be trained to be leaders, especially in organisations that thrive in ever-changing, competitive business environment.
Why Leadership is Important
Leaders can be seen as individuals who influence other people, especially in a group, to follow their decisions. Without leadership in a group, the achievement of goals would be difficult. Leadership is a process where leaders influence followers with a view of realising desired organisational objectives, which are mostly stimulated by change. This statement reveals the significance of leadership.
It plays an important role in optimising efficiency in organisations. It follows that followers cannot exist without leaders. Equally, without leaders and followers, organisations will be non-existent. Organisations shoulder the dispositions of their leaders. However, to maximise productivity while shaping a positive culture in the workplace, key persons ought to guide both individuals and groups with suitable leadership styles. As a result, leadership development becomes a key concept in the accomplishment of organisational objectives. A leader is charged with initiating actions, creating motivation, providing guidance, confidence, and morale with a view of coordinating and building a positive work environment.
Leadership is rather a demanding task. The realisation of successful leadership is characterised by a path full of relentless encounters and bombshells. Nevertheless, leaders do not face such encounters single-handedly. They solve challenges together with groups that they lead. The principal task of a leader is to inspire individuals in a team to solve the problems at hand. However, effective leaders acknowledge that communication between them and team members is an important tool for organisational management in addition to personal qualities. The strength of a leader is seen in key processes such as goal-setting, constant feedback, and reward systems.
Can Managers be Trained to be Leaders?
The concept of whether leadership is born or created has remained a timeless debate since the nineteenth century. Due to a need to seek content and definitions for leadership, various theories emerged. For instance, the trait theories of leadership held that the most effective leaders possessed distinctive characteristics that distinguished them from unproductive leaders and other staff in an organisation (Northouse 2013).
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Although managers may be different in many aspects, common traits such as uprightness, self-confidence, and determination among others make them great leaders. However, the theory assumes that human traits are inspired by nature; hence, leaders are born (Northouse 2013). Nevertheless, the theory was criticised in the 1940s after various scholars claimed that intuitive traits were not the only factors that determined effectiveness in leadership. If such traits solely determined great leaders, then organisations would only need to employ persons with precise personalities to accomplish their goals successfully (Northouse 2013).
This criticism on the trait theories resulted in the development of another philosophy of behavioural theories. These concepts emphasised on the explicit individual behaviours. Proponents of this school of thought believe that behaviours are acquired over time rather than born. Kurt Lewin’s autocratic, democratic, and Laissez-faire leadership styles originate from the behavioural theories (Northouse 2013). In autocratic leadership, orders are issued and obeyed without asking questions. This style of leadership is particularly practiced in armed forces globally. Soldiers are expected to comply with orders from their seniors without rejection. In this case, leadership is acquired through training.
By the same token, managers can be trained to be leaders. They can benefit from activities such as leadership development programmes that concentrate on fostering effective management skills. The best management training programmes involve action learning and business modelling. Individuals are encouraged to learn not only from their experiences but also from the experiences of other people. A study involving over 1800 army officers (funded by the United States Army and Department of Defense) set forth a model to identify individual characteristics that contribute to high performance in organisations.
The research resulted in the development of a skills-based leadership model that linked the knowledge of leaders to their performance. According to this research, leadership capabilities can be nurtured through training and experience. It follows that leadership is not set aside for the talented people rather it can be acquired through development programmes. In other words, it can be asserted that individuals can improve their problem-solving skills through job experience and education (Northouse 2013). Although persons who are assertive, social, and audacious are often inclined to leadership, those who are more silent, reflective, enthusiastic, and thoughtful can be trained to lead.
Leadership is an everyday learning activity that comes with development of solutions to new challenges that arise in the workplace. Today, effective management training programmes focus on action learning and business simulation. The use of proactive instructional approaches to training allows leaders to think broadly while drawing upon their experiences and views from other people. However, the most effective leaders share a common aspect named emotional intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence in Leadership
Emotional intelligence is the intuitive ability to acknowledge, understand, and control individual emotions and those of other people. It determines the efficacy of a leader when it comes to the business map. However, in spite of vast research on emotional intelligence, many managers disdain this topic. Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, advances that a high degree of IQ and technical skills are undoubtedly among the most important predetermining factors in the selection of leaders.
However, Goleman (2012) proceeds to reveal that the most effective leaders possess of exceptional emotional intelligence. This factor has a significant impact on the successfulness of organisations. Sanofi, a Pharmaceutical company in France, set out to study the emotional intelligence capabilities of its workforce. This research led to the development of management training programmes that emphasised the understanding own issues and those of other persons in the business environment.
Goleman (2012) reveals that emotional intelligence has five elements that determine the effectiveness of leaders based on their abilities to manage them. These elements include self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Understanding the composition of emotional intelligence is necessary since some psychologists believe that some people lack some of its elements, a situation that can be disastrous to business development. In his research, Goleman (2012) concentrated more on the elements of emotional intelligence with a view of establishing the contagious nature of emotions at work. His research also linked leader’s emotional states to organisational profitability. According to Goleman (2012), leaders can absolutely increase each element of emotional intelligence through management training.
Self-awareness is an aspect that allows individuals to know how they feel. People with a high degree of self-awareness understand their emotions and how the influence they can have on the people around them (Goleman 2012; Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee 2013). In a leadership situation, a leader is expected to know his/her strengths and weaknesses. Leaders should practice humility. This element can be improved through training programmes.
For instance, keeping journals can assist leaders to increase their ability of self-awareness. In training sessions, they are encouraged to spend some minutes each day to note down their thoughts. Although this may seem an obvious practice, Goleman (2012) reveals that it plays a central role in increasing the degree of self-awareness amongst leaders. Furthermore, training encourages leaders to slow down whenever they experience anger. Holding back emotions allows a person to examine a situation carefully to establish its causes. This approach enables a leader to come up with the most appropriate reactions issues that arise in the workplace (Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee 2013). Self-awareness goes beyond a person’s understanding of his/her emotions, values, and goals.
On the other hand, self-regulation refers to the ability to remain in control of situations. This element is a product of biological impulses, which are the primary drivers of human emotions. Goleman (2012, p. 85) sees self-regulation as “an on-going inner conversation, a component of emotional intelligence that frees us from being prisoners of our feelings”. Managers who control themselves avoid offensive conducts such as verbal attacks, hasty judgements, and stereotyping. Besides, they do not compromise their values for personal benefits; they executive goals for the overall good of the organisation (Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee 2013).
Self-regulation also entails flexibility and obligation to individual responsibility. This element can be improved by training leaders to have clear ideas about their values. Managers are required to re-examine their codes of ethics from time to time. In this manner, they are not likely to encounter challenges when making moral decisions in the organisation. According to Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee (2013), self-regulation can also be improved by sensitising managers to personal accountability.
For instance, managers who are fond of point the finger at others when something goes wrong are encouraged to stop such habits. Instead, they should acknowledge their slip-ups and endure the associated costs. Furthermore, managers can also improve self-regulation by practicing composure (Karp 2015). In challenging encounters, effective leaders are expected to know how they act. For instance, managers are not expected to shout at their team. Such vices can be avoided by practicing deep-breathing exercises to calm down.
Mittal and Sindhu (2012) regard motivation as a key factor in leadership. Self-motivated managers work effortlessly towards the realisation of organisational goals. Besides, they have outstanding standards for the value of work they deliver. Goal setting plays an important role in self-motivation. Managers are encouraged to re-examine the purposes of their jobs. According to Mittal and Sindhu (2012), it is easy for people to overlook or disremember what they like about their occupation. Thus, managers should take some time to recall why they loved their career. This strategy can help them regenerate goal statements that are new and energising. By this means, they improve self-motivation considerably.
Leadership motivation assessment programmes are helpful in determining the degree of motivation amongst managers. Highly motivated managers display archetypal leadership, which further inspires employees to accomplish individual tasks (Karp 2015). Finally, motivation brings about optimism. Effective leaders are usually hopeful even in dissolute situations. However, an optimistic attitude is acquired through management training programmes or experience.
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Empathy for Others
McCleskey (2014, p. 77) defines empathy as “the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people”. Being a key element of emotional intelligence, it helps leaders in the management of successful teams. Although empathy is easily recognised in normal activities, it is quite a sensitive aspect in the organisational environment; it does not imply espousing the emotions of other people. In business situations, empathy involves thoughtful consideration of employee feelings, values, and attitudes among other factors that guide the formulation of intelligent decisions (McCleskey 2014).
Today, empathy is a component of leadership that plays an important role in increasing the usefulness of teams while allowing rapid organisational development and retention of talent. Managers are encouraged to put themselves in the positions of their employees. In spite of the easiness to abide by individual views, they should take time to delve into situations from the standpoints of other people. Managers can also improve their leadership skills by learning how to pay attention to body language.
Bodily movements, especially during a conversion, convey important information that can help a manager make an intelligent judgement about a situation. Body language tells how a subject feels about a particular situation, whether positive or negative. McCleskey (2014) considers learning body language as a “real asset” in leadership. Being in a position to understand how another person feels creates an opportunity to come up with an appropriate reaction.
Social skills are prerequisites for resolving conflicts and managing change in organisations. In leadership, the significance of social skills goes beyond mere friendliness. This element helps leaders to move people purposefully in a desired direction (Yukl 2012). For instance, a decision to adopt an alternative marketing strategy or embrace a new product demands the use of social skills to win the interests of individual employees and groups. Socially skilled managers have a vast number of contacts. Besides, they know how to build rapport with diverse people. Socials skill is an outcome of the other scopes of emotional intelligence.
For this reason, it is easily recognisable in the work environment. For instance, socially skilled leaders are adept at handling their protégés (Yukl 2012). However, do companies consider social skill a paramount leadership aspect? According to Daft (2014), social skill is the most treasured aspect of a leader amongst the other elements of emotional intelligence. Managers are revitalised to build social skills through activities such as conflict resolution.
This element is also improved by observing proper communication with protégés, customers, and/or dealers. Indeed, good social skills help a leader to obtain valuable feedback that is needed in the realisation of organisational goals. Appreciation is also central to the development of social skills. Managers are inspired to develop reward systems for their employees to not only motivate them but also strengthen their social relationship in the workplace (Daft 2014).
So, can Leadership be Really Trained?
Based on the above discussion on emotional intelligence, which comprises the elements that determine the effectiveness of a leader in a business environment, leadership can be trained. Leadership programmes that take multi-tiered approaches to educate managers can be helpful in making effective leaders. However, it should be understood that this strategy demands skill and patience for one to succeed.
Companies spent millions of dollars each year on leadership training programmes (Johnston 2016). Nevertheless, the question whether leadership can be trained has been left unanswered. Jay Conger, an executive director of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, tells that many of the training programmes are too superficial. For this reason, they are left without significance in the way they are designed and implemented.
A two-year study involving 150 participants that was conducted by Conger revealed that individual development, strengthening of skills, feedback, conceptual consciousness, and follow-up training were essential in the development of effective leaders. In his leadership model, Mr. Conger notes that radical modifications in the discernments of leadership should be echoed in contemporary business set-ups (Johnston 2016). Effective leadership training should inspire managers to anticipate various threats and opportunities in their industry skyline and organise appropriate resources to shape the future of the organisation.
Plato believed that training a good leader required at least fifty years. Today, this process has been hastened by spending millions of dollars on leadership training programmes. Indeed, leadership is ordered second among the most trained topics after quality. Although most training packages are aimed at stimulating self-knowledge, many corporations are enticed by assurances of immediate success. As a result, they end up paying for leadership training programmes without inquiry into their design and delivery of management content. Faced with inadequate follow-ups, some executives gather adequate transfer mechanisms to take the learned skills to office while others are engulfed in distinct instructional approaches that echo the knowledge instilled in them by their tutors.
However, scepticism should not hinder us from saying that leadership programmes work. Indeed, multi-tiered approaches work well for executives. In the article “Yes, Leadership can be learned”, Johnston (2016) reveals that effective leadership training should adopt a multi-tiered approach that encompasses individual development, skill-building, feedback, and cognisance. Training programmes should be designed in a way that allows the trainees to merge theoretical knowledge with the real-life situation back at the office. As a result, the top management in an organisation ought to show commitment to leadership training. According to Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee (2013), managers should be put in touch with their passions and power to enhance personal growth.
A survey that was conducted among the top executives of both private and public firms in the US revealed their viewpoints on leadership. While 54-percent of the executives supposed that leaders were made, about 19-percent insisted that they were born. However, 28-percent held that great leaders were both born and made (McCleskey 2014). Even so, Johnston (2016) strongly believes that leadership is a product of education, training, and challenges in the environment in which managers execute their roles. Bentley Motors, a leading producer of iconic car brands in the United Kingdom, is among companies that have embraced leadership training.
The company is known for the development of new talent in managers. It offers different training schemes for entrant employees and industrial placements. With its solid foundation training programme, Bentley Motors offers a variety of options that tailor its managers to desired values (Johnston 2016). Indeed, the company has various training islands in the production facility. Recently, the company started the Bentley Training Facility at an affiliate college to improve not only the skills of its technical workforce but also develop its managers to professional leaders who will sustain its growth. Overall, the company is committed to developing passionate workforce through training programmes (Johnston 2016).
Current Trends in the Development of Managers into Effective Leaders
Leadership training has become a big business in many countries. Managers, especially those who are new in the field, may not have adequate experience to understand their desires, abilities, and interests (Yukl 2012). This situation has led to an increasing number of managers attending training programmes. Relative spending on such programmes has also been witnessed in many companies.
For instance, over 50 billion dollars are spent on training managers every year in the United Kingdom. Leadership development not only emphasises the attainment of knowledge and skills but also aims to provide an opportunity for managers to reflect on the past, contemporary, and forthcoming organisational trends. Along these lines, they can build up strength for organisational challenges in the offing. Nevertheless, the most important element in training is the attainment of a suitable balance between knowledge acquisition, action, and reflection (Northouse 2013).
Despite the fact that managers can be trained to be leaders, it is important to note that the application of leadership depends on the prevailing organisational context. Different leadership styles work differently in varying environments; hence, to realise the significance of management and leadership development, trainers are required to choose designs that focus on particular contexts rather than the use of a universal model.
For instance, the 360 degrees feedback model, which has been deemed the most efficient, can be integrated into all-inclusive management and leadership programmes. This model is guided by the work context and belief that the participant managers will improve their skills (Yukl 2012). However, the choice of the leadership development approach is rather multifaceted. As a result, trainers need to consider various aspects that they need to develop in managers and ways in which they can be accomplished effectively.
According to Northouse (2013), behaviours can be learned; hence, leadership can be trained. An appropriate skills-based approach is that which fits leadership into a real-world, teachable reality. As a result, programmes designers look into prime leadership traits that can be instilled in managers through instructional methods. For instance, in a scenario where managers need to upgrade their inspirational-speaking skills, they may be asked to devise three-minute thought-provoking presentations that are aimed at motivating staff (Mittal & Sindhu 2012; Daft 2014). Then, in minor groups, they can present their talks and be appraised by colleagues on the leadership skills under development.
Mittal and Sindhu (2012) reveal that the realisation of skill-building is based on the involvedness of the desired leadership skills. Some abilities are more composite as compared to others. For instance, communication skills are considered teachable and forthright. However, other skills such as strategic vision, which are more intricate, require learner-centred approaches to deliver them effectively.
Becoming a visionary leader is a skill that demands outright experience of several years in a pertinent field. Thus, alignment of organisational objectives with personal goals is necessary (Mittal & Sindhu 2012). In this sense, visionary leadership amongst managers is learned through important work experiences. Although such skills are not gained immediately through a day’s or a week’s acquaintance with a particular work environment, they can be reinforced though workshops, which may focus on work experiences deemed to expedite visionary leadership (Northouse 2013; Daft 2014).
A question of time also arises when it comes to instilling a particular leadership skill in managers. A person needs adequate time to understand a specific skill. While some managers spent less time on the acquisition of leadership skills, others need considerable coaching and practice to make improvements. Some programmes often accomplish a number of leadership skills in a few days. For instance, a trainer may decide to cover inspirational speaking in the morning session and visionary leadership in the afternoon.
In spite of the fact that each skill will be trained, managers participating in the exercise only get limited skill-building (Daft 2014). Even the mastery of golf strokes and nuances cannot be accomplished within a week or a month! Thus, training sessions should be designed in a way that managers get enough time to master the desired leadership skills.
Feedback Approach in Leadership Training
The most effective managers are not born; they are prepared through training programmes. Using a variety of methods is an effective strategy that enables managers to acquire and retain information, which is later applied in the workplace. Nonetheless, feedback is one of the most efficient approaches that play a great deal in developing managers to great leaders. This approach to leadership management and training induces positive thinking amongst leaders.
According to Yukl (2012), it stimulates managers to focus their abilities on particular organisational issues. The most efficient leaders know how to communicate with their followers using the feedback approach. Besides, increases the freedom between managers and employees. An example of a company that uses this approach is the Google Inc. With performance reviews at the top of the priority list, the company has reaped the benefits of adopting feedback strategies in the management department. Managers come together to conduct peer reviews with a view of preventing bias in feedback (Daft 2014).
Each manager reveals his or her leadership decisions. This strategy creates an opportunity to talk about probable limitations to feedback. This training approach improves leadership skills, which reveal in roles such as fair employee appraisals and rewards.
The literature review reveals that managers can be trained to be leaders. The bottom line of ensuring effective leadership in modern-day organisations is training managers. Leadership will continue to be prised as an essential attribute for organisational success in the contemporary world. It has been proved that organisations now expect their senior managers to be effective leaders. In turn, they invest heavily in specialised leadership programmes.
The status quo of the manager has a significant effect not only on employee performance and satisfaction but also production efficiency, turnover rates, and the overall wellbeing of the organisation. Since effective management does not just happen, managers need to be trained to deal with elusive workforce matters in ways that motivate them. Nevertheless, to become successful leaders, managers should also understand that leadership is fundamentally different from the managing tasks. Management training programmes should emphasise the understanding own issues and those of other persons in the organisational environment.
To realise this objective, such packages should train managers to be leaders based on the five elements of emotional intelligence, which include self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Good leadership amongst managers revolves around their emotional states at the workplace, which play a significant role in determining organisational profitability. Managers can increase each element of emotional intelligence through management training. Along these lines, they develop into effective leaders.
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McCleskey, J 2014, ‘Emotional intelligence and leadership: a review of the progress, controversy, and criticism’, International Journal of Organisational Analysis, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 76-93.
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