Leadership Training for Successful Management | Free Essay Example

Leadership Training for Successful Management

Words: 3967
Topic: Business & Economics


Organizations expect their senior managers to be effective leaders and invest heavily in specialized leadership programs. Based on this view, it is evident that managers can be trained to be leaders. Management and leadership are two distinct aspects of an organization, but an individual can be both a leader and a manager (Nonet, Kassel & Meijs 2016). It is also paramount to understand what is required for one to be able to lead, manage, or do both effectively. Organizations also have a significant part to play in the creation of leaders and managers. This paper shows the difference between management and leadership, comparison of traits and behavioral leadership theories, and evaluation of the possible implications of recent and future change in the field of people management and leadership, and an assessment of Unilever Company’s leadership training programs and selection. In today’s fast-paced world, leadership is deemed an essential attribute for organizational success.

Difference between Management and Leadership

Leadership and management are complementary elements that are essential for the growth of any organization. Although both must go hand in hand to achieve the ultimate success, leadership and management are distinct concepts. Management refers to a set of clearly defined processes such as staffing, budgeting, performance appraisal, job clarification, solving problems, and such other tasks that maintain the operations of an organization. A manager is an organization’s employee who is responsible for planning, controlling, leading, and organizing functions in the business. Managerial tasks are usually stipulated in job descriptions and are generally officially laid out. The management often solely focuses on the accomplishment of organizational goals as well as the objectives. An individual’s rank in an organization determines his or her capability of becoming a manager. The subordinates follow managers due to the title or designation that the latter holds and for the sake of monetary compensation (Westphal & Zajac 2013). Due to the accountability for their actions and their subordinates, managers have the power to reward, employ, fire, promote, or punish workers under their control on the basis of their performance and behavior.

Managers mainly emphasize on formal direction and control of their subordinates, systems, structures, and resources. They strive to improve organizational efficiency by aiming to achieve short-term goals, circumventing risks, and establishing standardization (Westphal & Zajac 2013). Although managers want to see their organizations achieve their goals and visions, such personnel do not seem to be passionate about the two elements. Management involves the control of processes, identification, and solving problems, monitoring of outcomes, and also taking low-risk problem solutions to execute organizations’ visions. On the other hand, leadership involves bringing people into line with a certain vision using strategies that encompass inspiring, motivating, and communicating. Leaders encourage followers to boost their performance for the achievement of organizational goals and realization of objectives. Unlike management, leadership is independent of the position that one holds in an organization; leaders do not have to hold a managerial position as any ordinary worker can become a leader.

Contrary to managers, leaders have followers due to their character and beliefs. A leader is highly passionate about work and demonstrates this passion by actively participating in the organization’s activities. By observing their passionate leader, followers become more determined and motivated to achieve their goals to satisfaction; the objectives do not have to be ‘organizations. Unlike managers, leaders do not have any formal or substantial authority over their followers. Instead, a leader has temporary and conditional power over his or her subjects on the basis of his or her ability to be a persistent source of motivation and inspiration to them. All managers are not leaders; a manager can become a leader only if he or she effectively performs the set leadership roles. Some managers lack leadership qualities, and the subordinates follow their orders not as a result of their guidance and influence but due to obligation (Westphal & Zajac 2013). Unlike managers, leaders are usually extremely passionate about their organizations’ goals and visions. Leaders give inspiration and motivation to their followers as well as energizing them to overcome obstacles while executing an organization’s mission. In contrast with managers, leaders use high-risk approaches as they seek solutions to problems.

An organization with excellent visionary leadership, but lacking good management cannot enjoy a long-term positive transformation. The impact of efforts to make positive changes will be significant in the short-term but diminish in the long run. On the other hand, an organization without leadership but has good management will most likely have a weak/flawed vision or none at all (Westphal & Zajac 2013). Organizations achieve great results when they have successful leadership and strong management. Change is not always perfect and may bring about an adverse impact on business. Therefore, a visionary leader with the company’s interests and culture in his or her heart, as well as the support from strong management, is likely to assist the organization in achieving remarkable milestones. Although it sometimes looks challenging, combining leadership and management is one of the most effective ways that businesses can use to attain their ultimate goals.

Can Managers be Trained as Leaders?

Yes, managers can be trained to become successful leaders. Trait theory, which holds that an individual can only become a leader if he or she has inherent leadership qualities, does not take into account the situation in which leaders should operate. Northouse (2012) argues that although they have a major role to play, traits are not the only determinants of successful leadership. There exists no sole set of universal traits that can be perfectly applied to determine leadership potential in a person. It is almost impossible to predict whether an individual may become a leader in the future by assessing if he or she possesses all such qualities since benchmarking cannot be applicable. Additionally, leadership occurs as a result of a situation and is dependent on how an individual interacts with other people. These suggestions indicate that inherent traits cannot be the only determinants of leadership.

In support of trait theory, the majority of leaders share common characteristics such as intelligence, willpower, uprightness, friendliness, and self-confidence, which can be inculcated through training (Nohria & Khurana 2013). However, leadership is usually assessed on the basic behavioral characteristics; for instance, what a leader does/says and how they exert influence on other people, which have a minimal association with inherent traits. On the other hand, trait theory fails to provide evidence showing how one trait like intelligence and determination in a leader can lead to boosted motivation and performance in other people. Additionally, the theory does not take into account the situation in which leaders should operate. A leader can be successful in a particular situation but fail in another regardless of constant traits on the two scenarios.

Instilled traits tend to influence the way people behave, but a combination of the characteristics and behaviors through training are the best predictors of success in leadership. Therefore, since behaviors can be learned and developed, organizations should train their managers to acquire behaviors that will help them develop leadership qualities that are in line with their organizational goals. The majority of skills that leaders ought to possess, such as strategic thinking, communication, and inventiveness, can either be inborn or learned (Northouse 2012). Either way, frequent training is essential for the improvement of these skills (Watkins 2012). Therefore, organizations should invest heavily in continuous leadership training programs for their managers. The programs have been proved to be effective ways of keeping managers abreast of the dynamic employees’ and organizational needs.

A Comparison Between Trait and Behavioural Theories

There are various theories, such as trait and behavioral theories, with different arguments regarding the factors that make a good leader. Trait theory holds that leaders ought to possess particular inborn traits, which prompt them to take charge and offer guidance in certain situations (Fleeson & Jayawickreme 2015). This theory is based on the principle that leadership can be identified in an individual if he or she demonstrates inherent leadership traits. This theory further emphasizes that there are specific personality traits that distinguish leaders from their followers. The management of the organizations following this leadership theory keeps on scrutinizing and evaluating their employees’ behavior to identify the ones portraying the desired leadership capability. The identified employees are promoted and go through leadership training to maximize their potential.

Vital characteristics associated with leadership include intelligence, accomplishment, accountability, involvement, rank, high self-confidence, vigor, inventiveness, emotional maturity, stress tolerance, pragmatism, and communication skills (Northouse 2012). Physical characteristics, such as height and weight, have also been suspected to be associated with leadership effectiveness. Trait theory holds that a person having these qualities can have an influence on other people and attain leadership status (Fleeson & Jayawickreme 2015). This argument indicates a very significant difference between a leader and an average individual in terms of personal traits such as intelligence, determination, as well as general personality, for instance, physical appearance. According to this leadership theory, the personal traits of leaders are more superior to those possessed by their followers. A reasonable blend of these traits makes leaders sources of great inspiration with much influence on other people. However, traits theory does not offer any explanation on the causes of effective leadership.

Contrary to the trait theory, behavioral theories oppose the argument that leadership is a result of inborn potential or virtue. Instead, behavioral theories attribute leadership to a set of actions that should be taken by a leader in relation to an organizational circumstance. The theories lay emphasis on the leaders’ and followers’ noticeable behaviors in a certain situation. Behavioral theories disregard the “born leader” concept and instead argue that people can be trained to become leaders, and vital traits of a leader can be learned and developed (Northouse 2012). Therefore, any person can become a leader, provided that an appropriate environment and training for learning and development of leadership qualities exist. According to these theories, individuals can also become leaders through observation. Behavioral theorists maintain the argument that behaviors are perfect determinants of leadership success, and people become leaders or improve their leadership skills as a result of their acts or experiences but not due to their inherent traits.

They emphasize on what leaders do while leading instead of their nature. The theories further hold that a leader acquires new qualities as a result of his or her experience (Fleeson & Jayawickreme 2015). Behaviourism also suggests that a leader behaves differently while facing different situations. Similarly, the actions of a leader vary depending on the given situation. A leader changes his or her actions in relation to a situation’s needs. Therefore, these theories show flexibility in the way a leader approaches a situation or behaves in various circumstances. A leader applies various leadership styles to satisfy the needs of distinct events. Therefore, leadership behaviorism contributes to the development of various types of leadership styles, which offer managers appropriate opportunities for evaluating their behavior.

Trait and behavioral theories share some similarities in the sense that both lay emphasis on the existence of identifiable actions that a leader should have to perform excellently. Just like trait theory, behavioral theories hold that leaders ought to portray specific common personality markers or cognitive habits (Fleeson & Jayawickreme 2015). Behavioral theories differ from trait theory since, unlike the trait’s view, they have a ‘democratic’ aspect. Behaviorists hold that any person can become a leader provided that he or she goes through relevant training. On the other hand, trait theory argues that a person can only become a leader if he or she possesses specific innate qualities. The similarity between the two theories is that they affirm that successful leaders must possess superb qualities.

Management and Leadership- Unilever Company

Current and future dynamics in the field of people management and leadership in the Unilever Company acknowledge the role of skilled, engaged and motivated employees in the achievement of its development goals. Unilever’s business strategy, referred to as the Compass Strategy, includes compulsory commitment areas to help the company achieve its goals and mission. These areas comprise of achieving the best through brands and innovation, the marketplace, constant improvement, and people. The company emphasizes on winning through people since the success of its growth strategy is dependent on the retention of the appropriate number, high-quality and diverse workforce (Raelin 2016). This approach marks a continuous long-term path for the company to follow for the achievement of its short-term as well as strategic goals.

In its efforts to develop its workforce, Unilever prioritizes the building of high levels of capability and leadership, upholding values and developing a performance culture, as well as creating an agile, supple, and diverse organization (Raelin 2016). The company addresses these priorities by designing and implementing robust programs through constant improvement and evaluation alternatives. Unilever has, for many years, concentrated on strengthening its potential to hire the right employees for its growth and striving to become the employer of choice in various markets. The company’s efforts to gain recognition as the best employer have born fruits because currently, the organization enjoys a reputable status in 34 countries worldwide as compared to just 26 countries in 2013 before the review of the strategy.

In 2014, Unilever was ranked on LinkedIn as the best employer worldwide in Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) category, with the highest number of people wishing to join its workforce. The company was also ranked third most In-Demand Employer worldwide in the same year and among the top five best employers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa Index the following year. External recognition encourages the company and plays a vital role in assisting it in attracting, maintain, and engage its wide pool of talents (Unilever 2017). Besides, Unilever persistently strives to develop a robust talent pipeline for the superior positions in its business, together with developing a strategy for ensuring that the right people perform the appropriate operational roles.

In efforts to assess its preparedness, in 2009, Unilever launched its Talent and Organisation Readiness Assessment Programme, and a year later applied it to its business. The program assists in ensuring that the company’s employees possess the appropriate set of skills for the management of the business, leading to growth. The company utilizes this approach to evaluate the most important business to its strategy and find out if it has the appropriate talent, abilities, and cultural and organizational skills. Where gaps are identified, the company uses development and training programs to boost ability levels or focuses on employee engagement, among other actions (Unilever 2017). The assessments have offered Unilever great new insights, which the company has completely integrated into its main business planning, as well as processes related to human resources.

Unlike in the past, nowadays, employees are no longer dictated on what they ought to do. Instead, they need management that engages and assists them in achieving their goals. For this reason, a blend of leadership and management needs to be applied in the way managements handle their juniors. Instead of directing, managers with leadership qualities will inspire and empower the employees under their authority. Training programs teach managers how to replace their traditional ways of management with effective leadership while managing their teams, resulting in the efficient achievement of organizational goals (Colbert, Barrick & Bradley 2014). Some of the most common effective leadership and managerial elements that managers learn from training programs include the building of effectual coaching techniques, decision-making analysis, effective communication of change, boosting of listening skills, enthusiastic ways of recognizing team achievements, as well as ways of delegating authority.

In the past, managers usually commanded change, but they did not adjust accordingly. Currently, the most successful managers boost their team management skills to improve their teams’ performance. Therefore, leadership training programs in Unilever and other organizations play a significant role in equipping managers with skills that help pull the teams rather than pushing them (Colbert, Barrick & Bradley 2014). With such continuous training, managers also become engaging leaders who instill confidence, power, and enthusiasm into their teams. With respect to the dynamic business environment, Unilever is compelled to engage managers who have more complex and adaptive thinking capabilities than ever before (Chiu, Balkundi & Weinberg 2017). With such managers, the company achieves adaptive advantage due to their abilities to change and learn more efficiently, quicker, and better even while working in an unstable, doubtful, intricate, and uncertain environment.

Training programs equip managers in Unilever with complex thinking skills and mindsets since they focus on learning agility, strategic thinking, and withstanding ambiguity. Social media and other technologies are also used for the timely delivery of the majority of programs to keep managers abreast of managerial and leadership dynamics. Volatile, doubtful, intricate, and ambiguous leadership programs may also comprise of scenario training where managers can expect likely future problems and come up with possible solutions. Such scenario training makes managers more confident when facing a new circumstance in the course of their duties. When frequently done, scenario training helps a manager’s muscle memory to adapt to reactions, thus creating the ability to handle even the unexpected complex situations (Chiu, Balkundi & Weinberg 2017).

Simulations such as classroom role-play and virtual simulations are also components of leadership training. Simulations give managers in the company an opportunity to apply their skills in a safe setting and assist them in evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to identify the leadership skills that they possess and the ones that they lack. Upon the completion of effective training, a manager becomes more adaptive, innovative, and collaborative, with improved critical thinking and communication skills. Due to constant changes in the office-based work, the majority of the Unilever’s employees are on the go, using their mobile phones to perform their duties. To keep the employees timely updated with valid and crucial skills, Unilever ensures that it offers them on-demand, easily understandable, and professional education.

Effectiveness of Unilever’s Leadership Selection and Training Program

Unilever has achieved great mileage in its investment in learning. The company believes that talent fostering and development play a major role in its ability to increase its business’ size. Since the company operates an environment that has high competition, it is paramount for it to recruit, retain, and develop skilled employees. The learning materials that are offered by the company ought to be abreast with the changes in its working conditions. The company offers on-demand, comprehensible, and specialized training through the Learning Hub, where its employees can access all education content of the organization. Unilever’s workforce can also use their mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops to access the company’s mobile-enabled content to improve their working skills (Unilever 2017). The Learning Hub utilizes digital technology as well as collaborative tools for addressing the demands of the contemporary, multilingual work environment. The company makes the training of core skills compulsory across its 130 distinct positions. The skills of the personnel are assessed every two years, and the assessment data is utilized to identify and address particular deficiencies across positions, abilities, and geographical locations. Unilever also operates a Manufacturing Leadership Development program for the improvement of the skills of its factory leaders.

Unilever acknowledges the importance of equipping its leaders with appropriate skills in their success in delivering the company’s vision together with the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. Its UL2020 programme, which is available in its Four Acres Learning and Leadership Centre, aims at ensuring that all leaders in the company have the right skills for optimum performance by helping them develop the insight and readiness to cope up with challenges and anticipation of world’s opportunities up to the year 2020 (Frost 2014). With the guidance and support from prominent leaders in the world, UL2020 addresses some of the most pressing challenges faced by Unilever and requests teams comprising of few and diverse leaders to come up with solutions to the problems. The projects are referred to as Purpose to Impact Initiatives and comprise of structured programmes which offer personal and larger business development in accordance with the company’s commercial and social goals. The current programs lay their emphasis on topics like consumer opportunities in Muslim communities, the connection of business development with the creation of jobs, as well as leveraging the company’s business operations. UL2020 is assisting in the innovation of ground-breaking working methods and new skills that are vital for leadership and also offering outcomes which are helpful for the definition of the company’s future.

How Unilever Company Trains its Staff to Become Managers

Unilever has employee self-service systems, which enable its workers directly book for management training programmes. Examples of such programs are Women Leadership Development Programme and Unilever Future Leaders Programme (UFLP). The former is designed to empower talented women junior employees and senior female executives in the company to become successful leaders and managers. 92 female managers have gone through the programme, and their job performance has improved tremendously, with some of the regular workers being promoted to managerial positions and those who were already managers rising to higher levels (Unilever 2017). In Unilever Future Leaders Programme (UFLP), hundreds of graduates are hired every year and rotated through various jobs, duties, and locations as well as going through formal training. All hired trainees are treated as permanent employees throughout their training. The programme is designed to offer trainees the entire training they need to become managers in two years. The first thing that the applicant needs to do while applying for this programme is to choose the business area that matches his or her skills, goals, and interests. Some of the areas that an applicant can choose include customer management, human resource management, supply chain management, marketing, business management, technology, and research and development.

Training programmes in Unilever offer learners various general and leadership skills via e-learning and training sessions facilitated by instructors. Besides, the trainees get further training related to their individual business areas of interest. While learning through experience, the trainees are required to solve various surprising and crucial issues. Due to the interaction of Unilever’s business operations, trainees work with professionals across multiple disciplines on various placements (Unilever 2017). The learners work together with professionals from local and international teams since they have to move to various places, sometimes including overseas. Through the experience of handling various business aspects practically, the trainees develop the potential to become successful managers after the completion of the training.

To enhance learning through people, Unilever invests in meeting the future needs of each trainee and assists them to develop their skills. The learners are supported through mentorship by experienced managers, personal coaching, and “friend”- a current or former Unilever trainee who understands the trainee’s experiences. The programme also offers special sessions where a trainee interacts and networks with colleagues and senior managers from different functions and cultures for the support of his or her management journey (Girma 2016). A significant number of these trainees are employed as permanent employees and later as managers by Unilever while others become employees of other prominent companies upon successful completion of the programme.


Both leadership and management play a major role in the success of any organisation. It is the high time that all organisations appreciate the idea that today’s employees require motivation, inspiration, and guidance rather than just being dictated on what to do; this is where leadership comes in. A company requires nurturing as many leaders as possible for enhanced success. An employee does not have to have inherent traits to become a leader; he or she can acquire leadership skills through training and experience. Effective leadership can be achieved when organisations invest in leadership programmes for their employees, regardless of their positions. It is through such programs that Unilever has become prominent in producing top-notch leaders. Other companies struggling to create effective leadership culture should borrow a leaf from Unilever.

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