Does leadership training work? Findings from research.
By Madison Hanscom, PhD
There are a great deal of conflicting perspectives when it comes to leadership training. Many individuals do not think it is worth the time because they believe leaders are born and not made – that genetics and personality are more influential in determining a great leader than the knowledge, skills, and abilities someone can build and sharpen during training. Others think training is a valuable tool that leads to a better workforce. But what does the research say?
A group of researchers (1) decided to dig deep into questions about leadership training by conducting a meta analysis on the topic. A meta analysis is a study that combines findings from many research studies on the same topic. The purpose of this meta analysis was to examine 335 leadership training evaluation studies to determine if leadership training works, and if so, what characteristics define the most successful leadership training programs.
They found that leadership training works, and the effects are strong. Training significantly impacts reactions (trainees’ perception of the training program regarding utility and likability), learning (knowledge, skills, and/or abilities from the training), transfer (applying knowledge from the training to the job), and results (changes in organizational objectives because of the training program). They found that leadership training was most effective when a needs analysis was conducted before the training, when feedback was present with the training, when there were multiple delivery methods and opportunities for practice, when the training sessions were spaced out, and when the training was not self- administered by the leader (there was a 3rd party administering the training). It takes a rigorous process to develop and implement effective leadership training, but the outcomes are worth it!
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Referenced study: Lacerenza, C. N., Reyes, D. L., Marlow, S. L., Joseph, D. L., & Salas, E. (2017). Leadership training design, delivery, and implementation: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(12), 1686.