How to Develop Leadership Skills in Employees [Complete Process]

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NY Times best-selling author Adam Grant once said,

“Good leaders build products. Great leaders build cultures. Good leaders deliver results. Great leaders develop people. Good leaders have vision. Great leaders have values.”

It’s true ― A Gallup study found when leaders are enthusiastic and engaged in their jobs, their teams are 39% more likely to feel the same way about their work.

Effective leadership impacts everything, from employee morale to innovation and productivity. But strong leaders aren’t always born. They’re— made. This brings us to the question: How do you develop leadership skills in employees?

TL;DR – How to Develop Leadership Skills in Employees

In this blog, we’ve covered six essential tips on how to develop leadership skills in employees, which are as follows:

  1. Mentoring and coaching
  2. Formal training
  3. Professional certifications and accreditations
  4. Focus groups and workshops
  5. Self-directed learning
  6. Job shadowing

Following the steps above and offering targeted leadership development programs, like TSW Training’s Management Skills 101 course, you can equip your managers with the tools and knowledge to become successful leaders.

Two businesswomen reviewing documents in an office setting.

What is Employee Leadership Development?

A recent survey found that 26% of senior managers and 52% of regular managers in UK-based organisations reported no formal management or leadership training. This also explains why 28% of workers and 31% of managers have quit because of bad manager-employee relationships.

That said, employee leadership development is a strategic approach that trains workers of all levels with the skills and knowledge to lead successfully. At its core, it challenges the typical belief that higher executive positions are only where leadership exists.

Examples of Leadership in the Workplace

Leadership is not limited to C-suite executives anymore.

Here are some everyday examples of leadership at work:

  • Teamwork: Collaboration, shared accountability, and ensuring team members collaborate well to achieve shared objectives.
  • Project management: Taking charge of tasks, giving the team specific goals, motivating everyone, and ensuring the project wraps up on schedule and within the set budget.
  • Innovation: Identifying areas for improvement, developing new ideas, and advocating for change within a team or department.
  • Mentoring: Giving less experienced coworkers guidance and support so they can improve their expertise and skills.
  • Problem-solving: Approaching problems head-on, working with others to identify answers, and implementing plans.

This raises another question: is employee leadership development worth the investment? Let’s find out.

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Why is Employee Leadership Development Important?

A Chartered Management Institute report found that the UK is seeing an increase in “accidental managers,” with 82% of them not having basic leadership training.

Sadly, these employees are mainly promoted based on popularity, job proficiency, or availability—anything but their ability to lead. The report also showed that nearly 50% of managers believe promotions are driven by internal ties and visibility rather than talent.

That said, here’s why employee leadership development is essential now, more than ever:

  • Productivity and Performance: Leaders who can encourage and inspire their staff can dramatically increase productivity and the company’s performance.
  • Employee Retention: Nearly 50% of British employees quit their jobs because of unsupportive managers. Investing in leadership development shows your commitment to your employees’ growth, which lowers annual turnover costs.
  • Talent Pipeline: These programs build a team of proficient internal candidates for companies to promote from within and establish a strong leadership pipeline for the future.
  • Innovation and Adaptability: UK companies that encourage innovation are growing at twice the rate of their less innovative competitors. Leadership development prepares line managers to think creatively, solve problems, and adapt to new challenges, solidifying your organisation’s long-term competitiveness.
  • Employee Engagement: Gallup’s 2023 Report shows a concerning trend: only 23% of UK workers report being engaged in their jobs. Keeping them engaged is an ongoing task requiring time and effort for companies. Workers get more involved when their leaders communicate clearly, assign assignments sensibly, and offer constructive criticism.

Ready to help your teams build leadership skills? Enrol them in TSW Training’s Management Skills 101 course today, and take the first step to transform your top-performing employees into influential leaders.

Office meeting with a man in a blue suit addressing employees at their desks.

Top Leadership Skills for Employees

An Industrial Strategy Council report predicts a significant leadership skills shortage in the UK by 2030.

The report shows around 22 million workers will lack critical management and leadership skills, pointing to an urgent need for soft skills development across the workforce. 

That being stated, here are some key leadership skills that employees must have:

Relationship Building

According to a recent survey, 50% of UK workers would rather have excellent working relationships than a 10% salary raise.

That said, great leaders know how important it is to establish a positive and welcoming work environment for everyone. This includes active listening, open-ended communication, and building trust with coworkers.

Building relationships effectively encourages teamwork, boosts morale, and ultimately leads to more successful projects.

Decision-Making

A Harvard Business School study found that 53% of leaders become less open and more controlling in times of crisis, while 43% become increasingly frustrated and agitated.

Effective leaders must be skilled at making great decisions, especially under pressure. They require great analytical skills, the ability to weigh the pros and cons of different options, and a keen willingness to take calculated risks.

Three business professionals having a serious discussion around a table.

Agility and Adaptability

Nobody can accurately predict the future, especially in today’s ever-changing era of business.

That said, great leaders can adapt to fast-paced changes and handle unforeseen challenges with a calm mind. They can acquire skills rapidly, adopt new-emerging technology, and think on their feet in the face of challenging events.

Conflict Resolution

According to data, 26% of employees and 20% of employers regard workplace conflict as a “common occurrence” at their jobs.

Disagreements and conflicts in the workplace cannot be avoided. However, strong conflict management skills allow leaders to prevent problems from occurring and maintain a peaceful, productive workplace environment.

Negotiation Skills

Leaders frequently negotiate with clients, suppliers, and team members. Their strong negotiation skills ensure that the deals and contracts are always fair and profitable for all parties involved.

A UK study found that poor negotiation skills cost British businesses around £9 million every hour. Yet there’s a bright side: improving these skills could raise their annual revenue by up to 7%.

Critical Thinking

Last but not least — data analysis, problem identification, and prompt, effective resolution are core abilities that every leader must have. These critical thinking skills help leaders make informed decisions and ensure the team continues to work toward the right business goals.

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How to Develop Leadership Skills in Employees

Author John C. Maxwell says – 

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

On that note, here are some essential tips on how to develop leadership skills in employees in the workplace:

1. Mentoring and Coaching

Assigning a high-potential person to an experienced leader helps them gain invaluable guidance and support.

Mentors can help develop important leadership qualities, share real-world experiences, and offer professional guidance. This personalised approach builds trust and encourages people to deal confidently with challenges and opportunities.

2. Formal Training

Structured leadership development programs help employees become experts in core areas, including communication, delegation, conflict resolution, and team motivation. Our accredited Management Skills 101 course at TSW is designed to offer managers the guidance and tools required to succeed in leadership positions – enrol today.

3. Professional Certifications and Accreditations

Professional leadership credentials show a person’s dedication to ongoing learning and growth. 

These credentials highlight one’s experience and can improve their chances of landing a well-paying job. Employers can explore options relevant to their organisation’s core needs and leadership objectives.

4. Focus Groups and Workshops

Interactive workshops and focus groups allow employees to learn and discuss ideas. These seminars are beneficial for improving communication skills, boosting collaboration, and creating problem-solving solutions in teams.

5. Self-directed Learning

Self-directed learning encourages workers to take charge of their professional development. Employers should provide access to online resources, leadership books, and industry publications to support their learning and study of leadership principles.

6. Job Shadowing

Last but not least, this real-time approach allows aspiring leaders to see experienced leaders in their element. Employees can gain significant insights into unique leadership styles, decision-making processes, and techniques for managing complex issues by following different leaders across departments.

Businesswoman presenting a data flowchart on a screen during a meeting.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about how to build leadership skills:

What Are the Benefits of Cross-Departmental Projects for Leadership Development?

Cross-departmental projects expose employees to different perspectives, work styles, and areas of expertise within the company. This broad perspective improves their ability to think strategically, look at the big picture, and encourage cross-team collaboration.

How Does Delegating Responsibilities Foster Leadership Skills?

Delegation helps employees take responsibility for work, make decisions, and solve problems themselves. 

This develops accountability and responsibility, two key characteristics for future leaders. Employees learn how to plan, organise, and prioritise responsibilities when assigned duties. 

Note that effective delegation allows senior executives to focus on significant initiatives while cultivating leadership talent within their teams.

What Impact Does a Positive Company Culture Have on Leadership Growth?

A company that prioritises open communication, continuous learning, and employee recognition builds a welcoming culture where leaders can grow and thrive. 

Employees in a positive work culture are willing to take risks, propose ideas, and receive constructive feedback. They push themselves beyond their comfort zones and develop a growth mentality. 

How Can Goal Setting Help in Developing Leadership Qualities?

Goal setting gives people a clear direction, motivates them to succeed, and improves their strategic thinking skills. 

By setting difficult but attainable goals for cross-functional activities, employers can motivate workers to take charge, manage resources, and motivate their teammates to succeed together.

Conclusion

By applying the strategies recommended in this blog and providing focused training programs, you can help your managers become great leaders who inspire, motivate, and lead their teams toward success. This will significantly boost your company’s bottom line by creating a more engaged and productive workforce. 

Still wondering where to start? Enrol in our Management Skills 101 course at TSW Training today and start training your line managers to acquire essential leadership qualities.

Picture of Matthew Channell
Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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