How to Revolutionize Leadership Development


Embrace the future of leadership development with tech-driven coaching. Drive inclusivity, effectiveness, and relevance in your organization, says Amy Lavoie of Torch.

Every day is a school day with an opportunity to learn, and–believe it or not–there are some real leadership development lessons for all coming out of HBO’s Succession, albeit mostly about how not to behave at the top of an organization.

A central thread of the show is, after all, who will be deemed capable of succeeding Logan into the top seat, with none of his children proving to him they have the skills he sees as necessary, no matter what interim job or training program he forces them into.

The lesson to be learned? While no doubt Succession is an extreme example of ‘what not to do’ in developing leaders, there is some truth in the show: the business world has too long held onto old-school, ineffective approaches to developing the next generation of senior management. Even worse, it has closely guarded the gates for who would get access to such a privilege. 

Certainly, many have done this historically in a behind-closed-doors process, based on subjective evaluations stemming from a ‘his face fits’ and ‘he’s one of us’ agenda. The use of the gendered pronoun is deliberate, of course. This is one reason we’ve had such a high prevalence of white male leaders at the pinnacle of power for too long, ignoring a lot of potential contributors outside of a narrow cohort.

Leadership 101 Sessions in the Office Are Outdated

The predominant style for imparting such training has been the group training session. Like the old-school tap on the shoulder for the next rising star, this worked well because it was low on resource pull. For example, you only have to teach management communication skills once if you do it for just the roomful of people you think need to know this.

But this one-off training presents obstacles to success. It’s exclusive, ineffective, and irrelevant.

For one, people need to be physically present in one place, with all the admin and time blocks that necessitate executive time, travel, trainer availability, booking office space, etc. The travel costs of moving people into one space for live training mean they are available to fewer people. Not to mention the barriers this may present to people with accessibility-related disabilities. 

And even if it’s done virtually to allow more people to attend, completion rates for a one-off training session are low, and the stickiness of content – what participants remember even a week later – is as low as 25%. This means that most of the information is not retained even with the best will in the world.

But the final nail in the coffin for people-in-a-room leadership training is that it’s not regularly available to support how learning happens, which is in the flow of work. As that concept’s populariser, Josh Bersin, says, a truly modern learning experience fit for the 21st century, and all the many demands we now place on employees of all sorts (let alone senior ones) integrates, manages, curates, and organizes a huge range of digital content and support.

Today, many organizations recognize the need to move past the one-and-done, in-person group training model and instead create leadership development programs that move the needle and deliver genuine behavior change through personalized, continuous coaching programs facilitated through technology.

See More: Remote Leadership Development Programs

Tech Enables Effective, Equal Leadership Learning in the Flow of Work

A pivot to digital as the primary platform for continuous coaching, rather than one-off, in-person training, can remove many of the above logistical issues and increase access to more people than ever. This means that great people who you knew would just never be able to get two days out of their schedule in the Chicago training center can be trained too – think of all the parents, caregivers, and people who need to be in specific environments 24/7, that now suddenly get a potential invite here. They can also access such coaching while in the flow of work, being able to implement their learnings almost immediately after.

The cost benefits make it a strong proposition for companies and more inclusive. Physically flying in a professional coach is a huge expense reserved for the chosen few. Now, coaching can be carried out via Zoom as part of a platform that offers a selection of highly qualified coaches who can be matched to individual preferences. This scalable approach is much more affordable per individual session and so can be offered to more employees, potentially making coaching more available to those from diverse backgrounds. 

Beyond logistics and inclusion, this style has also been shown to be much more effective, confirmed last year in some extensive researchOpens a new window