Leadership development is a lifelong journey that requires both experience and steadfast, devoted reflection on the moments that make up that experience. Dedicated time for leadership development and leadership training should happen continually throughout a person’s career. However, there are particular moments on the timeline of one's career that are ideal for leadership development, including right at the launch of it all.
Early in One's Career:
Early in a career is an excellent time to initiate leadership development training. Leaders just beginning in their careers are in the process of discovering their strengths, weaknesses, interests, and passions, and foundational leadership training can help inform their personal journeys. Additionally, emerging leaders are often tasked with leading workstreams or projects which require the critical leadership skills of communication, prioritization, and influencing; these make leadership development immediately applicable, even for those not in a formal people or functional management role.
Leadership development that occurs at the early stage of a career, paired with a mentorship program and a dedicated manager willing to provide constructive feedback, can be transformative in a young person’s career journey.
When Promoted to a New or Larger-Scope Leadership Role:
Being promoted for the first time to a leadership role — or one that is expanded in scope — presents the perfect opportunity for leadership development training. Individuals who take on roles with a larger scope often see their experiences reflected in the form of an S-curve, meaning that performance initially dips as they get their footing in their new roles. The skills, behaviors, and tactics that made them previously successful, perhaps as an individual contributor, might not translate to their new role. This dip in performance is often short-lived and followed by rapid growth and productivity. Still, this performance plunge can feel discouraging.
But this temporary (and expected) slump after assuming a new leadership role presents a prime opportunity for leadership development training. Leaders will feel supported and can be armed with frameworks, mental models, case studies, and experiences to support their transition to a role that is bigger in scope.
Leadership development training also presents an opportunity for further self-reflection to create an authentic leadership style. Its also a great time to consider building a relationship with an executive coach to support ongoing leadership development.
During Change or Crisis:
Times of change or crisis can be incredibly challenging and isolating for leaders. Recent news of layoffs at organizations across the country have become commonplace. Leaders need to be able to navigate ambiguity and uncertainty, make tough decisions, and keep their teams motivated and focused. Leadership development at times like these can help individuals build resilience, develop the skills required to lead through difficulty, and communicate during a crisis.
Leadership development during such taxing times also gives leaders the time to bond and share stories with other leaders. Leading during change can be an isolating and exhausting experience, and networking and brainstorming with others who have similar challenges and experiences can be tremendously beneficial. This type of development during change or setbacks is particularly important for younger leaders. They may not have had, for instance, the experience of leading in the wake of 2008's Great Recession, or perhaps they are so new to their careers that they didn't have the chance to lead when COVID-19 set in motion a global pandemic and brought the world of work to a screeching halt. By investing in leadership development during these times, individuals can emerge as stronger leaders who are better equipped to handle future challenges.
When Feeling Stuck (or It's Simply Been a While!):
It’s natural at times to feel stuck in a rut. And this feeling creates the perfect opportunity to learn something new and focus on personal development. Learning can be energizing. Enrolling in leadership training often has the added benefit of organizational networking, which is invaluable for leaders at any level. That said, those who have delayed dedicated time to thoughtfully reflecting on their leadership journeys will find that it’s a great time to find a program to continue the learning journey.
There is no one "best” time for leadership development, but there are critical points in a person’s leadership journey that provide natural opportunities for upskilling. By investing in leadership training during periods or transition and growth, leaders are able to continually build and refine their leadership core.
If you are an HR Director looking for opportunities to train a group of your leaders, view our organizational solutions here. If you are an individual looking to develop leadership skills on your own time, visit this page at our site to read about our individual solutions.
Krista Campbell is an Associate Director who designs and facilitates business simulation-based learning programs at Insight Experience, an award-winning global leadership development company with an expertise in business simulations. She specializes in programs that promote communication, strategic thinking, and developing people.