Gary Winters

Coach  Workshop Facilitator Author

Can Leadership Skills Be Learned?

One of the questions I’m most often asked is: can leadership skills be learned? The answer is an unqualified YES!

Here is an overview of choices available to the individual or organization wanting to explore leadership development:

Some leadership skills can be addressed by working alone with self-development resources, including books, audio and video tapes, workbooks, computer-based training, etc. Most of these re-sources are convenient, inexpensive, and offer scheduling flexibility.

Formal educational programs

Colleges and universities offer a wide range of for-mal educational programs which teach leadership practices. Many leadership competencies are (finally being) ad-dressed in business schools. Formal education is a long-term leadership development process.

Mentoring or Coaching

Formal mentoring or coaching with a leader’s own manager or another resource within the organization is an excellent way to develop leadership skills. Nearly every leadership competency can be im-proved by an active mentoring process with a skilled coach. The clearer the expectations established by both the mentor and the individual seeking development, the more successful the coaching rela-tionship is likely to be.

Internal training

Many organizations offer a variety of specific programs offered by staff leadership development professionals (or external consultants hired to provide tailored training for the organization). Internal training programs usually address those de-velopment needs most often experienced within the organization. Most training (internal or external) is highly fo-cused, offering advantages of minimal time, opportu-nity for practice and fresh, contemporary perspec-tives on issues.

External training

External training is an option beyond the internal training effort. External training makes sense when nothing similar is offered internally, when leaders have specialized needs, or when time and schedul-ing is an issue (i.e. internal training will not be avail-able in time). External training can be more expen-sive and more general, but it offers the unique ad-vantage of enabling leaders to “network” with leaders from other organizations, which often means new perspectives can be brought home.

Cross Training

One way of broadening a leader’s perspective and enhance his or her skills is to cross train in other departments for short periods of time. Cross training can also be a way of putting a leader together with another who is particularly skilled in the identified area. The leader being cross-trained will get the opportunity to witness the skill being applied in the workplace.

Job Rotation

A longer version of cross training is job rotation. This is the actual transfer of a leader into another de-partment as a “permanent” job. Over an extended period, leadership skills are developed by expo-sure to business issues from several perspectives — engineering, marketing, finance, etc.

Special Assignments or Projects

Often, a leadership skill can be enhanced with a project that requires the manager to flex specific leadership muscles. For example, task teams can be excellent ways to develop problem analysis skills. These projects are normally short-term, and are most helpful if another leader, skilled in the identified area, acts as a coach for the manager being developed.

Corporate or other divisional exposure

Sometimes, the best way to development leadership skill is to widen the leader’s perspective with corporate or other divisional exposure. This can help a leader see other ways business issues are be-ing addressed and get a sense of the “bigger pic-ture.” It can be an excellent method of improving customer service/quality skills as leaders go di-rectly to their customers.

More time on present job with a specific focus

Sometimes, leadership skills are best addressed by continued “seasoning” on the job. For instance, a leader may want to develop skills used to conduct effective team meetings. Coupled with formal training and/or mentoring, the leader can plan to focus on his or her meetings over a period of several months with a deliberate effort to employ skills first learned in the training or from the mentor. This developmental option will only succeed if the fo-cus is maintained as a conscious, deliberate effort.

Can leadership skills be learned? Yes!

If you’d like help crafting a personal leadership development program, or installing a leadership development academy in your organization, give me a call.

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is the sequel to the very popular “What Your Boss Never Told You.” Packed inside are more tips, techniques, and insights about the challenging, but rewarding leadership position.

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is written in a conversational tone, as though you and the author were enjoying a cup of coffee and talking about the issues that emerge for new leaders. It stands alone, and/or could be read before or after the first volume, “What Your Boss Never Told You.” You can start with any chapter and read in any order you like.

if you search for a book on management, you’ll find a staggering 600,000+ books currently available. How can you narrow that down? “What Your Boss Never Told You” is the best place to start.

No textbook here – this book is short and sweet. It’s designed to help you “unpack” your new job and be effective from the first day with your new team. It contains twenty-one chapters filled with the wisdom Winters has gathered from real managers – effective, successful leaders in organizations much like yours.

Leaders make decisions every day – big and small. Most know that if they include others in the decision-making process, the quality of those decisions – and the commitment to them – will likely improve. That said, they also know it’s impractical, if not impossible, to include others in every decision they confront.

“To Do or Not To Do” tackles the question of when to make decisions on your own, and when to involve your team. It gives you a deceptively simple but proven method to determine, when you are facing a difficult decision, how to decide how to decide.

Far too many meetings are dreadful, mind-numbing, energy-draining, productivity-sapping, colossal wastes of time. As someone once said, “To kill time, a meeting is the perfect weapon.”

Here’s the deal: if you’re willing to learn and apply the techniques in “So, How Was Your Meeting?”, you’ll call fewer meetings, while vastly improving the ones you do lead. They’ll take less time, have more balanced participation, produce better decisions, and result in concrete action items for follow-up afterwards.

While there are thousands of books written for people about to retire, this may be the only book for people who manage soon-to-retire employees. Written in a casual, conversational style, “Managing the Soon To Retire Employee” will give you everything you need to know to move forward with confidence and grace.

You can be successful with Sooners. It won’t happen by chance, and it’s not a matter of pulling some management “trick” out of your hat. But you can learn how to do it, and you can apply what you’ve learned right away.

Managing friends or former peers can be awkward. When you become the boss, everything about these relationships can suddenly be uncomfortable. There’s a new set of ground rules to establish – as manager, you are going be accountable for the work performance of friends or former co-workers on the team, and they are going to have to adjust to the fact that they now report to you. Everyone involved can feel awkward and hesitant about the future. 

Have you been approached by management with an offer to promote you to supervision? Or, are you mulling over the possibility for the future? Find yourself not sure whether to accept the promotion?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. Help! They Want to Make ME a Supervisor will help you sort out a very big question: Should you accept the offer to become a supervisor? Once you’ve read this book, you’ll be confident that you’ve made the best decision for you and for your organization.