What to know when looking for the best leadership courses?

Leadership courses can inject fresh energy into your career and get you ready for the next level of leadership. But to make it happen, you need to be sure to invest in only the best leadership courses. Here are some thoughts from IMD, one of the top business schools in the world, on what you need to know about leadership courses.

Now everyone has different needs, that's why there are different leadership courses...

You’ll have a number of different leadership development needs throughout your career. Fortunately, there are leadership courses to suit all of them. But how do you find the right one for now?

Start off by making a list. Where are you today in your career? Where do you want to go? Do you have any particular leadership skills you want to improve? Are you facing a particular challenge that you want to be ready for? Once you’ve got a clear and strategic picture of what you’re looking for in an executive development program, you can look for leadership courses that will deliver what you need.

As an example, if you have around eight years of experience as a manager, you may be itching to take your leadership skills to the next level. Management training programs for new managers won’t help you much – and neither will an executive leadership development program for CEOs. Leadership courses focused on people management training are appropriate at this career stage, as are courses that build capacity to lead complex change or make life transitions. 

It's important to understand that leadership courses are only as good as those who design and deliver them...Leadership Courses

You (and your employer) are investing valuable time and money. There’s a wide variety of quality out there when it comes to leadership courses– so to get the best return on investment, you should focus on the top 10 business schools in the world.

Independent executive education programs rankings are a good indicator of the kind of leadership courses you’ll get from a business school. IMD, for example, is consistently ranked at the top by the Financial Times for its management training programs – so you can expect leadership courses that are exceptional, innovative, and impactful.

Remember that leadership is about understanding people – and leadership courses should be too...

To be a good leader, you need a thorough understanding of yourself and of the dynamics of human behavior in different situations. The best leadership development programs, therefore, focus on increasing your understanding – and your ability to use that understanding.

Look for leadership courses that place a heavy emphasis on behavior and self-awareness. By helping you to become more aware of the dynamics around you, good leadership courses train you to be more sensitive to situations and people – and therefore more responsive as a leader.

This is important: Learn by doingnot watching

Some leadership courses examine the leadership style of great leaders then try to give you tips to mimic that style. But, plain and simply, that doesn’t work in the long run (and often not even in the short run). Quality leadership courses will focus on helping you make lasting advancement by building your own leadership style.

Ideally, you should learn through hands-on experience and experimentation in small and larger teams. You need to get the feel for using the skills in you that help you lead well – and be free to make mistakes and learn from them too. As you practice your leadership through leadership exercises, you become more aware of what is going on around you, especially your own responses.

Leadership coaching: THE key to the best leadership coursesLeadership Courses

Leadership coaching is recognized as one of today’s most valuable tools in leadership development and management training. Highly professional coaches help you step back and examine your leadership style and effectiveness in a safe and supportive environment. Such coaching helps you make sense of the different aspects of your leadership, challenges you to explore who you want to be as a leader – and supports you to make it happen. That’s why the best leadership courses incorporate leadership coaching as a key feature of program design.

Follow-though is critical

Good leadership courses will leave you energized and refreshed. You’ll leave with a deeper understanding of yourself and bursting with new motivation and new ideas. Too often though, the positive outcomes leak away in the face of daily office work, demands or politics. That’s why the best leadership courses incorporate support to help you implement your learning once the program has finished.

The bottom line...leadership courses should ultimately be judged by the outcomes...

Past participants can best tell you what the real, measurable outcomes were from leadership courses. Outcomes to look for include improvements in overall effectiveness at motivating teams towards business goals; a heightened level of self-awareness; and increased confidence to lead with impact. That’s the kind of feedback that should give you confidence in the quality of leadership courses!

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