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3 Ways to Support the Development of Great Leaders and Keep Their Skills Sharp

It may well be the leadership challenge we hear most often, that in the midst of leading others, giving energy to top priorities and fending off any number of distractions, finding time for extensive leadership development can be really hard.

Yet, the value of working on yourself and honing your ability to lead cannot be overstated. After all, leadership is the lever by which everything else is moved.

Given the constraints that busy organisations sometimes face, here are three effective ways to support your leaders and teams in sharpening their skills, even amidst their busy schedules.

1. Bite-size learning – absorbing new skills quickly

In a world where time is a precious commodity, bite-size learning offers a practical solution. This approach involves breaking down complex leadership skills into manageable, easily digestible pieces that leaders can quickly learn and apply.

These mini-lessons could range from a ten-minute video tutorial to a short article, or live online workshops focusing on one specific skill at a time. The key is immediate applicability – leaders should be able to use these skills right away in their daily tasks.

The benefits of bite-size learning are numerous:

●      Efficiency: It fits easily into a busy schedule, requiring only smaller blocks of time.

●      Retention: Smaller pieces of information are easier to remember and apply.

●      Relevance: Each session can focus on a skill that is directly applicable to current challenges.

By incorporating this method into their routine, leaders can continuously develop without feeling overwhelmed by time constraints.

2. Practice – the path to mastery

Practice is at the heart of mastering any skill. For leaders, this means regularly applying new techniques in real-world scenarios. Creating opportunities for leaders to practice in a low-stakes environment is crucial. This could involve short experiments, A-B testing, simulation activities, or leading smaller projects that allow them to experiment with new approaches.

The power of practice lies in its ability to transform knowledge into instinct. Through repetition, leaders can move from consciously applying a new skill to it becoming second nature.

However, simply practicing isn't enough. Feedback and reflection are key components of effective practice. After each exercise, leaders should take time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how they can improve.

3. Sustained support – the role of coaching

When under pressure, it’s common for individuals to revert to their default behaviour, abandoning newly learned skills. This is where sustained support, especially in the form of coaching, becomes invaluable. A coach can provide the guidance and accountability needed to ensure that leaders don’t fall back on old habits.

On-the-job coaching can offer several benefits:

  • Personalisation: Coaches can tailor their advice to the specific needs and challenges of each leader.

  • Safe Environment: Leaders find a space where they can discuss their struggles and mistakes without judgment.

  • Consistent Feedback: Ongoing feedback helps leaders understand their progress and areas for improvement.

Coaches can help leaders integrate their new skills into their leadership style, ensuring these skills are more than just tools. They become an integrated part of who they are as leaders.

How to get started

Implementing these strategies requires planning and commitment from both the organisation and its leaders.

Here’s how you can start:

  • Identify Key Skills: Begin by identifying the key skills that your leaders need to develop. This could be based on their roles, the company’s goals, or industry trends.

  • Develop a Learning Plan: Once you know what skills to focus on, develop a bite-size learning plan that breaks these skills into small, manageable topics.

  • Create Practice Opportunities: Look for opportunities within your organisation where leaders can practice new skills. This could be through new projects, mentorship roles, or internal workshops.

  • Invest in Coaching: Find experienced coaches who can work with your leaders. This could be external professionals or trained internal staff.

  • Foster a Learning Culture: Encourage a culture where continuous learning is valued. Recognise and reward leaders who make an effort to develop their skills.

  • Review and Adapt: Regularly review the effectiveness of your development strategies and be willing to adapt them as needed.

Developing great leaders is an ongoing process. It requires a balance of efficient learning, consistent practice, and sustained support. By integrating these elements into your leaders’ daily routines, you can ensure that they continue to grow and excel, regardless of their busy schedules.

The goal here is not just to teach new skills but to embed them deeply into the fabric of your leaders’ professional lives, transforming the way they lead and ensuring your organisation’s success.


Ps. Is your organisation looking for smart ways to level-up performance without eating up all of your time? Then Neon’s Bite-size Learning might be the answer.


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