Not long ago, leadership development was a bit different from what we see today. Typically, leadership development happened in a large group classroom format, lecture-style—almost clinical. There was little opportunity for discussion, and it didn’t always directly connect to your current situation. Frequency was also challenging, with meetings sometimes occurring years apart. Sometimes it was a one-and-done event and presto! You’re a leader; you’re good to go!

There were no touch points or reinforcement afterward. It was mostly synchronous, meaning you all did it simultaneously. Finally, there was no coaching involved; that was reserved for only the most senior leaders in an organization.

We’ve learned a lot about adult learning and development over the past 50 years. Today’s experience can and should be so much better. Instead of focusing solely on occasional lectures and hoping participants take home a nugget of information at the end, leadership development needs to be more intentional and focus on various soft skills.

Development is not a one-and-done event; it’s an ongoing discussion that keeps the learner thinking about and practicing leadership concepts in the real world. Frequent touch points throughout an ideal program drive engagement and learning.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) must play a part in laying the foundation of a quality development program. Being a great leader is not just about how book-smart you are. Sustained world-class performance is driven by EQ, and leaders with great EQ have tremendous success.

We can all think of athletes with incredible physical characteristics—but what makes a world-class performer is that PLUS great EQ. They’re the ones who know how to build a team and gain consensus. I think of the GOAT quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady; they were incredible athletes who knew how to work with people to bring a team together for a common goal. They were true leaders.

Opportunities for individual coaching—in addition to all of the group collaboration—are also essential to an impactful development experience. You may be good at something, but to reach that next level, you have to have a coach with whom you can be vulnerable, held accountable, and receive feedback.

Does having consistently planned time for productive group discussions,  drilling emotional intelligence and other essential leadership skills, and having an external coach readily available to help you and hold you accountable all in one program sound ideal? Luckily, we’ve spent decades researching these topics and more to create an immersive program that incorporates these lessons learned and engages leaders on several levels. These lessons and more are baked into our Next Leader Now development programs.

Next Leader Now is facilitated in small groups with a discussion engagement approach. Adult learning is accelerated when the participants talk about their own thoughts and current issues in the discussion. Along with developing their skills, this approach has the added benefit of increasing connections within the organization. Outside synchronous learning times, additional asynchronous engagement occurs through email, text messages, and web-enabled, mobile-friendly learning platforms.

An excellent leadership program engages leaders currently in the arena. It also prepares up-and-coming leaders because you never know when you’ll have to look to your team for that next leader to rise up the ranks. Next Leader Now is that leadership program.

Remember, leaders are made—not born. It’s a learned skill through study and practice, just like riding a bike or playing the piano. Where you invest your resources, whether time or money, is where you will see growth. Are you investing in your people?