Great leadership development training doesn't need to start with a lot of money

Getting the most from your money (and time)

The effectiveness of leadership development training has been on my mind lately. A friend of mine recently taught himself to code, and got a job as a software developer. Many people learning a skill that supports a career change feel the need to pay for training. But coding is different. Many new coders rely on practice, community, and freely available training resources to get started. That is how many people learn (though it is of course not the only way.) This is built into the DNA of the coding culture.

People don’t feel the same way with many other skills, like leadership. With so many great leadership development training programs, you might think you need to take one to become a better leader.

While you will find benefit in those programs, I think a self-directed approach is a good first step (much like it is in coding). As you might have learned from experience, too much focus on the program, and not enough on the development of the individual can make training unsuccessful.

Doing so not only lets you develop skills with less money invested, but it prepares you to get the most out of program if/when you choose to take one later.

Leadership development training is measured by outcome, not content

The quality of the content must be measured against how effective it will be for you.

We associate cost with value, but the value of training is determined by how we apply what we learn. Many training programs offer a breadth of information, but the outcome of the training is what determines whether your investment was worthwhile.

You are the ultimate deciding factor in whether your time and money was well spent, so you might want to do everything possible to set yourself up for success before starting.

What are the options available to you so you can set yourself up for success? If you don’t currently have the money for a program, this is a great opportunity for you to use the available self-directed options and learn the primary skills and language of leadership.

Many paid training programs are transformative and invaluable --but they are even more so when start with baseline knowledge of what they can provide and what you are attempting to learn. Focusing with that knowledge will help you get the most from your investment.

Formal training can be isolating

Training that isolates you from the context of your team is not as helpful.

Formal training offers good information, but it usually requires that we leave our natural environment as a leader. We won't be in our own offices, or surrounded by our team. We often won't be talking about our specific challenges.

The most useful training aligns with immediate needs. This is hard to do when you are removed from those needs over the course of a training program.

Try to put the material in context and apply it immediately, where you can get feedback. Incorporate the people you lead in the training process. The more you understand them, the more effective your leadership toolbox becomes.

Good training will do this. As a bonus, doing the pre-work independently will prepare you to contribute your personal experience.

Alternatives, and roll your own leadership development training plans exist

A discount approach is available when you start --if you know how to look.

Information is democratized: so much knowledge and guidance is available if you know where to look. When you start with some knowledge of yourself and your situation, you can identify what will be the greatest value to you.

Practice is the key to learning any skill. When you have guidelines on the basic skill set that will support your leadership needs, you can practice with guidance from free resources. Then you can adapt based on what is working and what is not.

Many no and low-cost tools help you understand your situation better. These include assessments and case studies:

  • Assessments help you build self-awareness of your natural inclinations and leadership tendencies.
  • Case studies help you find outside examples to relate to.

These references provide new perspectives and a vocabulary to talk about your situation.


While the headline might suggest that I have some problem with leadership development training, that’s not true. I think training is great for people to take their leadership skills to the next level.

However, I think it’s a good investment of your time to know that you have established the baseline skills before you make the monetary investment in higher cost leadership development programs.

Much like coders can eventually get specific training when they know enough to pick a speciality, you can learn what elements of your leadership profile demand targeted training.

To start developing that baseline, check out this article on low cost leadership development resources.

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