8 Critical Ways to Develop Leadership Skills in Your Managers

In the dynamic landscape of organizational development, instilling leadership skills within managers is not just an investment but a necessity. Often, the focus of leadership training is concentrated at the top echelons of an organization, leaving a critical gap in the middle management layer. This article delves into why nurturing leadership skills in managers is crucial, explores the common oversight by organizations in this area, and provides eight actionable ways to cultivate these skills effectively.

The Importance of Leadership Skills in Middle Management

Middle managers are crucial in any organization because they are the pivotal link between the company’s senior leadership and its frontline employees. Their primary function is to interpret and translate upper management’s strategic goals into operational plans that their teams can execute. Even more, middle and front-line managers manage upwards to senior leaders and downwards to their teams, requiring a balanced approach to communication, delegation, and motivation.

Additionally, middle managers oversee day-to-day operations, ensure that projects are completed efficiently and effectively, and handle team dynamics and individual employee concerns. Their position in the organizational hierarchy grants them a unique perspective, allowing them to provide valuable feedback to upper management about ground-level operations and employee sentiments.


Bridge Building

Middle managers are vital bridges between upper management and frontline employees. Developing their leadership skills ensures a smoother flow of communication, alignment of goals, and a cohesive organizational culture.

Innovation and Adaptability

Empowered managers with strong leadership skills are more adept at navigating changes and driving innovation within their teams.

Employee Retention and Growth

Skilled leaders in management positions play a pivotal role in employee retention and professional development, creating a more engaged and skilled workforce.


Why Organizations Neglect Middle Managers Development

The oversight of middle managers leadership skills development in many organizations is multifaceted, stemming from various organizational priorities and misconceptions. Understanding these reasons is crucial for addressing and closing the gap in your manager’s leadership development.

Resource Allocation and Budget Constraints

Often, organizations face limited resources and have to make tough choices about where to allocate their budgets. Leadership skills development programs, especially for middle managers, may be considered a lower priority than other immediate operational or strategic investments. This is particularly true in scenarios where the ROI of such training is not immediately evident or easily quantifiable.

Short-Term Focus

Many companies operate with a short-term lens, prioritizing immediate results over long-term growth. This approach can lead to neglecting the leadership development of middle managers, whose skill enhancement might not produce instant measurable outcomes but is crucial for sustained future success.


Underestimation of Impact

There’s often an underestimation of the significant role that middle managers play in an organization. They might be perceived merely as executors of top-level strategies rather than vital contributors to the strategic planning process. This undervaluation leads to a lack of investment in the manager’s leadership skills.

Lack of Structured Development Pathways

Some organizations have no clear pathway or structured program for middle management development. This absence can be due to a lack of understanding of what such a program should entail or the complexities of tailoring development programs that cater to diverse managerial roles and individual needs.

Overemphasis on Technical Skills

Organizations sometimes focus more on developing the technical skills of their managers under the assumption that managerial and leadership skills are innate or less critical. This skewed focus can result in managers being well-equipped with technical skills but lacking essential leadership qualities like communication, empathy, and strategic thinking.


Inadequate Succession Planning

A lack of focus on succession planning also leads to ignoring the leadership skills development of middle managers. Organizations that do not actively plan for future leadership roles overlook the need to prepare their current managers to step into these roles.

Change Resistance

In some cases, there’s resistance to change within the organization, primarily from senior management. This resistance can stem from various reasons, including fear of disruption, comfort with the status quo, or skepticism about new development methods.

Lack of Effective Measurement Tools

The difficulty in measuring the effectiveness of leadership skills development programs can lead organizations to deprioritize them for managers. Without clear metrics to gauge success, it’s challenging for decision-makers to justify the investment.


By recognizing and understanding these reasons, organizations can reevaluate and refocus their efforts on developing their middle managers. This shift not only benefits the managers themselves but also has a profound and positive impact on the entire organization.

8 Ways to Develop Leadership Skills in Managers

As a leader, one of your most impactful roles is to cultivate the growth and capabilities of your managerial team. The development of your managers is not just an investment in their personal growth but a strategic imperative that drives the success of your entire organization. By instilling leadership skills in your managers, you lay the foundation for a robust, agile, and innovative leadership pipeline.

Here are eight practical and effective ways to start this transformation journey. Implementing these strategies will not only empower your managers but also bring about a significant positive change in the overall dynamics of your organization. Let’s explore these eight essential methods to unlock their leadership potential by developing leadership skills for managers.


1. Tailored Training Programs

Develop comprehensive training programs specifically tailored to middle managers’ unique needs. These should include strategic thinking, effective communication, conflict resolution, and team motivation. The training can consist of in-house sessions, external workshops, and online courses, ensuring a diverse and rich learning experience.

2. Mentorship and Coaching Opportunities

Establish a mentorship system where experienced leaders in the organization mentor middle managers. This one-on-one interaction allows for personalized guidance, sharing of experiences, and insight into handling complex leadership challenges. Additionally, professional coaching sessions can give managers an external perspective and specialized development in their leadership journey.

3. Regular Feedback and Performance Reviews

Implement a structured system for regular feedback and performance reviews. This should not just be a top-down approach; it encourages a 360-degree feedback system where managers can receive input from their superiors, peers, and subordinates. This comprehensive feedback is crucial for self-awareness and continuous improvement.


4. Encourage Participation in Leadership Workshops and Seminars

Support and encourage managers to attend external leadership workshops, seminars, and conferences. Exposure to different leadership styles, trends, and practices broadens their perspective and provides networking opportunities with leaders from various industries.

5. Involvement in Cross-Functional Projects

Give middle managers opportunities to work on cross-functional projects. This exposure to different parts of the organization enhances their understanding of various business aspects and develops a more holistic approach to leadership.

6. Empowerment Through Decision-Making Opportunities

Empower managers by giving them autonomy in their decision-making processes. This trust in their judgment encourages them to take ownership, boosts their confidence, and fosters accountability.


7. Recognition and Reward Systems

Implement systems to recognize and reward effective leadership behaviors. Recognition could be through awards, public acknowledgment, or growth opportunities. This not only motivates the individual manager but also sets a benchmark for others in the organization.

8. Creating a Supportive Leadership Community

Establish forums, networks, or regular meet-ups where managers can share experiences, challenges, and best practices with their peers. This peer-to-peer learning environment can effectively foster a collaborative and supportive leadership culture.

By implementing these eight methods, organizations can effectively develop and enhance the leadership skills of their managers. This benefits the managers in their personal growth and significantly contributes to the overall health and success of the organization.


By embracing and implementing these eight methods, you can significantly enhance the leadership capabilities of your managers. This proactive approach to leadership development benefits the managers and is crucial for your organization’s long-term success and resilience.

Investing in the leadership development of managers is not just about filling a skill gap; it’s about building a resilient, adaptable, and forward-thinking leadership layer that can steer the organization toward sustained success. By prioritizing and implementing these eight ways, leaders can ensure that their managers are equipped to face the challenges of today’s business environment and contribute significantly to the organization’s growth.

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Jason Cortel is currently the Director of Global Workforce Management for a leading technology company. He has been in customer service, marketing, and sales services for over 20 years. In addition, he has extensive experience in offshore and nearshore outsourcing. Jason is an avid Star Trek fan and is on a mission to change the universe by helping people develop professionally. He is driven to help managers and leaders lead their teams better. Jason is also a veteran in creating talent and office cultures.

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