Leadership development during the pandemic

Photo of a white board reading : To-Do List LEARNI’m hearing from many people right now that they have no budget for leadership development. Or that they’re trying to figure out how to do leadership development when everyone’s working from home, and certainly not gathering in a central community learning space. 

Or – both. 

It’s frustrating, because they also know that leadership development is important. You know that. In fact, one could easily argue that leadership development is even more important right now than ever before. Companies need leaders who can support their teams, figure out how to keep moving toward goals, manage stress (their own, their team’s, and, let’s face it, their manager’s!), and somehow keep it all together while everything around them is in what seems to be a constant state of flux.

I saw a sign the other day reading “When does Season 2 of 2020 start? I don’t like Season 1.” It’s almost too real and true to be funny. 

But it’s where we are, and so we need to find ways to do more than just cope. We need to get creative about how to address the needs of the company and the employees. And that means getting creative about how to manage leadership development.

No budget at all?

That’s the case for someone I was talking to a couple of weeks ago. Budget pulled, training cancelled, the entire leadership development program gone. Poof. The frustration and regret was tangible.

But maybe you have time.

If you have time, you can find plenty of good resources that don’t cost a penny. For instance, my Leadership A to Z program is a series of 26 short videos on key leadership characteristics. It’s been used as small-bite training and a discussion-starter at a weekly managers’ meeting, and many individual emerging leaders have watched it on their own to develop their skills.

Or start a book club for your emerging leaders. Yes, the books aren’t free (though there are always library options), but any potential leader in your organization who chooses not to participate because they don’t want to spend $12 – $15 (or even $20 – $25) on a book … well, either you’re not paying them enough, or perhaps they shouldn’t be a leadership candidate.

(A few book recommendations are listed below to get you started.)

With a little research on YouTube, I’m sure you can find other good leadership development resources. Just be sure to do that research; there’s also a lot of fluff and bad advice out there!

A little bit of budget?

You may believe it takes a lot of money to conduct an effective leadership development program.

Nope. That’s just how it’s usually been done. There are other options that don’t include high-dollar training programs or hefty travel budgets. (If we were even considering travel right now, which … well, right.)

You could start by buying those books for the book club.

And remember: just because a training program isn’t expensive, doesn’t mean it’s no good.

Or, to put it in a less double-negative way, there are reasonably-priced options available that are just fine.

We tend to go for the name brands and recognized training experts. They might be easy to find, and in happier times easy to justify, but not right now. So explore your options!

Don’t give up

I’m very serious when I say that leadership training is more important now than ever before – especially for the first-line and mid-level managers who have the biggest influence and impact on the vast majority of your employee population.

Leadership development is more important than ever - and you can still conduct training even if you have no budget. Here are some ideas - thanks, Grace!Click To Tweet

You need those leaders now to help your company navigate these strange, upsetting times.

And you’ll need them in the future to help lead the recovery.

And if you don’t train them now, they won’t be ready to assume greater leadership responsibility when your company needs them to advance when senior leadership retires or moves on to other opportunities.

And then where will you be?

Book recommendations

Never Split the Difference: negotiating as if your life depended on it, by Christopher Voss. I firmly believe every human on the planet should read this book – it’s that useful. Voss was the lead international hostage negotiator for the FBI, and brings his stories as well as remarkably useful (and often counter-intuitive) skills and tools to the book. It’s a great choice for a book club – lots of discussion and practice opportunities – and Voss offers a study guide on the website of his consulting company, the Black Swan Group.

Time to Think: listening to ignite the human mind, by Nancy Kline. Listening is one of those things that everyone says we should do better – but – what does “better” even mean? This book offers fascinating insight into how listening serves problem-solving in ways we might not expect.

Principles: life and work, by Ray Dalio. Okay, I admit I haven’t read this, but I’ve heard enough about it, both in general public commentary and from people I know who have read it, to know it’s interesting, intriguing, and worthwhile. (It’s on my to-read list… which is long.) I have poked around in it a bit, and there are plenty of bite-sized concepts that would make good discussion topics for a book group.


Here’s the Leadership A to Z video series I mentioned.

And here’s a link to a video I did on this topic of training without a budget: Leadership Training Without a Budget.