Last updated: 22.03.24

Employee Leadership Development: Its Importance and Application


Leadership is a key driver of business success, helping to improve the efficiency of operations and achieve organisational goals. Without leaders in an organisation, there wouldn’t be anyone driving the business forward, and no one to empower other employees to achieve excellence. 

Those who are positioned as leaders within an organisation have a very important role to play. Staff look highly upon these professionals and often place a lot of trust in their actions and judgement. 

Historically, businesses have funnelled funding into developing leaders, supporting more senior and experienced members of their team to progress to higher levels and develop important leadership skills whilst overseeing other employees. But, according to e-learning expert and change-focused leader Nigel Paine, businesses should be shifting away from a focus on developing leaders and instead focus on developing leadership across a company. 

In this article, we shed light on what employee leadership development is, why it is important for your business, and how you can support your staff in developing leadership skills that will benefit them, and your business, simultaneously.

What is Employee Leadership Development?

To begin explaining what employee leadership development is, it’s first important to establish the differences between it and leader development. 

Leadership development’s approach looks at individuals across a business, applying frameworks, developing behaviours, and enforcing a philosophy that involves everyone. In contrast, developing a leader focuses on an individual specifically, adopting an approach that just looks at the individuals at the top level of a business. 

Employee leadership development does not leave anyone out of the equation when it comes to improving leadership skills, it involves everyone in the organisation, whether junior or senior. Many organisations offer leadership development strategies and support their employees to develop leadership skills in their everyday work, which is the key to successful business operations.

Why is Employee Leadership Development Important?

Employee leadership skills development is important in your organisation for several reasons. These can be split into direct benefits it can have on your employee, and the knock-on benefits it can have on your business as a whole. Below, we’ve broken down what we believe are some of the biggest reasons why investing in leadership skills development for your employees is important.

Attract and Retain Talented Employees, Supporting Them To Advance in Their Careers

Research has previously shown that employees who receive professional development opportunities have a 35% higher retention rate compared to employees who don’t. Additionally, studies discovered that nearly all (92%) of candidates will consider learning and development opportunities as a deciding factor when choosing between career options.

Employees need leadership skills if they want to progress in their careers. So, if they know that you are offering the opportunity for them to develop leadership skills, they’re more likely to join your company and stay there, creating a mutually beneficial exchange. 

Improves Satisfaction Amongst Employees

Employees who know that you’re investing time and money into supporting them to develop leadership skills are more likely to be satisfied in their roles. Research has shown that nearly 3 in 5 (58%) employees feel that professional development contributes to their job satisfaction. 

If you have more satisfied employees, your retention rate is likely to be higher and you’ll have a group of staff that feel happy and committed to their roles. 

Enhances Your Business Performance

Businesses need leaders to thrive and survive, with many stating that leadership is the key to business longevity. As an influence-based model, leadership allows for members of your organisation to be viewed as leaders, and therefore looked up to and trusted by their colleagues. 

With this, all of your team members become invested in the same goals and values, driving forward your business collectively. 

Increases Diversity

By investing in employee leadership development, your staff will be able to recognise and appreciate the value that diverse backgrounds and experiences can offer a business. With this, you increase diversity in your workplace, which is beneficial given research shows that diverse teams are better nearly 90% of the time compared to non-diverse teams, and further data highlights that this boosts creativity.

So, it’s without question that implementing employee leadership development opportunities in your workplace, whether by purchasing courses or sourcing this internally, is a worthwhile investment. 

Our ‘Leading and Managing Remote Teams’ training package is an ideal course in our ongoing remote working era, teaching managers how to confidently and successfully lead and manage teams in a remote environment.

What are Leadership Skills?

By understanding what a leadership skill is, and the different types of leadership skills, you can better create tailored learning and development strategies for your employees. This will help you to identify the core skills relating to leading a team that they will need in their role.

In a business, several critical employee leadership skills need to be adopted for your team members to be the best leaders that they can be. We’ve delved into these in more detail below. 

Critical Employee Leadership Skills

These are a selection of the employee leadership skills that we feel are important to develop for the benefit of your workforce:

  • Communication: Being able to communicate clearly and concisely in all manner of different conversations and settings to different groups.
  • Confidence: Having confidence in themselves to complete tasks and, most importantly, to lead others.
  • Decisiveness: An ability to know what they want to do and when which will help to give employees clear direction. 
  • Innovation: Thinking outside of the box to find the best solutions to challenges.
  • Reliability: Can be depended upon by other members of a team.
  • Motivating: Is able to motivate other employees, even when situations are tough, to achieve goals and objectives.
  • Empathy: An innate ability to put themselves in others’ shoes and understand the implications of their actions and decisions. 
  • Trustworthiness: Can be trusted by other members of their team, which will be decided based on the way that they act towards other employees and external individuals. 
  • Inspiring: Inspires others to be the best that they can be and achieve great things. 

How to Support Employee Leadership Development

Now that you understand employee leadership development, the next step is to learn how you can support your team to develop leadership skills and implement methods to do this.

Identify Necessary Leadership Skills For Your Business, and Build Frameworks

Before progressing with anything else, it’s first necessary to identify what leadership skills are critical to develop in your staff. This may differ between employees, but they need to be established from the get-go so your workforce can thrive as leaders.

Once you’ve established this, the next step is to build leadership development strategies which offer a consistent framework across your whole organisation to develop leadership skills, providing no exceptions based on hierarchy. In implementing this framework, you should have staff working hard at every level, powering towards developing key leadership skills. 

Promote Regular Reflection 

All businesses should take time to reflect on activities, and this is core to employee leadership development. Senior members of staff should encourage debate about what works and what doesn’t in your organisation to create conscious leaders and strengthen core behaviours associated with leadership. 

Consider offering the opportunity for your employees to reflect on their own leadership, consulting others on how well they perform as leaders and creating weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals for them to continue developing leadership skills. The best leaders see their positions as a collective responsibility that requires discussion and sharing of issues. This way, high standards are agreed upon and acted upon.

Promote Regular Feedback 

By promoting regular feedback in your workforce, you help employees understand their strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of other members of the team. This is critical for learning and development, as employees can then hone in on weaknesses that need strengthening, which may include improving leadership skills and competencies.

Whether this is provided in feedback sessions with your whole team or is conducted one-to-one with different employees, there are profound benefits to receiving feedback regularly, and this will only support your workforce to develop leadership skills quickly. 

Promote Coaching in the Workplace 

Coaching in the workplace is critical to helping employees develop their knowledge and skills. Research has highlighted that a whopping 99% of organisations that implement coaching believe that it is beneficial to both their business as well as their employees.

Promoting regular coaching and mentoring sessions between employees will mean that those less experienced can learn from more senior leaders of the team, helping them to develop leadership skills. Equally, members of the team who have had more opportunities to develop leadership skills can use this time to not only share their expertise and experiences with others but also receive feedback on how they can continuously improve these skill sets. 

Encourage Independence and Adopting Responsibility

Sometimes, the best way to develop your staff leadership skills is to encourage them to take on more responsibility and be more independent. This takes an opposite approach to micro-managing teams, allowing employees to learn from their actions and mistakes, which makes them more likely to grow and develop in their roles quickly, developing leadership skills in the process. Not to mention they become more confident and decisive too.

Focus Groups and Workshops 

Focus groups and workshops can be a really useful tool for developing leadership skills in employees. This opens the floor for conversations and discussions to be had between employees, helping them to collaborate to solve problems using critical leadership skills.

Employees can then reflect on these learnings, sharing them with the group and comparing how other individuals approached these topics and challenges to further extend their knowledge of how to behave like a leader. 

Offer Training Courses 

Offering training courses allows employees to gain comprehensive knowledge on how to be a good leader, and run through scenarios of how this can be put into practice in day-to-day life. 

Training courses can come in a variety of different formats, and it’s worth discussing with your employees first how they best learn before choosing which employee leadership development training you will be adopting. 

We offer “The People Manager’s Toolkit” as a training resource to cover all management training needs. This is a simple and cost-effective way to ensure members of staff can meet their full potential, and that they become great leaders.


Are Leaders Born or Made?

Leadership is a combination of both - some people are born with the qualities and naturally possess the skills that can help them be great leaders. But, equally, the skills required to be a good leader are learnt, and it’s experiences that play a key role in developing leadership skills and putting them into practice. 

Regardless of whether you’re born with the qualities that make a good leader or not, everyone can learn how to be a good leader. 

What are the 8 Leadership Styles?

Eight common leadership styles have been outlined. These are:

  • Transactional leadership
  • Servant leadership
  • Transformational leadership
  • Autocratic leadership
  • Democratic leadership
  • Bureaucratic leadership
  • Charismatic leadership
  • Laissez-Faire leadership

There are more than just these eight leadership styles, each with its own characteristics. Understanding the types of leadership styles that exist is important to your team and company culture.

What are 3 Key Differences Between a Manager and a Leader? 

Managers focus on creating goals. In comparison, leaders are responsible for creating a vision for a business. The point at which both roles cross is that the managers implement strategies to reach this vision, and leaders will continue to motivate employees to do so.

Additionally, a leader helps to coach people to be the best that they can be, whereas managers focus on how employees can achieve the goals of the business. Finally, managers can measure their efforts to drive the team to tangible goals, whereas leaders can’t measure their impact so easily. 


Employee leadership development is essential in your business for both your organisation’s success and the success of your employees. Without leadership skills, businesses would remain stagnant, and the candidate market would not be as diverse as it is, with innovative, motivating, and creative leaders helping to drive industries forward. 

We hope that this article has offered you the insight you need to understand why you should implement employee leadership development in your business, and how you can do this easily and effectively. 

If you’re looking for support in developing your employee’s leadership skills, we offer a variety of leadership and management training courses which are CPD-approved, helping your employees build the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to be leaders and managers.