Online leadership development courses offer benefits for busy managers. They can build on the latest insights, tools and techniques. However, there are also a number of challenges. There may be a lack of relevance in the content. Some ideas may not fit readily with existing thinking. A lack of human contact can also be a problem as there is less opportunity to reflect on options. It’s therefore important for organisations to evaluate online leadership courses against specific criteria. If the program can be tailored to requirements, there is a greater likelihood of it being successful.
Online leadership development courses promise to offer cost-effective, positive solutions that will bring lasting benefit. However, experience suggests that the process will achieve more when content is tailored to the requirements of the organisation. The pace of delivery is also important. Each module in a leadership development course needs to be sent at regular intervals, possibly on a weekly basis, and the overall process should form part of a broader initiative. It may, for example, be linked to leadership development workshops or face-to-face coaching sessions.
There is value in having clear mention of the organisation’s leadership ‘focus’ and competencies included in the course content. This improves the relevance of the process and help set the material in the relevant context. However, it’s possible to go further by using an initial work preference questionnaire. This can explore aspects of the manager’s current work behaviour and motivation and enable individually tailored content to be included in each of the course modules.
A Range of Options
A further possibility involves linking the online leadership development course with 360 degree feedback. Managers then become more aware of the expectations and requirements of direct reports, colleagues, business partners and stakeholders. An exciting feature of online leadership development is the opportunity it creates for establishing a dynamic ongoing process. Important themes of authentic leadership, for example, involve openness, transparency and receptiveness to feedback. The process can also address practical steps relating to Purposeful Conversations. This all contributes to improved analysis, interpersonal effectiveness, and delivery of outstanding results.
Concerns are sometimes expressed that an online leadership course is static and does not address real-life issues. However, these problems can be overcome by ensuring that the content of modules is agreed at the start of the process. The motivation of participants is also significantly strengthened by ensuring that each module includes individually tailored content. This means that preferences on important dimensions e.g. Leadership Focus, can be presented graphically, and comparison made to the typical scores recorded by effective managers/senior professionals.
Delivery of each module should also be automated, so administration is kept to a minimum. Additional coaching, either face-to-face, via the Internet, or in the form of workshop events, helps connect the online learning to clear goals and practical action. Regular review meetings between participants and their managers also build commitment to the overall process.