Do Team Members Need Leadership Training?

For many companies, leadership training is an afterthought. And anyone who does get it is most likely in upper management, since they're the ones leading the company. Makes sense, right?

No, it doesn't.

When you put an untrained foreman on a jobsite, they aren't equipped to keep their crew safe or productive. That makes the foreman's life harder and makes workers more likely to quit or get hurt. On the flip side, training foremen increases retention and improves safety. Foremen need someone to teach them how to lead others well. 

And so do site workers. You need to train every crew member so they're able to step up and lead. Then when a management position becomes available, a new hire needs a mentor, or someone needs to stop a safety issue before it becomes an accident, you've got multiple crew members who can do those things.

Leadership expert Jocko Willink breaks down how to give employees at all levels the leadership training they need. 

Make leadership part of your company's culture

Should you arrange for a leadership workshop once a year? Offer courses every six months, or maybe once a month?

According to Jocko, that's not nearly enough. Instead, he says, "Leadership needs to be a daily part of what you do as an organization. Leadership needs to be embedded in the way you exist as an organization. Leadership should be talked about every single day."

So, does embedding leadership in your business mean you need to do a two-day stand-down every month to train your people on leadership?

“No, I’m not talking about that at all,” Jocko explains. “But leadership development needs to be part of the culture of an organization."

What that means in your company is open to interpretation. "It could mean you do five minutes of training a day. It could mean you do 10 minutes a day. It could mean you do half an hour a week," Jocko says. It just has to be part of your culture.

And you don't create culture at yearly workshops. You don't create culture at monthly training stand-downs. You create culture in the small, consistent things you do and say every day, every week. Day after day. Week after week.

So when it comes to making leadership training part of your culture, it's wise to make use of small, frequent lessons.


Look for leadership training opportunities everywhere

You have to train your employees if you want to grow your revenue, your company, or your people. 

“Here’s the deal," Jocko says, "The ROI on making leadership part of your company? It’s unbounded. The results that I've seen in the past 10 years of doing this, you will make an infinite number back . . . once you make leadership part of your culture."

So if you want to roll out the red carpet and set a good-sized leadership training budget, go for it. You'll earn that money back in worker retention, productivity, new projects, and so much more. 

On the other hand, you may be thinking, I can’t afford to do that much training, and I don't have time to do it every day. Those are valid concerns. 

But here's the good news: you don't have to spend big chunks of time or money on leadership training. You don't need to host expensive workshops or halt production to host seminars. You just need to look around—because leadership training opportunities are everywhere.

Example of a leadership training opportunity

Jocko gives an example: a boss and their subordinate have a meeting, and they spend 20 minutes in the meeting discussing a project. "That's 20 minutes worth of leadership training," he says. 

Here's why. In that meeting, the boss asks how their employee will do the project and gives them guidance. That's training. It's training about the project and also about how they're going to interact with the people.

For example, the boss can ask, "What are you going to say to that foreman? You know, that foreman can be tough to deal with. Let's role-play what you're going to say to them."

Jocko says, "That right there [is leadership training]. You've got to go out and talk to a foreman . . . I know he's a jerk. I know he's got a bad temper. You and I role-play it for five minutes, and the return on investment on that five minutes is exponential."

An ordinary conversation became leadership training. The boss and their employee didn't bash the foreman because he's hard to get along with. The employee didn't get into a fight with the foreman on the job, and the boss didn't pick sides. Instead, this conversation helped the employee learn how to unify the team and keep the project moving. 

"Training is happening all the time. In the construction world, you've got projects that you're doing. That's your training tool. Use that to teach leadership," Jocko concludes.


Teaching leadership skills shouldn’t stop with upper management. Every employee at every level of your company needs leadership training if you want to succeed. The way to accomplish this? Follow Jocko's advice:

  • Make leadership training part of your company culture.
  • Look for leadership training opportunities everywhere.

Even the smallest interactions can become a lesson if your team is trained to think about leadership and if they're actively looking for ways to learn and grow in this area. You have endless leadership training opportunities on every project, with every person. And the ROI on this training is unlimited.

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