While it may be true that some people are natural leaders, most people have an opportunity to greatly improve their leadership skill. Some corporate leadership training programs can help, but lasting leadership development comes from leaders receiving coaching and mentoring as they navigate real situations.

Leadership is about setting direction. Take the clear expectations, and then find the triggers that motivate each person to actions that get the desired results. Because each person you lead has his/her own preferences, likes, dislikes, experiences and personal histories that makes them totally unique, you’ll have to conduct an infinite number of experiments to figure out what each person will respond to. Without training or coaching to speed up the learning curve, you won’t maximize your effectiveness as a leader.

Start with training

There are many proven leadership strategies. Start developing your leaders by teaching them these strategies in a formal course.   This gives you the opportunity to share a consistent message across your full team. You can develop language and meaning that everyone will begin using, and the formal training program creates a shared experience for the participants.

The principles of our Conscious Leadership model are important to inject into your training. Leaders must first become more conscious of themselves and then become more conscious of others. When they do this effectively, they will become more adept at picking from the list of possible strategies to apply in different situations.

Apply theory in real situations

Of course, after training class you go back to your daily routine with the pressures, expectations, and challenges of your leadership role. If you remember them during the heat of the battle, you can draw on the leadership principles you learned.

Review your class notes regularly, especially as more difficult situations arise. You might recall a principle or strategy to guide you, you will gain confidence about what to say and how to act, and can guide your team through the situation and create a winning result.

Trust your instincts and believe in yourself. Life is a series of opportunities to experiment and see what happens. If you like the results from a strategy or approach, do that more. If you don’t like the results, try something else.

Get coaching and mentoring

Trial and error is the way we learn many of the practices and habits that shape who we are. From the day we were born, we subconsciously learned lessons and formed beliefs about what works or doesn’t. We can continue in this self-guided way and probably do alright. But what if we could accelerate what we learn and improve our effectiveness by getting honest and direct feedback?

A mentor is someone who has more experience than you that can guide you from their perspectives, given they have learned many of life’s lessons already. A coach is someone who is particularly skilled at helping you navigate the different challenges and providing insights through discovery processes they lead you through. You should have both to help you.

Sometimes an individual can act as both a coach and mentor, but this is a rare find if you’re lucky to identify someone who can play both roles well for you. For example, a mentor provides informal coaching in the way of providing advice and giving feedback. That said, there will be times that you will also want to go through the experience and insights of facilitated coaching exercises.

Within your daily leadership challenges, you can add the coach and mentor to provide guidance and feedback to you about how effective your decisions and actions are. This takes the strategies from your training class and your own trial and error much further. When you combine all three: training, your own efforts, and feedback from your coach or mentor, you will maximize your leadership effectiveness.