People assuming a new management role are often expected to thrive immediately. But do they have the proper training to do so? 

According to Gallup, only one in 10 people naturally possess the talent to manage. The vast majority need to take the time to develop their ability to manage well. It’s important for resources like high-impact leadership development to be readily available to managers of all levels across an organization.

Unfortunately, leadership development hasn’t adequately adapted — in most cases — to 21st-century business. Josh Bersin, HR and workplace learning expert, makes an argument in favor of realigned leadership development initiatives by explaining how traditional training programs struggle to adapt to updated business models and similar organizational enhancements. 

“I’m not saying the traditional leadership model is dead, but when companies redefine their business models every few years, creating new agile organizational models, and designing solutions around data and customer experience, this type of “long-form” leadership development doesn’t keep up,” Bersin says

“I believe the most effective companies now promote people into leadership before they’re ready, and then give them the tools and support to learn on the job, innovate with new ideas, and grow into their jobs in place. The idea of ‘waiting until someone is ready’ just doesn’t let the organization keep up.” 

Millennials will make up nearly 75% of the global workforce by 2025. Gen Z isn’t far behind, and both categories place development in the workplace as a top priority. However, Gen Z learners, like millennials, are well-versed — if not more so — in digital communication, and both groups shine in an on-the-go, customized learning experience. 

Both factors support the reasoning of thought leaders like Bersin, who believe it necessary for organizations to reevaluate how they develop talent. It also brings into question what precisely high-impact leadership development is and how it should be delivered effectively to today’s evolving workforce. 

What is high-impact leadership development in today’s workforce?

At Udemy, we consider high-impact leadership development a goals-oriented training initiative that creates meaningful change and opportunity for the individual and organization. 

“Leadership, like HR, is a ‘craft,’ not a ‘profession,’” Bersin says. “In other words, you learn it by doing it, through coaching and apprenticeship, and by learning and reflecting on your mistakes.”

We know future leaders experience impactful change when they use learned skills in real-time workplace conditions. The real success, though, is seeing the impact the learner has on the organization because of their training.  

This impact is wide-ranging and may include the development of new skills at a team level, the creation of new leadership development opportunities, and an organizational shift in workplace culture.

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Structuring high-impact leadership development

We now know what “high-impact” leadership development includes. But how should it be delivered? 

When it comes to developing leadership skills, online, cohort-based learning has proved successful in creating meaningful outcomes for the employee and employer. Traditional learning has its benefits but—as discussed—doesn’t fit the mold for today’s leading, remodeled workforce, where hybrid and remote work environments are the new norm. 

Online learning provides a remarkably unique space for participants to succeed by creating training courses that can be completed at their own pace with easy-to-use technology. This approach eliminates burnout and allows the participant to complete tasks without feeling like they’re sacrificing one task to accomplish another. 

Active learning 

Leaders don’t develop high-impact skills by reading an article or watching a training video. In fact, new skills that can be used on the job in real-time, are often developed through active learning

Active learning generates real situations in an online training environment that can only be solved through “doing.” This learning style is how humans have learned for centuries, and it is still used today in all aspects of professional life, such as the workplace and professional sports. Learning, doing, and repeating is a “hands-on” approach that allows learners to think on their feet in a controlled setting. 

Providing the resources

It’s important that the proper tools and resources are provided to produce the best leaders. An online leadership development journey should be filled with active learning initiatives and resources to help participants accomplish their goals. 

A structured program should provide course content and activities rooted in science that makes online learning enjoyable and rewarding. Learners shouldn’t feel like they’re cramming for a test. Instead, divide content into chunks linked to resources and group activities so the learner can absorb and use the information more easily. 

The cohort-based approach

To deliver a high-quality learning experience, it’s crucial to understand the sociocultural theory of how people learn – together. Cohort-based learning presents coursework that requires collaboration, connection, and active engagement, which creates a higher understanding of shared goals and how they can obtain those goals – together – in the workplace. 


High-impact leadership development is crucial in the progression of today’s learners and the support of today’s organizations. Learn more about how Udemy Business’s leadership development can help meet your individual and organizational goals.