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How to choose the best female leadership programme for your organisation

Women in leadership offerings have evolved significantly in recent years, reflecting the growing recognition of how powerful gender diversity in leadership roles can be. 

If you are looking to make sense of the options available for your organisation, we have distilled all the most important information for exactly that purpose. 

Development options for female leaders 

Female leadership development programmes come in various forms, including workshops, seminars, online courses, executive coaching, and mentorship programmes. There are pros and cons to each, reflecting budget, timescales, audience and impact. Here we have provided a simple breakdown of the most common solutions on offer: 

  • One-off workshops and seminars: Ideal for those seeking immersive learning experiences and opportunities for networking with like-minded individuals. Be mindful that these are unlikely to affect long-term behavioural change. 
  • Online courses: Good for busy professionals looking for flexibility and convenience in their learning journey, with the ability to access materials at their own pace and schedule. Can be harder to create sustained engagement if there are no real-time or coaching elements. 
  • Mentorship programmes: These are a hugely valuable way of offering support and guidance to your high potential women. They generate cross-level networking opportunities and create role models for future leaders. Reverse mentoring also has massive benefits. This is a solution you can implement in-house or with the help of an external provider. 
  • Coaching: Tailored sessions with experienced coaches can provide invaluable insight and personalised strategies for overcoming obstacles and achieving goals. Leadership coaching for women is a worthy investment in creating high-performing leaders, and can be done 1:1 or in group sessions. 
  • Multi-dimensional development programme: This is the most comprehensive learning solution. A multi-dimensional programme will include in-person masterclasses as well as online workshops, 1:1 and group coaching, pre- and post-work, mentoring opportunities and touchpoints with key senior stakeholders. If you want to create long-term sustained change that has an impact on organisation as well as your leaders, this is the best option for you. 

Modules and topics covered on female leadership programmes 

In terms of content, the majority of these offerings will focus on developing key leadership skills such as communication, negotiation, strategic thinking, and resilience, while also addressing challenges specific to women in leadership positions, such as gender bias, imposter syndrome, the broken first rung, and work-life balance. 

However, if you want a truly transformational programme, then look for a solution that focuses on creating self-awareness and behavioural change first, and traditional ‘leadership skills’ second. 

Why is this important? Because it maximises the impact that any training will have, on both the leaders and the organisation. Let’s imagine that each leadership skill (communication, resilience, strategic thinking) is a branch on a tree, and for the branches to grow, they need a solid trunk and healthy roots. Self-awareness and behavioural change are the roots and the trunk – they give the branches somewhere to grow from but if they are not strong and nurtured first, then the branches will have no chance of growing. 

The best questions to ask any leadership development provider 

  • How personal is the development journey? The best leadership development programmes take delegates on a journey of self-discovery. It is only by raising self-awareness that behavioural change can happen, and thereby your organisation will feel the impacts of the training. 
  • How much do they understand about the audience? Creating a space for female leaders to be vulnerable and explore their challenges is only possible when the provider and the delivery team have a deep understanding of the audience and their needs. When looking for a provider, look for signs of expertise: have they released any thought leadership that showcase they understand how to create a programme that will actually work
  • How much do they value partnership? The best leadership programmes are created in partnership. Why? Because you are the experts in your organisation, your cultural references, your pain points and your language – all of which is important data for creating a truly impactful programme. The external provider should then bring in their knowledge of the audience, the skills and the landscape. The combination of these two areas of expertise is what will create a programme that has real impact on your organisation’s goals. 
  • How much change will occur within the organisation? It is all very well to send a select number of female leaders on a course to enhance their leadership skills. But how much change is that likely to create in the organisation as a whole? A good development partner will take the time to understand your culture, and the change that needs to occur, and they will work with you to create a whole-picture solution that actually creates this change. 

The best female leadership programme for you 

The needs of your organisation and your budget might point clearly to one type of solution, and if that is the case, brilliant. But if not, ask yourself: how much change do we want to create? 

If the answer to that is “lots”, then perhaps steer clear of the one-off ‘quick fix’ solutions that might seem practical and budget-friendly, but will cost you more in the long-term when they offer little return on investment. Similarly, there is also no need to pour money into a solution that looks shiny on the outside but won’t help you deliver on your business goals. 

The best solution for you is one that has the potential to create better leaders, while also impacting your bottom line. 

That’s why we see investing in female leaders as not only an investment in the women, but in the growth and success of the organisation. It should empower women to step into their full potential as leaders, increasing diversity of perspective, and directly impacting an organisation’s ability to navigate challenges, inspire others, drive positive change and innovate in a quickly changing world. 

So, to sum it up simply: the best programme for women in leadership should have a two-part focus: empower the individual, and transform the organisation’s culture. 

If you would like to learn more about our approach to developing female leaders at Ivy House and are ready to explore a multi-dimensional approach to female leadership development, we would love to hear from you. 

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