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Is Formal Management Training Needed to be an Effective Leader?


Business leader with a vision pointing

Many people believe that good leaders are born with the traits necessary to be an effective leader, and that if a person does not have them, then it is very difficult to turn them into one. The term ‘natural born leader’ is a phrase often used, and implies that an individual either has what it takes to be a good leader, or they don’t, and that there is little that can be done for a person if they don’t.

The reality is somewhat different. Whilst being born with certain attributes such as being an extrovert or having good charisma is an advantage and provides a solid base, there is far more involved in becoming an effective leader, much of which needs to be learned.

Are Leadership and Management the Same Things?

A person in charge of others will usually be both a leader and a manager. The two terms are largely interchangeable, even though they are two subtly different things. The term 'management' tends to be concerned with the organising of people, delegating tasks, allocating resources, ensuring tasks are completed on time etc, whilst 'leadership' usually focuses on the ability of the leader to motivate and inspire others to achieve those goals.

In a small business, the person in charge is likely going to have to be both a manager and a leader, as they will probably have sole responsibility for getting their team to work hard and all pull in the same direction. Larger businesses have the luxury of being able to separate these roles a bit more, as they have many people in the company hierarchy who can specialise in the motivation and inspirational leadership side of things, whilst others take on the more organisational side of management.

Do Managers and Leaders Need Training?

The simple answer is: yes. As mentioned earlier, being born with and naturally possessing certain characteristics and talent will be a tremendous advantage in getting started, but on their own will definitely not be enough to make a person an effective leader or manager of others.

In fact, it can sometimes be worse for a person to have these character traits but with no formal management training or experience, as they can end up trying to lead the group but getting it very wrong. This can be detrimental for the company, as well as damaging future relationships between the person with management potential and the others within the team. Sometimes the damage can be irreparable, which is unfortunate as a little more time and training could have produced an extremely competent and successful manager for the organisation.

A Fictional Example

John has been an employee of Example Co for two years, and senior management have been impressed with his ability to work with those around him. He is an outgoing, friendly person who seems to improve the mood of his colleagues and appears to have a good understanding of the products that Example Co manufacture on site. Senior management think he would therefore be the ideal choice to replace the team’s current line manager who resigned suddenly, leaving a vacancy to fill.

John is promoted to line manager, with the general managerial objectives of being able to motivate those now working for him and keep production output up to speed.

Unfortunately though, things soon begin to go wrong. Whilst John has the personal attributes necessary to motivate others, he lacks the assertiveness a manager needs to get tasks achieved by strict deadlines. Whilst his friendly nature is useful in terms of making his subordinates view him as approachable for them to bring concerns to his attention, he lacks the assertiveness skills required to get his staff to focus on their work at all times, which results in a drop in productivity.

His knowledge of the products and strong belief in wanting the company to succeed stand him in good stead for being managerial potential, but his lack of any sort of training in change management means he is reluctant to make any sort of changes. This results in the business failing to keep up with competitor’s innovations to their manufacturing processes, or respond to new opportunities and revenue streams which are there for the company to take advantage of.

Consequently, profits begin to fall and the atmosphere within the team begins to fall dramatically. This soon leads to higher staff absenteeism rates and a sharp increase in workplace incidents which need to be dealt with. However, because John has received no training and has no previous experience in managing people who are arguing or have done something which requires a disciplinary process to be undertaken, he struggles to manage it all. Not only does he have no idea how to get his warring team back on track, but he makes mistakes during the disciplinary process which could leave the company open to future litigation by current or ex employees.


Although a simplified example, the above serves to show that an individual can have all of the attributes in place to be a fantastic leader and manager of others, but letting them loose in a managerial role without providing them with the tools required to actually manage people and processes can ultimately result in disaster.

Formal management training is therefore crucial in complementing existing leadership skills. Whether it be a First Line Manager course for those who are newly promoted to a managerial role and currently knwo little about managing others within a workplace, or a more comprehensive course like the accredited ILM Level 3 Award in Leadership and Management, the knowledge taught on the course enables the attendee to return to the workplace and deliver tangible results.

A person who has the managerial knowledge, as well the leadership skills required to implement them in such a way which will get the maximum out of their workers, will make for a highly competent and effectual leader and manager. Plus, although certain concepts are unchanging throughout time, there are many other aspects of managing which require a person to keep their knowledge up to date, as a failure to do so can also lead to problems for both the manager themselves and for the business.

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