Leadership Development or Training

The Difference Between Leadership Development and Leadership Training: Pros, Cons, and Which is Right for Your Organization

Leadership is a crucial aspect of any organization, as it can determine the success or failure of a business. However, there are two main approaches to developing strong leaders within a company: leadership development and leadership training. It may seem like a debate in nomenclature, but there is a difference, and the difference matters. While both are important for building effective leadership at various stages, they are distinct concepts with unique benefits and drawbacks.

Leadership Development

Leadership development refers to long-term growth and improvement in an individual’s leadership skills, knowledge, and abilities. This can include formal education, training, and sometimes integrated approaches that include on-the-job experience and coaching. The goal of leadership development is to help individuals become better leaders through various experiences and learning opportunities.


  • Personalized approach: Leadership development is often tailored to the individual, taking into account their specific strengths, weaknesses, and career goals.
  • Long-term impact: By focusing on growth over time, leadership development can lead to more sustained and meaningful improvements in leadership abilities.
  • Real-world application: Many leadership development programs include methods that teach students how to apply their new skills and knowledge in real-world scenarios.


  • Time-consuming: The process of leadership development can be slow, as it takes time for individuals to learn and apply new skills.
  • Less immediate impact: Unlike leadership training, leadership development does not provide immediate results.
  • Can be expensive: Some leadership development programs can be quite expensive, making them inaccessible to smaller organizations.

Leadership Training

Leadership training refers to specific, focused events or programs that teach specific leadership skills and knowledge. This can include classroom training, workshops, and other structured learning experiences. Leadership training aims to provide leaders with new skills and knowledge that they can apply immediately in their current role.


  • Immediate impact: Leadership training provides immediate results, as individuals can apply new skills and knowledge immediately.
  • Focused approach: By focusing on specific skills and knowledge, leadership training can be more effective at developing specific areas of leadership.
  • Cost-effective: Compared to leadership development, leadership training is often more cost-effective, making it accessible to a wider range of organizations.


  • Short-term impact: While the impact is immediate, it is often short-lived. Unlike leadership development, leadership training does not always have a sustained impact on leadership abilities.
  • It is often a one-size-fits-all approach: Leadership training is often generalized and not tailored to the individual, which can lead to a less effective learning experience. You will see this a lot with “coaching” and group programs.
  • Limited real-world applications: Unlike leadership development, leadership training typically does not include training about how to apply the information in the real world, which can limit the practical application of new skills and knowledge.

Which is more appropriate for organizations? The answer to this question depends on the specific needs of the organization. Leadership training may be the best approach if an organization is looking to make immediate improvements in leadership skills and knowledge. However, leadership development may be a more appropriate option if the organization is looking to build strong leaders over time. The good news is that you do not have to pick between these two alone.

An Exceptional Third Option

There is a third option, which combines the best of both worlds. If you look hard enough, you can find programs designed by leaderologists that check all of the important boxes. These include:

  • Personalized approach
  • An immediate impact
  • A long-term impact
  • Real-world application
  • Focused approach
  • Cost-effective

For example, GrassFire Industries, L.L.C., is a leadership development and training firm in Wichita, KS. The company offers its L.E.I.P. program (Leadership Excellence in Practice), which is a blend of leadership development and leadership training. This proprietary hybrid approach provides the best of both worlds. Specifically, this program provides individuals with a customized comprehensive approach to leadership development and training, combining classroom training with real-world application strategies designed specifically for the student and their industry. The result is typically an immediate impact, both personally and professionally, and a long-term impact as the student continuously practices their new skills. Best of all, it’s cost-effective and includes a bunch of extras such as coaching, organizational development insight, and health education.

To clarify, the best bang for your buck will likely be found in a comprehensive approach to leadership growth by those who truly understand what they are doing. Such programs are often a great value and relatively fair on the time investment. Look for the third option if you can find it. Ensure that the practitioner is educated in leadership specifically. While harder to find, such programs typically result in long-term improvements while providing the necessary immediate impact that organizations need.

If you found this article informative, you might also like Ten Reasons To Avoid Group Development.