Can I Teach Someone how to Be a Leader?

A colleague expressed it well: she knew how to teach technical tasks, like how to add a user account, but she doesn’t believe it’s possible to teach soft, squishy skills, like how to lead. As the creator and facilitator of our leadership development program, Gillespie Nimble, I’m going to shock you and say that I agree 100%.

And that’s why I’m a facilitator, not a teacher or instructor.

It is possible to learn the skills necessary to be a great leader. I facilitate that learning by exposing people to those skills and identifying their possible gaps. Then we strategize together how to fill those gaps.


Here’s an example: as a new manager leading people with whom he previously worked, “Andy” signed up for our Gillespie Nimble New Manager JumpStart™ series. The first task in the Communicate with Clarity course is to think about the statements people make about the way you communicate. For Andy, staff feedback included concerns like, “You leave a lot up to the group, but sometimes we really need you to decide.”

During our one-on-one sessions, Andy began to understand he struggles with direct communication and needs to address that gap. He began practicing direct communication with his team and now feels better suited to his role. More important, he’s now hearing from the team that they are getting the guidance and direction they need to do their jobs better.


Another Gillespie Nimble participant, “Clara,” thought the silence from her team members during meetings meant they didn’t care or feel committed enough to the team to share their ideas. When we worked through the Communicate with Clarity task, however, Clara realized she wasn’t hearing any feedback from her staff about her communication. Though she also chalked that up to lack of commitment, we made a plan for her to ask team members individually what they thought of her communication style. Their responses— “We know it’s your way or the highway, so we just do it,” and “we don’t like to ask questions because we’re afraid you’ll think we don’t agree with your plan”—really opened Clara’s eyes!


After talking to her team, Clara discovered her very direct and directive manner of communicating left no room for others’ engagement. During our one-on-ones, we worked on finding times when Clara can increase her flexibility. She’s now getting more feedback and support from her team—they come to her with ideas and some people even tell her when they disagree with her plans.

In most instructed communications courses, you explore direct and flexible communication and learn about the features and benefits of both. In Gillespie Nimble, we then take your exploration to the next level to figure out where each participant struggles; uncover the skills gaps—such as flexible communication for Clara and direct communication for Andy; and then we collaborate to find solutions that fill those gaps.

An instructed course is appropriate for tasks where maybe one or two ways to perform exists: you teach that procedure and use the new skill to solve the problem. At Gillespie Associates, we meet that need for many clients with sales, process change, and new product training. But soft skills—like every skill you need to be a good leader—are functions people can perform in multiple ways. A facilitator armed with an engaging and flexible program like Gillespie Nimble can expose a new leader to the necessary skills, help them identify personal gaps, and create a strategy to fill those gaps.

So no, I absolutely cannot teach you how to be a great leader—but I can expose you to the skills and knowledge you need to facilitate your own growth and self-discovery!

Interested in learning how we engage modern learners with our personalized leadership development program? Download our guide now!