Leaders As Teachers: A Great Way to Cut Your Training Costs Drastically

Leaders As Teachers: A Great Way to Cut Your Training Costs Drastically

Written by Anju Bhatia

Anju is a master trainer in leadership, performance management, leading change and presentation dynamics. She has over 15 years of experience in training and leadership development and has done many train-the-trainer programs to build a strong fraternity of trainers and facilitators.

Anju is also the co-founder of TrainerZone. TrainerZone is a one stop shop for all training requirements which provides ready-to-deliver training kits and pick-and-use training resources like case-studies, videos, assessments etc. To know more, please visit www.trainerzone.co

There’s a wealth of leadership knowledge and wisdom within your enterprise which remains untapped. This wealth of experience and expertise of your senior leaders, if leveraged for training and developing your workforce, can help you reduce your classroom training costs tremendously.

This L & D initiative often termed as “Leaders As Teachers”, has been one of my favourites as an L & D professional. My experience has been that senior leaders are more than willing to formally train, coach and pass on the legacy to the next generation of leaders. And this is a sure-shot way to initiate your business leaders into succession planning – not just planning, this is all about succession development!

External Vs Internal

External consultants may come with certain topical and training expertise, but the true teachers are the ones who have ‘been around’ to bring the organization to where it is today. After all, developing next levels and creating leadership bench strength is one of the main roles of a successful leader.

Personally, for me, the best moments of my learning have been the ones where senior executives from the organization came and shared their stories of failures, successes, how it all started, and what they did in moments of extreme crisis. Those stories have been imprinted on my memory and I have often drawn upon that wealth of wisdom in similar situations in my life. It is a well-known fact that Jack Welch, even at his apex position in General Electric, used to passionately spend at least one day in a week in the classroom in Crotonville, training mid-managers, because he knew he was grooming senior leaders of tomorrow.

Of course, there are some advantages and also pitfalls in engaging internal leaders in training.


  • Wisdom of the Ages: They have a body of knowledge that is relevant to the organization, the customers and the markets
  • “War Stories”: Their stories of failures and successes are a source of inspiration to the next generation
  • History and Geography: They can recount how it all started and what it took to reach here – the key milestones, expansion into new geographies, new products, and how they arrived at these decisions. Sharing personal experiences is a great way to engage and educate the audience
  • Technical Expertise: They come with deep expertise in their own field, for example, training on sales and marketing excellence can best be imparted by the CMO or CSO or senior executives from those offices; training on design and innovation can be given by the Chief Innovation Officer. In one of my previous organizations, I remember we had a strong need for training on Handling Key Client Relationships with large portfolios. After hunting the entire market for the right trainer, I finally found a senior client partner who delivered excellent training with real-life examples of handling large client portfolios
  • Cost savings: External consultants come at a huge price. There is a cost of internal leadership time as well. However, most leaders these days have training, development and coaching on their kpi’s and may not charge time spent on formal classroom training. This is a sure-shot way of reducing your classroom training costs


There are some challenges too in bringing leaders in the classroom to train, and training professionals need to be aware of these:

  • Time constraints: Although most leaders will show great enthusiasm when invited to train, their operational and day-to-day exigencies will always have first priority. Even after blocking time on their calendar and getting a confirmation, they may still cancel it last minute if a client exigency comes up. Be prepared for such situations.
  • Presentation & Facilitation Skills: Not every great leader can be a great trainer. I had an extremely successful Operations Head who had a huge depth of knowledge to be shared. He was candid and upfront in board meetings and I had great expectations out of him as a trainer. However, his communication skills in the classroom were dismal and the training was poorly received by the audience.
  • Generation Gap: There might be a gap between the senior leader’s delivery style and the audience’ learning style. With the new gadget-savvy generations having very little attention span, it might become difficult for the leader to convey his pov. The situation could be similar to one at home where children don’t want to listen to elders as they are ‘boring’ or they are not ‘cool’. This problem could be solved by enhancing the leader’s delivery style and by having blended learning programs.
  • Training Design: When invited to train, most leaders would respond “I am happy to come and train, but you tell me what to speak on”. Leaders need to understand that training is not just bringing a few slides into the classroom like another meeting. In a formal classroom training, it would be best to design the training modules in L & D and then present the leaders with the end-to-end training solution and their role in it. Any changes, additions, deletions by the leader are welcome and must be built into the final training design by the training team
  • Train-the-Leader: A TTT for the leader on the final training module is a must. Take them step-by-step through the models, concepts, opinions, case-studies, handouts, videos, role-plays, data analysis, training props, games, activities, etc to familiarize them with the entire training design. Guide them on their speaking points and suggest to them the relevant places to include their war stories. I remember giving the book “The Disney Story” to one of our Senior Product Heads. This was given as reference reading material for a training on Enhancing Customer Experience which he was going to deliver. After delivering a super training with excellent feedback from participants, he told me that he had spent one whole week reading the book till 2 am every day because it was so interesting, and it also helped him in building his speaker notes for the training. A generic TTT on training, presentation and facilitation skills for the leaders will also go a long way in making them great facilitators in the classroom. Many organizations today have formal identification, selection and train-the-trainer processes before their internal leaders start to train
  • Co-Facilitation: Many leaders are happy if the Training / HR head or another leader joins them in co-facilitating a batch. It’s a great idea, but clear-cut roles on who will deliver which topic needs to be kept in mind. Also, senior leaders may have a tendency to give their viewpoint on every topic, and this may eat into the time allocated for the co-trainer. Leaders need to be sensitized to these things well before the training and it may be prudent to ask someone to keep time for them in the class so that all modules are given their due importance.

So, go ahead and invite, engage your senior leaders in your training plans. You will be surprised at their enthusiasm in being a part of leadership development, which is a critical piece in every organization.

A final word of advice – do not forget to recognize those leaders who have given their time, effort and energy to make your trainings a huge success. Ensure that their contribution gets highlighted in every public forum and they will surely be your sponsors for your future L & D initiatives!!

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