Highly skilled executives are key for organizations to continue delivering better-than-expected results. With these challenging times, executives need to keep looking to develop their competencies and skills to deliver results year-over-year.

“Those in leadership positions seek to understand what skills, competencies and behaviours will support them in carrying out these demanding roles, both for the benefit of their own aspirations and those of the organizations in which they operate.” (Claire Collins, 2012)

Executive development will continue to be one of the upmost priorities in any organization. Growing and developing leadership skills is mostly centred on learning the knowledge and skills required for current and/or future roles for the executive.

Learning and development methods, including guidance on professional development, whether short or long term, varies from self-learning, training, supervision, coaching and mentoring. This article will highlight the different methods of executive development and briefly position them for a better understanding on which method is best to use based on individual development needs.


Self-learning is any deliberate, planned action taken by the person to acquire and apply certain knowledge and/or skill without the assistance of someone else, by intentionally reading, listening, or watching someone perform an action. The effectiveness of this method is based on the ability of the person to choose what to learn, when to learn it, and on how easily the content can be understood and/or applied. The challenges of this method are about having access to relevant content; the amount and quality of time that needs to be allocated to that content; and last, and most important, it requires self-commitment, self-motivation—and a significant degree of self-discipline.


In business training, the trainer is the source of information and knowledge. Trainees receive information from the trainer through lectures and/or skill-based activities. Attendees are usually assessed through written or verbal tests and/or other assessments. This type of development method is effective and has a more positive impact on junior-level positions, where employees are in the primary stages of acquiring basic knowledge related to role and/or field.

Business Supervision

Supervision, most of the time, comes with authority and tends to be more focused on observing the person’s behaviour and their skills. Supervision usually has limited focus on self-learning and is more focused on translating knowledge into practical hands-on experience. It helps the supervised person to put their knowledge into practice.

Business Coaching

Although Business Coaching is generally for a short period of time, it is recognized as a process for developing leaders. The biggest priority for the coach is helping the coachee to be self-aware and to be able to manage themselves to improve performance related to the role. There is an increased focus on specific skills required to excel in the role as well as the skills needed for working and interacting with others, particularly on changing behavioural issues to drive improvement.

With the coaching methodology, it is necessary for the coach to be neutral, listen, and ask questions in order to develop certain skills. The coach might not need to have hands-on experience, depending on the kind of industry the coachee is engaged in, but the right coaches provide leadership knowledge and experience, to provide the coachees with a fresh perspective, and strategy to deliver results.

“Coaching is a helping relationship formed between a client who has managerial authority and responsibility in an organization, and a consultant, to achieve a mutually identified set of goals to improve their professional performance and personal satisfaction, and, consequently, to improve the effectiveness of the client’s organization.” (Kilburg, 2000).

Business Mentoring

Mentoring is a long-term process based on mutual trust and respect. The role of mentors evolves as the needs of their mentees change over time. In addition to what coaches do in being neutral, they listen and ask questions to develop certain skills, affording them, as mentors, to be more interactive and engaging. They develop the mentee’s skills that are not just relevant for the mentees, themselves, in their present roles, but also for their future roles and careers, in general.

Mentoring covers various aspects to guide executives in running a successful business. Mentors play a crucial role, from framing and expanding a mentee’s thinking, to building confidence and skills, to providing fresh insight, to boosting the overall performance of the mentees.

The relationship developed between the mentor and mentee allows mentors to help mentees explore their career options, and provide them support about their career trajectories and growth. Since they have faced the same challenges as their mentees, and they are more empathetic toward their needs, they are always willing to share their experience, skills and knowledge with the mentees, and serve as a professional advisor and role model.


“Increasingly, organizations are turning to individual development techniques to supplement or replace traditional training methods” (Collins, 2012).

It is dangerous and misleading for an executive to claim they know everything, especially if they were newly promoted to an executive role. It is expected they have enough information and knowledge related to the job, but it is still necessary to have support in carrying out and implementing their relevant knowledge in a skilled way, to become a top-performing executive.

For maximum efficiency and benefit, executives need to be clear on what their priorities are and what kind of support they are looking for.

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