New syllabus for leaders

Course tutor in class demonstrates the new IoD syllabus for leaders

Following the launch last year of the IoD’s Director Competency Framework – the new blueprint for good leadership – a brand-new course syllabus has been created to ensure directors can develop all the leadership skills they need

The renowned leadership guru Warren Bennis famously wrote: “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership.

“That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born. And the way we become leaders is by learning about leadership through life and job experiences, not with university degrees.”

The IoD is in full agreement with Bennis, which is why it is building on the Director Competency Framework, which launched last year. The objective of that is clear and simple – to provide a blueprint for standards of professionalism among directors.

It equips business leaders with knowledge of the areas they need to develop in order to perform effectively as board members throughout their careers, and is free to access for all, not just IoD members.

Now, aligned to this framework, a new award-level syllabus has been added to the IoD’s professional development offering, titled Leadership for Directors – designed to take all the academic theories and make them actionable in a business context.

One of the authors of the new syllabus is David Joel, an IoD course leader with a wealth of board-level experience. “Most of us, when we become directors, are not told about all the responsibilities,” he says. “So this syllabus focuses a lot more on the challenges that leadership presents. It’s more about style and applicability, rather than just models.

“Also, it’s not just about leaders, it’s about followers, too. A leader without followers is just a person, and then we have a problem. If leaders don’t perform it leaves confusion in the minds of their followers because they know what their task is, but they don’t necessarily know what is the acceptable behaviour to deliver it.

“The banking crisis is an example, because the tasks were clear but there was no clear ethical dimension. So the new syllabus also examines leadership styles. We look at the leaders’ emotional intelligence, we want you to look at yourself, think about the sort of leader you want to be, and how your style may motivate or demotivate followers.

“One obvious role model is Sir Richard Branson. If you look at what he stands for, yes, there is a successful brand there, but there is also something about the way he communicates and behaves that sets the pattern for what he expects of his people.”

Another area that the new syllabus tackles is how to respond in a crisis. Or, as Joel puts it: “It’s all well and good looking at all these models of how to be a leader but that all goes to pot in a crisis. A good example of a bad response was BP’s initial reaction to the tragedy at Deepwater Horizon.

“So we look at the mechanics of a crisis, how it can escalate and the fact that leaders need to show emotional intelligence in how they deal with a crisis – empathy becomes important.”

Indeed, the Director Competency Framework is built around three dimensions – knowledge, skills and mindset. Joel concludes: “A lot of the training we do at the IoD is to give you the skills and confidence to be an exemplar of acceptable behaviour, because that’s what drives the culture of your organisation.

“It’s more than just taking in information, it’s about what you can do with it, how you can measure it. Ultimately, it’s about deeds not words.”

An introduction to Leadership for Directors new syllabus

It will cover the following five key areas

What is leadership?
Understanding the concepts of leadership and followership. Consider how leadership can be defined and understood in relation to the director’s role on the board.

Understanding yourself and others
Learn the techniques for developing a greater awareness of oneself as well as the motivations and behaviours of others, and how this awareness can contribute to inspirational leadership.

Leading teams
Learn how leaders can help to build and sustain high-performing teams, including on the board itself.

Leading your organisation
Discover how the director’s leadership behaviours help to create the culture, which enables the organisation to achieve its strategic objectives and to respond effectively to crisis and change.

Leading beyond the organisation
Examine how leaders create influence and impact within and beyond the organisation through effective stakeholder relations and a proper understanding of the organisation in its wider context.

For more about the Director Competency Framework and how the IoD’s courses, qualifications and director development services can help you and your organisation, visit 

For more on the award in Leadership for Directors, including how to book, visit or call 020 7766 2601

About author

Ryan Herman

Ryan Herman

Alongside his work for Director, Ryan has written for SportBusiness International, VICE Sports, Populous, Audi and Gallop Magazine and was previously editor of Sky Sports Magazine.

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