Learning & Development

9 ideas for developing leadership skills among non-managers

Effective leadership is about more than just management skills. That’s why it’s important to invest in developing leadership skills across all levels of your workforce.

Leadership is about communication, a positive company culture, and setting an example to the rest of the team. Someone doesn’t have to be a manager to show any of those things.

83% of businesses feel it’s important to develop leaders at every level. But only 5% have implemented any sort of leadership development across all levels.

For every year they delay that leadership development, they lose 7% of their total annual sales.

About half of employees, meanwhile, don’t feel their company’s leadership is of a high quality.

This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve spoken to people before who’ve told me that they wished their manager had had more leadership training. Unfortunately, it was clear that they hadn’t been given much, if any.

This is a widely-shared sentiment; 69% of millennials feel there’s a lack of leadership development in their workplace.

So, how can you go about developing leadership skills among non-managers?

Let them lead an ERG/committee

Leading a group is a relatively low-commitment way for someone to work on their leadership skills.

They get to support people who have similar interests to them without taking on a managerial role and the responsibilities that come with that.

Employee resource groups, in particular, are a great avenue for developing leadership skills. They can even offer access to executives and mentoring opportunities non-managers might not otherwise have.

Rotate meeting leads

Rotating meeting leads is one of the simplest ways to give someone a taste of leadership. 

That way, they get the chance to try techniques they like. Or they can experiment with something new to see what they’re comfortable with and what resonates with attendees.

Alternatively, you could have different people give updates on different areas.

For instance, in marketing, you could have someone give a content update; another on social media; another on PPC, etc. This gives everyone the chance to speak up in every meeting. They get to share their knowledge, answer questions, and improve their communication skills.

It also shows you value everyone’s voice and experience, helping build a positive and supportive company culture, along with developing leadership skills.

Emphasize the importance of communication skills

Communication is a key element to any positive company culture. It starts with how executives communicate. They should set an example with how they talk to not just their equals, but those below them as well.

To show just how important communication skills are within your business, you could hold writing or speaking workshops. In addition, you could create internal content around communication, or write an internal guide on how to give/receive feedback.

In my experience as an author, editor, and marketer, I’ve found a lot of people have no idea how to give or receive feedback.

They focus too much on the negative, write in a tone that unintentionally comes across as harsh or condescending, or don’t know what to comment on. This makes the content writing process a lot more stressful. 

Getting someone external to write communication guides for you shows employees it’s a priority. That way it can become an important part of your company culture.

Create subject matter experts

The longer an employee has worked for your business, the more company knowledge they’ll have. And the more they can share internally and externally.

Not every long-term employee will want to become a manager. They’re still going to want some sort of career growth to work toward, though. This is where subject matter experts come in.

Subject matter experts specialize in one area. They become the go-to person for anyone internal or external who wants to know more about that thing. 

They could even help you with your marketing and employer branding strategies. By creating content that shows off your company knowledge, they can grow your brand, and grow their thought leadership. This can be a really organic way of developing leadership skills among non-managers.


Mentoring is a way for employees to support their colleagues alongside their current job. 

They get to develop their communication and feedback skills, encouraging others to develop in areas where they’re already an expert. This grows their confidence alongside that of their mentee(s).

There’s even the option of reverse mentoring, where lower level employees mentor individuals who are higher up in the company.

Create a culture of ownership

Everyone fails. When we take responsibility for that failure, it helps us grow as people and improve our skills for next time.

A psychologically safe workplace, with a no-blame culture, and a culture of ownership, empowers employees not to fear making mistakes.  

It helps everyone feel more secure in their roles. As a result, they’ll be more creative and take more risks. They won’t be worried about going against the grain or risking their jobs.

Support personal growth 

Soft skills are just as important as hard skills when it comes to leadership.

You can support employees in growing their soft skills by analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. Then, offer options to work on new things they’d like to learn, whether that’s a course, workshop, or book.

An attitude of personal growth can be contagious. When someone sees the difference it’s made for their colleague, they’ll want to experience that success, too. This means they’ll look for ways to work on themselves, and will be motivated to pursue developing leadership skills.

Support independent thinking

It’s easy to fall into the trap of groupthink. This can lead to employees feeling too afraid to suggest new ideas. It also may inhibit their creativity because they’re not being encouraged to use it.

When you support employees in independent thinking, it allows for more creative decisions and better problem solving. This is because no one is afraid to challenge ideas or suggest something new.

The more you encourage employees to think differently, the more great ideas they’ll come up with. Of course, the more this could then help grow your business.

Practice delegation 

Delegating responsibilities shows employees that you trust them. This grows their confidence in that area and can allow them the opportunity to stretch their skills.

What tasks could you give to employees to take ownership of?

Could it be putting together marketing reports so that marketing managers have more time to spend supporting their teams? 

Or writing guides for new recruits on how to do something? 

If you have subject matter experts, what could they use their skills for?

Project-based work is a great opportunity for developing leadership skills among non-managers.

Developing leadership skills among non-managers matters

Anyone in your business can be a leader. What matters is how well they communicate and set an example for the rest of your team. 

As you can see above, developing leadership skills across different levels of your workforce doesn’t have to be difficult.

If you want to give non-managers more opportunities for developing leadership skills, Workrowd can help. With easy program management tools for everything from ERGs to managers-in-training programs, you can drive engagement and ROI.

Plus, with real-time analytics, you always know what’s actually driving results for employees. Interested in an easier road to developing leadership skills among non-managers? Visit us online or send us a note at to learn how our all-in-one tool suite can supercharge your employee experience.

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