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  • Heidi Kirby

Top Leadership Competencies for Instructional Designers

If you're an instructional designer or a learning and development professional, you might be familiar with the design and development competencies that are used to create learning solutions every day.


However, research on instructional design competencies highlights a number of other important competencies successful instructional designers possess, namely leadership and management competencies.


Here are the top four competencies from my review of the research:



Communication and Collaboration (People Skills)

Whether you're designing a half-day leadership workshop for C-Suite executives, creating safety job aids for the food industry, or e-learning courses for engineering students, there always seems to be a different group of subject matter experts (SMEs) to engage. If you're lucky, you might also have an entire learning and development team to help get the job done. You also have to sell the importance of what learning and development provides to organizations. At the end of the day, if you don't play well with others, you may not get to work on some of the more high-profile and visible projects.


Project Management

An instructional designer is typically involved from the identified learning need to measuring how effective the selected strategies were at meeting that need. From the very inception of the project, the instructional designer needs to have their finger on the pulse. Not to mention, there will likely be budget restrictions and deadlines to meet, so being able to manage all aspects of the project is crucial.


Strategy and Vision

If you've worked as an instructional designer, you may have encountered someone placing an order for learning content. Sometimes that "learning order" isn't the best solution for the problem. Stakeholders and customers might not be aware of all the different learning strategies, technology, or delivery methods available. Sometimes we need to lay out a better option. Other times we need to keep sight of the bigger picture. Being able to have a strategy and vision from the beginning of the project until the end leads to success.


Change Management

Because of the nature of our work, instructional designers are often learning about all the changes before they even happen because we're designing learning to bring others up to speed. This makes us valuable and natural change agents. We can help to get buy in throughout the organization, but we have to know how to go about it. We all know that you can't force change on anyone. Being able to help people adjust and providing them learning solutions to alleviate stress and fear can make change easier on everyone.



Over the next week, I will be pulling together some FREE and unique ways to improve each of these leadership skills for instructional designers (or anyone who could benefit from building their leadership competencies). As I post resources for each competency, I invite you to share any additional free resources you might know of or use!



Please let me know if you are interested in the articles I reviewed to identify these competencies (it's a lengthy list, and I didn't want to post the whole thing here, but I'm happy to share).

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