Leading the Way: AP Fellows and Next Level Leadership™ Programs


If you had to describe the difference between leadership and management, would you be able to? What about defining what leadership is and why it’s important? How about the role of a leader versus the role of a manager?

Most would find that these are not easy questions to answer; nor are they always clear. Even more confounding is that it seems as though there are countless definitions of leadership and management –and they often conflict!

We experienced this first-hand in the early stages of our journey to establish an internal leadership program within Acceleration Partners. As our company maintained its high-growth path, it became apparent that, in order to continue offering best-in-class products and services to clients, it was imperative that we invest in our team members’ individual and professional growth.

Successful companies align their leadership development with their company vision so that their leaders can better understand the current and future needs of the company and learn how to motivate and inspire others in order to execute that vision.

Many companies tend to only offer leadership development to a few individuals in the organization. And in small and mid-sized companies, it’s often not offered at all. But in our journey to develop our own internal leadership development program, we recognized that it was important to extend employee development training across our entire company and at all levels of our organization. We felt that if we invested now, our junior staff today could become the future leaders of our company.

We also concluded that it’s important for our team members to have the capability to be both a leader and a manager, and that there are fundamental differences between the two. To help our team members learn how to be effective at both, we decided to create two application-based employee development training programs that would reflect these differences and provide development of both sets of skills.

The rationale for having individuals apply into the programs, as opposed to opting in or being appointed, is that it helps ensure commitment to the program, which we anticipated being a challenging journey of personal growth.

The two employee development programs that we created are AP Fellows and Next Level Leadership™.

AP Fellows Program

The AP Fellows program was designed for associates and managers who want to cultivate professional skills and relationships and expand their career aspirations through personal and professional growth.

The training and development within the AP Fellows program is focused more on management training and base-level leadership skills so that the participants have the foundation for Next Level Leadership Program at a later date.

In addition to self-paced learning through Lynda.com courses, books, articles, and webinars, applicants who are selected into the AP Fellows present on different management and leadership-focused topics and are mentored by a participant in the Next Level Leadership program.

Next Level Leadership (NLL) Program

AP’s NLL program was initially designed for our senior managers and directors. While these individuals have management experience, they both need and want to become better leaders – in their role at AP and in their life.

NLL participants are trained on topics such as the definition of leadership, how to manage and lead yourself, leadership tools, coaching, team building, conflict resolution, and more. Whereas the AP Fellows are mentored by the NLL team, the NLL participants are mentored by AP’s Leadership Team.

AIM Leadership

To complement our in-house leadership capabilities and bring structure and focus to AP’s Next Level Leadership program, we partnered with AIM Leadership, a leadership coaching and development firm founded by Camille Preston.

Camille is an expert in the field of Virtual Effectiveness and is the author of Rewired: How to Work Smarter, Live Better, and Be Purposefully Productive in an Overwired World. She is also the author of eight popular e-books, including Virtual Effectiveness, Virtual Authenticity, Virtual Influence, The Art of Optimization, Authentic Encounters, The Science of Complexification, and Random Acts of Appreciation.

Through our leadership development activities, we’ve learned that there is a lot of overlap between leadership and management, and that we need to help our employees find a balance between their current role and their potential future opportunities. At the end of the day, both AP Fellows and NLL are really about learning how to inspire and elevate others, motivate yourself and others, and communicate both a vision and execution plan for something, be it your company, your department, or your projects.

This type of employee development training helps our team members feel more connected to one another and invested in the growth of the company. They are also better able to round out their abilities with skills that are critical for success in every type of endeavor, whether that is work, relationships, or personal growth.

The more people within your organization who are given opportunities to learn how to be better managers and leaders – and understand the differences between the two – the faster your company will be able to reach its goals and create even loftier ones. As John C. Maxwell said, “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.”

Does this sound like the kind of company you’d like to work for? Visit our careers page and check out our open positions.

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