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Why Leadership Development Fails

Organisations have been spending a lot of time, money and effort to improve leadership capabilities and foster new leaders—Yet some still fail. Here are a few reasons why leadership development fails:

  1. Poor/No clarity on the “end” or outcome (Why this training)? – “We fear what we do not understand”. Organisations can adjust to this paradigm by considering the outcomes; being mindful of the results they wish to achieve and implementing strategies based on the steps required to achieve them.

  2. Done as a “program” for all—too generic – Leadership competency is not generic. Some may be common to any leadership role, but it’s important to blend them with competencies specific to your business and sector. Work out which competencies are absolutely vital for your industry and what standards of leadership competency must exist to help your business thrive. Then, apply the basic leadership attributes to those competencies.
  3. Timing— too often done years after a person needs the training (Not Timely) – Organisations should not wait years before giving their leaders training appropriate to their job role. Companies should initiate this training as an essential part of their promotional process so that leadership competencies are integrated into posting of the role. You should always be working to timescales that allow for leadership to upskill.
  4. Poor post-training follow-up – Leadership development does not happen overnight. Leaders should be given ongoing support and should be able to meet in small groups regularly.
  5. No measured ROI – According to Mckinsey, there are 3 approaches to measure results:
    • Assess the extent of behavioural change — Have a 360-degree feedback exercise at the beginning then followed by another after 6-12 months.
    • Monitor participants’ career development after the training e.g. How many were appointed to senior roles after the program?
    • Monitor the business impact, especially when training is tied to breakthrough projects—for example, sales of new products if the program focused on the skills to build a new-product strategy

Not all high-performance needs are the same. Some are more complex than others. The differences should be understood and not overlooked. This task requires objectivity, organisation, and strategic thinking. Failure in leadership development can be avoided. Make sure outcomes are clear, customise leadership competencies, work to timescales, continue coaching and supporting your leaders, and measure your results to make improvements over time.

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Cliff Chalon

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