Three reasons your leadership development program is failing

71% of organisations reported that their leaders are not ready to lead their organisations into the future

Three reasons your leadership development program is failing

There are so many leadership development programs, in fact, according to HBR, companies spend over $60billion on leadership development annually, yet, 71% of organisations reported that their leaders are not ready to lead their organisations into the future (study by Brandon Hall Group). 

So why is this? More often than not it is due to the fact that most leadership development programs fail to actually drive results in modern work environments. Let’s explore some of the reasons behind this and how, if you’re developing an in-house leadership development program, you can overcome these challenges to really drive results from your program. 

One size fits all

Many traditional leadership development programs come from a ‘one size fits all’ mentality, and the view that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate for all. The challenge with this is that leaders and their teams are behaviourally complex, so to really drive up performance, leadership development programs must address the different approaches needed to deal with the different behavioural needs of different groups of people.

To tackle this as you build your own leadership development, consider the behavioural mix of the attendees. You may want to do certain subjects for certain types of leaders, versus everyone going through exactly the same program mix. 

For example, if you have a group of intuitive, empathetic, people-centric leaders, they will be less likely to need training around empathy and EQ, and more likely to need training around productive conflict and difficult conversations. 

If it is impossible to train different groups, make sure you build breakouts or segways into your training to enable leader groups to have more or less time on certain subjects, tailored to their behavioural leadership needs. 

Reflective vs Real world

Most programs rely on reflective practice vs real world application. 

While reflection is valuable, to really impact performance & productivity leadership development programs need to have processes built in that enable learners to apply the learning in real world situations, and then have the opportunity for continued learning, real time feedback & discussion then application. 

To apply this to your own program make sure you design action plans that follow on from leadership development training, and then at least one follow up session that covers live troubleshooting and roleplay to contextualise the learning. 

A good example would be if you run training on difficult & productive conversations, create an action for leaders to have at least two conversations with their team using the framework, then run a follow-up training session that centres around sharing lessons learned, troubleshooting live issues, and role playing future scenarios. 

Lack behavioural change 

Becoming a more effective leader requires changing behaviour. Most leadership development programs fail to address why leaders act the way they do, and how to shift their behaviour to be more conducive to the way they need to behave in the future.

To drive change, programs must address how leaders & managers can change their own behaviour to take on new skills and approaches. 

When applying this to your own leadership development programs, consider the behavioural change required for each subject, and place that front and centre of the training. 

As an example, if you are running training on strategic thinking, the behavioural change would be for leaders to then be able to think more strategically. To take this one step further, look at the behaviours of your group. The leaders with behaviours that enable them to be natural strategic thinkers, such as big picture vision, high achievement, high goal focus, will require less of a change to their natural behaviour. Those that are more process-oriented, more detail and more integrators than visionaries, may require follow-up training and one-to-one coaching to really embed the learning and drive real behavioural change. 

In conclusion, in today’s rapidly changing business landscape, effective leadership is more important than ever. Organisations need leaders who can inspire and motivate their teams, drive innovation, and navigate uncertainty, and to do this, leadership development that drives real behavioural change that can be applied to real life leadership challenges is crucial.   

Laura Weaving
Laura Weaving

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