According to McKinsey there is more than 14 billion dollars annually spent on Leadership Development.  So, it should come as no surprise that 2/3 of executives they surveyed ranked Leadership Development as their number 1 Human Capital priority.  The surprise – maybe not much of a surprise – comes from a different study where only 7% of leaders viewed Leadership Development as effective.  Clearly there is a huge disconnect between intent and outcomes.  The article focuses on 4 mistakes companies make that are likely to blame for this.


While certainly not exhaustive, the four mistakes can be grouped into 4 broad categories:

  1. One Size Fits All Approach
  2. Outside The Real World
  3. Inability to Understand the Why
  4. Lack of Measurement


I’ve commented before on companies employing a one size fits all approach to Leadership Development.  This approach relies on the premise that the same leadership skills and leadership styles work for every situation, which is clearly not the case.  Leadership Development programs should recognize that leadership needs depend on specific strategic initiatives, unique corporate cultures, and senior leadership mandates.

Every Leadership Development plan should start with a specific organizational need in mind.  Asking yourself ‘what is the program for’ will deliver more targeted leadership development programs and allow participants to focus on a few competencies with the maximum impact.


The McKinsey article highlights a huge challenge for Learning & Development professionals.  Adult learners retain only 10% of classroom learning compared with retaining more than 2/3 when they learn by doing.  While the numbers should come as little surprise, we still deliver too much of our Leadership Development in a classroom setting.

There is -unquestionable value in traditional Leadership Development training; however, the classroom should complement  the opportunities for Leaders in order to learn from doing.  Looking at every new project as a Leadership Development opportunity is one of the many ways to include more ‘on-the-job’ Leadership Development.


A significant component of growing as a leader depends on changes in behavior.  Too often, we focus on effecting change without first trying to understand the why of current behavior.

Tools like the Leadership Skills Profile (LSP) provide a unique perspective on why leaders do what they do and how they do it.   Leadership Development should incorporate a self-awareness component to give leaders insight behind specific behaviors.  That insight is invaluable when developing strategies for changing behaviors.


Leadership Development professionals always have to fight for resources and budget for their programs because they struggle to quantify value.  Like any other area of the company, we need to demonstrate value with numbers.

A few ideas for measuring the impact of Leadership Development include:

–          using a 360 feedback tool before a program and following up in six or twelve months

–          tracking the career development of former participants  including promotions and retention

–          measure the impact of participants on projects in terms of productivity

To enhance the impact of your Leadership Development initiatives, focus your programs on specific organization needs, use in-class training as a complement to real world learning, make understanding the why important, and monitor and communicate the impact of your efforts.

Until next time, check out SigmaLeader.com for a free trial of our Leadership Skills Profile.

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