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Leadership Development Programs: Do They Even Work?


A feel-good exercise.


A day out of the office.


Money burner.


These are the notions which come to mind when one thinks of leadership development programs. Effective leadership development not only fuels organisational growth but also breathes life into its culture and gives shape to overall strategy. Yet many organisations would agree that leadership development programs seldom work. Common reasons include


1. Difficulty in tying strategic imperatives of the organisation to leadership needs

2. Inability to identify skills that will be critical to leadership success (no leadership competency framework)

3. Weak assessment techniques to measure skills and track results


The quality of content or execution is seldom a reason for failure or success, so organisations don’t think to improve development programs (If the design isn’t broke, don’t fix it). But there is a problem.


They are discontinuous.


There is a vast difference between what a leader can learn from a 2-day business simulation to spending time on practising his/her skills every day. Leadership development programs are more of a knowledge transfer program than actual development.


Leadership development programs can be truly successful only when there are governance mechanisms in place to ensure smooth implementation and continuous leadership development. This mechanism should consist of four main areas

1. Identifying leadership skills;

2. Measuring leaders against these skills;

3. Bite-sized action learning plans and;

4. Continuous follow up and feedback to check on leader's progress


This mechanism will make development programs continuous, resulting in steady development for real leadership growth.

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