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Why is leadership development failing?

I recently evaluated a leadership program that I helped facilitate over a 2,5 year period. The program was beautifully crafted and contained large group management conferences, small peer coaching groups, 360 reviews, assessments and a large offering of courses, eLearnings and workshops, based on the rewritten leadership profile.

Although the program had strong sponsorship from the board and was pretty well received, the uptake of the non-mandatory offerings was minimal. On average leaders participated in 0,85 courses in the entire 2,5 year period.

We looked at the program through the lens of Thomas Malnight’s excellent “Ready? The 3 Rs of Preparing Your Organisation for the Future”. This book is a rallying call for leaders to reassess their organisations, departments and teams on future readiness. When I heard Thomas speak during ASTDAPC2014 I was thunder struck by his message and the idea to evaluate this leadership program was born.

I had prepared well for the evaluation and I had drawn my conclusion before we even started: the board must have been unclear on the changes the organisation would be going through and their leaders had been insufficiently challenged at the outset of the program. How wrong I turned out to be.

After the evaluation and while writing this blog, I took it upon myself to re-read the leadership profile. This profile was the foundation of the program’s design and its level of clarity should give me an insight whether my fore-drawn conclusion would be valid. Much to my surprise, the profile is actually rather splendid. It not only contains values, performance and behaviours: it even covers results. How is it then, that even with this level of penmanship the program had negligible impact on leaders performance?

Why is leadership development failing?

Because - in almost all of the organisations I’m working for at least - the leadership profiles are owned, maintained and penned down by HR and see very little ownership and day-to-day evaluation by leadership at any level in the organisation. But there might be more at play here.

The eminent Robert O. Brinkerhoff categorised leaders in three categories where learning was concerned. The first category: no interest whatsoever. The second: enthused about and committed to learning. The third: actively engaged in the day-to-day dialogue on workplace application with each and every team member.

Now, here is what I think. If you combine both factors: non-managerial ownership of leadership profiles and managerial non-engagement with the impact of learning on job performance and business results, you’ve got a seriously detrimental situation for organisational and leadership development.

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evertpruis@roiontalent.com
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Evert Pruis

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