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7 Most Common Leadership Development Pitfalls to Avoid

Leadership is a concept that different people explain differently. However, each definition centres around words like guide, influence or direct. Your primary responsibility as a leader is all-encompassing, the ability to drive your employees, team or colleagues towards achieving specific goals and setting visions. 

Leadership requires the possession of specific attributes, such as good communication skills, charisma, assertiveness and empathy. While some of your team members or employees will naturally exhibit these leadership qualities, others must develop many, if not all, if they strive to be in leadership positions. 

In many organisations, the HR department collaborates with senior management to identify capable potential leaders or fast trackers to nurture, incubate and mentor through leadership development programs to advance to senior positions. 

Unfortunately, not all leadership development programs succeed despite leadership development being a $366 billion global industry, according to Training Industry. In a recent survey by Brandall Hall Group, although 83% of organisations believe it is essential to develop leadership at all levels, only 5% implement development programmes.

Even more unsettling is that many of the 5% of developing leaders find themselves falling short of expectations, thus, 71% of organisations feel their leaders are unable to lead the organisation and reach goals despite the resources that go into developing leaders. 

In another Brandall Hall survey of 329 organisations, an extraordinary 75% of respondents described their leadership development programs as ineffective due to one or more pitfalls in their leadership development programmes. 

Leadership development is critical to your business strategy to keep the organisation adaptable and innovative. However, if the training is ineffective due to certain leadership pitfalls, you risk spending a lot of money and time and not getting the expected value. 

To avoid this, take note of 7 common leadership development pitfalls and how you can avoid them: 

7 Common Pitfalls in Leadership Development

Leadership Development Programme is too Generic

Many leadership development programmes don’t work because they appear as stereotypes and fail to target specific organisational goals. The key to successful, engaging development programmes is connecting employee and company goals while simultaneously helping your employees achieve their own professional goals. 

To avoid this pitfall, consider what your employees require to reach the next level of their careers while furthering the organisation’s goals. Then find a development programme that can meet those specific needs. 

It is important to avoid making leadership development programmes in hindsight; they should be specific to your organisation and people. Investing in their growth will ensure they become more successful. 

Development Programmes Focuses on Strengths or Weakness Only

One of the major causes of pitfalls in Leadership development programmes is that they tend to either attempt to develop natural strengths or improve the weaknesses of employees. 

Focusing on your employees’ weaknesses demotivates them and can ultimately result in disengagement. But development programmes should not be solely centred on their strengths because it becomes too easy and doesn’t drive any changes – which is the opposite problem. 

Instead, leadership development should focus on hidden strengths – skills that your employees are naturally good or bad at; proper training can transform them into learnt strengths. 

It is essential to test your employees to find out their hidden strengths and focus development programmes on building such abilities. 

Leadership Development is Offered to only C-Suites

Leadership Development is offered to only C-Suites

Leadership development is often limited to leaders in management and executive positions, which leaves younger leaders in the dark. 

A Gallup survey showed that only one in ten C-Suites executives have natural leadership talents, and only 18% of current managers have the appropriate skills required in their roles. However, with the right investment in leadership programmes, younger and potential leaders can develop and perform at high levels. 

Your development programmes should capture leaders at all levels. Prepare your employees to be excellent leaders before they advance to management positions; This ensures they are ready when they eventually get there. 

Leadership Development Is a One-Time Deal

Your employees need continuous development opportunities to reach their full potential beyond the required leadership support. Unfortunately, many organisations take a one-time approach to leadership development; employees participate in a limited number of programmes or workshops, and then their leadership development is complete. 

In a Gallup survey, only 40% of managers agreed that they took development programmes, with few improvement opportunities in at least the previous twelve months. Experienced leaders also require continuous development to remain engaged.

Therefore, leadership development should be a consistent and continual process for your employees at all levels who want to improve their skills and become better leaders. 

One-Dimensional Leadership Method

There’s more than one approach to leading a group of people successfully. Moulding your employees into a replica of previous leaders and staff leads to a stagnant and disengaged workplace. It can inadvertently make their jobs more difficult because they are forced into being who they may not want to be. 

To avoid this leadership pitfall, it is essential to give your employees the resources they require to succeed. First, allow them learn from their mistakes by going through the trial-and-error process. Then, provide a framework that will give them direction and the freedom to do things their way. 

Focus on Present Organisation's Needs

Developing your leaders for only present-day organisational needs limits the tendency to adapt to the ever-changing structure of the business world. The adjustment of businesses to post-pandemic effects shows that organisation needs will likely not be the same in the coming years, and you need to be able to modify your development programmes as the needs of the organisation change. 

When creating your leadership development plan, consider what makes your leaders flexible. Brainstorm leadership solutions that meet your organisation’s current and future demands. 

Leadership Development Evaluation Processes

Many organisations rarely evaluate their leadership programmes with meaningful metrics or indexes. It is more common to see organisations use evaluations to justify their returns on multiple investments, but you can also use them to improve development programmes. Without a formal evaluation process, your employees will likely show only short-lived enthusiasm. 

You can evaluate the impact of your leadership development programmes by asking your employees how they benefitted from it or using metrics like the number of 360 feedbacks you receive. However, the fundamental question you want to ask is whether the development programmes result in your leaders’ behavioural changes. 

In Conclusion

Avoiding pitfalls in leadership development is critical for a successful organisation structure and business growth, and your plan must be flexible enough to adjust to business-changing demands and learning styles.

No two leaders can replicate leadership in the same way; therefore, it is important to observe the uniqueness of your leaders and continue to develop them the right way by avoiding these leadership development pitfalls. 

Our team of professionals at Workforce Group have built our leadership development programmes, considering each of these pitfalls. As a result, our programmes enable your leaders to unlock and unleash their full potential and take them on a self-discovery process that allows them to capitalise on their strengths and identify their blind spots. 

Do you want to design your leadership programmes to develop leadership accountability and continuous learning strategies? Send us a mail here; hello@workforcegroup.com 

Olasunkanmi Adenuga

Olasunkanmi Adenuga

Director, Workforce Learning

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