5 Reasons Why Leadership Development Programmes Fail [& Steps for Success]

This article seeks to address why leadership development programmes fail.

When it comes to employee development, it is often said that its success sits on a tripod – the organisation, the manager and the individual. This is the same for leadership development, and in most cases, organisations are more saddled with proving ROI and justifying the need for such a considerable investment.

Business leaders are most concerned about the impact of such investment on the bottom line and organisational performance as a whole. They often ask questions such as

  • How does this investment impact employee performance? 
  • How has the training impacted business performance? 
  • What shift has taken place in the employee’s job behaviour? 
  • What results are available to justify such investment? 

However, in today’s fast-paced, volatile business landscape, you’ll agree that investment in effective leadership development programmes is an excellent way to build a successful pipeline of qualified future leaders and improve engagement, performance, and profitability.

Therefore, organisations must equip potential leaders with the requisite tools and skills to invariably help them become more effective in ways that they can ultimately contribute to the business’s success. 

Now, from years of experience designing and delivering high-level leadership development programmes for several organisations, we have seen many failure points that alter the effectiveness of these programmes, thereby leading to a tragic loss of investment. Hence, we’ve highlighted five common pitfalls to why leadership development programmes fail and how they can be avoided.  

Why Leadership Development Programmes Fail

#1: Lack of a clear vision or strategy

The first is the lack of a clear vision or strategy. Developing a successful leadership development programme would be extremely difficult when leaders lack a clear vision for their team or organisation. Without vision, leaders may struggle to set goals and objectives for their team, leading to frustration and confusion among members.

How to avoid this pitfall: Leaders must ensure there’s a clear line of sight between the overarching organisational strategy and their vision for their team or organisation, set realistic goals, and ensure everyone on the team is on board before beginning any leadership development programme.  

#2: Failure to develop relationships with key stakeholders

The second is failing to develop relationships with key stakeholders.Key stakeholders are individuals interested in the success of the leader or organisation.

These individuals can provide valuable feedback and support during the development process. However, many leaders fail to develop relationships with key stakeholders, leading to a lack of feedback and support during the leadership development process.

How to avoid this pitfall: Business leaders must ensure buy-in from all relevant stakeholders and consistently engage them at every point of the programme.

#3: Lack of adequate resources

Another pitfall is the lack of adequate resources. Over the years, we’ve seen that some business leaders often underestimate the amount of time, money, and other resources required to develop leadership skills across the organisation successfully.

When an organisation lacks relevant resources to develop its leaders, leadership development often suffers an abrupt ending or business leaders are unable to reach their desired level of success.

How to avoid this pitfall: It is important that leaders accurately analyse the amount of time, money, manpower, and other required resources to complete their leadership development projects.  

#4: Lack of a clear implementation plan

The lack of a clear implementation plan is another threat to the successful execution of leadership development programmes. Before embarking on developing leadership development programmes, business leaders must carry out due diligence and put together a tight implementation plan that highlights projects milestone from start to finish.

Also, they must enforce the discipline to work around this plan to ensure that focus isn’t lost at any point.

How to avoid this pitfall: Leaders must put in place structures to monitor progress regularly and also adjust their implementation plans accordingly. Not having a clear implementation plan can lead to frustration among team members and stakeholders.  

#5: Lack of critical evaluation of the programme’s impact or results

Lastly, a significant pitfall in leadership development programmes is the lack of critical evaluation of the programme’s impact or results.  Sometimes, leaders often fail to assess progress at the end of their leadership development programme, thereby preventing them from making informed decisions or necessary changes for subsequent programmes.

How to avoid this pitfall: It is important that business leaders determine their evaluation metrics prior to assessing the impact of leadership programmes. This type of evaluation usually helps to understand which training activities are successful and which may need to be replaced or refined.

In addition, evaluating the programme as a whole will allow leaders to understand if leadership development programmes are accomplishing desired goals, which can be used to provide a mechanism for succession planning.  

Executing effective leadership development programmes isn’t as difficult as it might seem. However, business leaders must take deliberate actions to avoid these common pitfalls, and ultimate success is guaranteed. 

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