8 Ways Your Leadership Development is Failing Managers

The ‚ÄòState of Leadership Development Study’ conducted by the Brandon Hall Group showed that 77% of organizations claimed that their leadership development strategy aligned with their business strategy only slightly or in some cases not at all. Another 71% showed no faith in their leaders’ ability to successfully move organizations into the future.

Most organizations will say that leadership development is important. In fact, that’s used as a selling point in recruiting constantly. ‚ÄòWe believe in promoting from within’, ‚ÄòManagement training available’, and ‚ÄòYou can grow with us’, are all phrases commonly seen in job ads and recruiting materials.

However, there is clearly something wrong in leadership development today. The stats above are evidence of that. Keep reading to take a look at 8 ways your current leadership development strategy isn’t producing effective leaders.

1. It’s Too Academic

Educators know that in order for a student to most effectively learn something, they must put the concept into practice. This is why the most effective teachers do two things to drive home important facts and skills. First, they incorporate hands on activities wherever possible. Second, they connect concepts with real world applications.

Unfortunately, many leadership development programs whether developed in house or through a consulting firm fail to do either of these things. Instead, staff members are shuffled into presentation rooms to learn about concepts that they cannot apply to their current work situations.

The primary goal of each layer of leadership development is to provide people with information and skills that they can take back to their desks and apply today. Unfortunately, in many cases this doesn’t happen. Instead, participants learn concepts that they can only imagine applying at some later point down the road. Because of this, they don’t see value in what they have learned nor are they likely to retain it.

2. You Aren’t Measuring The Effectiveness of Your Leadership Development Strategy

Nearly every initiative within an organization includes some way to measure the effectiveness of that initiative. For some reason, this isn’t done often enough with leadership development. This begins with collecting feedback on the leadership development training and initiatives from both participants as well as their supervisor and when applicable their team members. The goal is to determine whether or not the leadership development is effective both in the eyes of the participant, and those who work with them as well. Both pre and post training assessments can ensure that baselines are set and then measured against.

In addition to this, the goal of leadership development is to improve the organization as a whole. This means there should be concrete and measurable goals set at various levels. This is to ensure that individuals are progressing through leadership development, that teams and departments are seeing measurable improvements, and ultimately that the entire organization is benefiting.

3. Competencies Aren’t Clearly Defined or Communicated

Leadership development isn’t going to work if competencies aren’t clearly laid out. This means that the people creating leadership development strategies must clearly define the goals that must be met along with characteristics that must be demonstrated. These should be defined for employees of all levels. By doing this, everyone knows what is expected of them in order to proceed through the leadership development program.

For lower level employees, the competencies may look something like this:

  • Contributes Ideas And Suggestions
  • Communicates Effectively With Coworkers And Managers
  • Manages Their Time Effectively
  • Recognizes When Coworkers Needs Assistance And Offers Help
  • Has Successfully Taken The Lead on Small Projects

For department heads, the competencies will look a bit different:

  • Motivates And Empowers Managers And Supervisors
  • Communicates Department Goals Effectively
  • Helps Team Members Set Developmental Goals
  • Communicates Effectively Both up And Down The Food Chain
  • Maintains Skills Required to be Seen as a Source of Information

Once things are clearly defined, everyone who is interested in pursuing positions of leadership at every level will know what is expected of them. This also makes it much easier for those designing leadership development training or evaluating emerging leadership skills in employees some firm guidelines to follow.

4. You Aren’t Accounting For Culture

Leadership development initiatives frequently fail to account for the influence of company culture. There are belief systems, traditions, and attitudes that permeate nearly every organization. If these are not considered when creating leadership development, these efforts are doomed to fail.

This is because it’s impossible for someone to effectively lead at any level in an organization if they don’t have an understanding of the culture they are working in. Worse, someone who does have that cultural understanding is going to be frustrated in a leadership development training that ignores that culture.

There’s also a third consideration. Without understanding underlying belief systems, attitudes, and traditions, it’s nearly impossible to adequately identify employees who have leadership potential. This is because leadership development programs that don’t understand culture fail to recognize those who are often viewed as leaders among their coworkers regardless of their position.

5. Leadership Development is Fragmented

In larger companies, there is often divisions among departmental and even geographical lines. As a result, leadership development is fragmented. Department heads, regional executives, local managers and others tend to build leadership development programs that are based on their specific needs.

While that approach can be effective in the short term and for the immediately impacted department, location, or business area, these kind of developmental programs don’t do much to help the organization as a whole. Individuals who may be prepared to lead departmentally or in other limited contexts aren’t properly prepared to lead at higher levels. They also lack the ability to incorporate the company’s overall vision into their leadership style.

It’s certain advisable to consider the immediate needs of the team or department in leadership development. However, there should be a holistic approach to developing leaders in a business. Leaders at all levels must understand the mission of the company as a whole and how their decisions impact those goals.

6. Leadership Training is Frequently Done by Instruction Not Guidance

It’s a bit trite to say, but leadership is art as well as science. Yes, good leaders know how to enforce policies, direct employees, complete evaluations, and make decisions for the good of their team and overall organization. For example, good leaders know the best time to delegate and outsource. This might include keeping up with RewardedEssays.com in order to find copywriting consultants. Many leadership programs are very good at providing leadership training that helps to develop those skills.

Leaders must also be emotionally in tune with their teams, they must develop good instincts and learn how to trust those instincts, and they need to develop a leadership style that meshes with their own personality. If they fail to do this, their leadership style may come across as forced and disingenuous.

By implementing only an instruction based model, companies often develop leaders who don’t have all of the skills they need to execute their role effectively. This can be remedied by implementing guidance based or mentorship programs in addition to initiatives that teach the hard skills of leadership.

7. It Simply Doesn’t Exist

Unfortunately this isn’t unheard of in many organizations. Companies either intend to put together a leadership program that never comes to fruition, or they cobble something together that is never used. This often happens for the same reason that other training and development initiatives fail.

In some cases, leadership development doesn’t exist simply because the organization doesn’t invest the resources they should. Instead, the focus is on fighting whatever fire comes next. Employee development simply isn’t prioritized.

The obvious issue with this is that lack of good leadership in an organization often leads to the continually unfolding crises that cause this program. Leadership development must be a part of any viable company’s ongoing growth strategy.

8. It’s Outdated

When businesses grow, strategies grow with them. When it comes to product development, sales, and marketing most companies scale efforts to keep pace with growth. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen when it comes to leadership development.

As a result, many leadership development programs are simply no longer giving managers what they need to lead effectively. Revisiting and revising leadership development should be considered just as important as updating any other training and development materials or strategies.

Understanding The Impact of Failing Leadership Development Efforts

When leadership development isn’t working, the entire organization is impacted. On an atomic level, individuals are affected because they are not provided with the training or opportunities that they need. In addition to this, teams and departments are ill fit to deal with crises or even potential opportunities. At an organizational level, it’s reasonable to be concerned that there will be a lack of leaders emerging from the ranks.


If your leadership development is not up to date, doesn’t take a holistic approach, or is culturally tone deaf it likely isn’t working for your managers and up and coming managers. A good initiative should be measurable, scalable, and have clearly defined expectations. It is created with the input from people in all layers of management. It is only when these things happen that businesses can benefit from the leaders they nurture and develop.

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