Global organisations spend about $60 billion annually on leadership development programmes. The benefits on these investments for leaders and their teams, however, are not always transparent. What exactly does leadership development accomplish? Does it affect leaders significantly? If so, how long do these alterations last?
As educators who have spent years designing leadership development experiences, we have observed firsthand that programme evaluators are frequently quick to offer enthusiastic reports of participants’ learning and growth, and that these evaluations are often sufficient for employers to conclude that their programme is effective. Yet, our current and published research indicates that such hopeful assessments do not often tell the entire story.
Through a series of experiments, longitudinal surveys, and analyses of quantitative and qualitative data from over a thousand participants in six different leadership development programmes in companies and schools around the world, we discovered that, under the right conditions, leadership development can have a significant positive impact on employees and employers. Particularly, these activities can foster personal development, a clearer sense of self, a higher sense of meaning and purpose in life and at work, more enjoyment, and lower stress, so facilitating genuine change and a major improvement in mental health and well-being. In turn, this may lead to increased engagement and efficiency, enabling leaders to better assist their teams and organisations.
Nevertheless, companies frequently fail to grasp the full potential of leadership development. According to one estimate, just 10% of corporate leadership training expenditures provide tangible returns. To address this deficiency, we’ve identified seven tactics supported by research that might assist programme designers in avoiding typical errors and creating experiences that truly generate positive change: