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Why Do Leadership Development Programs Fail?

Companies want leaders. At least that’s what they claim. In fact, 83% of organizations say it’s important to develop leaders. So, why do only 30% of our nation’s employers have leadership development plans in place, and only 5% have fully implemented development at all levels of their organization? Well, it’s not for lack of trying. The fact is, more money is spent on leadership development than any other area of corporate training, yet 71% of organizations do not feel their leaders are able to lead their organization into the future. 

Why? Well, traditional LDPs are easy ideas to come up with but difficult, potentially expensive, and definitely time-consuming to execute. When it works, it can be a great success, however often these efforts turn into fancy websites vs true development mechanisms. In fact, most LDPs fail outright.

Here are three big reasons why leadership development programs fail:

Narrow Focus and Low Expectations are Why Leadership Development Programs Fail

Change is constant and organizations need leaders that can lead change and thrive in any environment. Even when organizations are singular-focused, their leaders need to be able to thrive in multiple environments. Most LDPs are not holistic (360-degree development), causing participants to lose interest and lower expectations of their investment (time, energy, focus).

Training, Not Developing is Another Reason Why Leadership Development Programs Fail

Leadership is not science. There are no absolutes, and therefore no formulas that are definite for everyone. Most LDPs are scattered with rules and regulations; must-haves and absolutely-nots. In order to get the most out of your program you need to embrace the process and actively coach your members to find their own leadership voice. This customized engagement makes all the difference as there is no one size fits all leadership style. Training leaders is easy; developing them takes intentional effort, focus, and time.

Nobody Knows the ‘Why?’

Too often, leadership development programs fail before they even begin. Poor internal communication and lack of ownership from leadership make LDPs “another job,” as opposed to a personal and professional development opportunity. Behind the eight ball of poor internal communication. When future leaders don’t know why they are being developed, they certainly won’t embrace the what and how. Be clear on where leadership development ranks in relation to every other investment the organization has made in performance improvement. If you’re unable to articulate how a particular program fits into an individual’s development plan, his/her team or unit’s objectives, and the company’s goals, then you’re marginalizing it, and it simply won’t work.


Do you think for/develop/build/facilitate leader development for your organization? Explore WILDSPARQ or schedule a live demo to see for yourself! We’d love to show you the Wildsparq difference.