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Reasons Why Leadership Development Programs Fail

It is crucial to have a successful leadership team in place that is exceptional at leading people and driving business growth in a sustained manner, to succeed in any business. The leadership of a company is responsible for creating and maintaining a workforce that embodies the company’s mission and vision in a way that enables the organization to grow in the right direction consistently.


The term leadership development refers to any activity that would help an organization develop its leadership team. Leadership development involves planning and execution of two tasks primarily – identifying talent that has the potential to lead the organization; retaining and nurturing them to take up leadership roles. Companies should have an efficient leadership development process in place to ensure continued leadership success.
Most leadership development programs fail and lack objectives because most organizations in Nigeria are not clear on these key aspects such as – why train, who to train and how to train.


1. Why train?

Leadership development can be carried out to create an internal pipeline of new potential leaders or to train & develop existing leaders. Organizations should have their leadership development objectives properly laid out to assert that their efforts are invested in the right direction.

The reasons why most organizations carry out leadership development is broadly to meet three objectives:


a. Up-skilling & cross-skilling of new and existing leaders: Often leaders (new leaders especially) lack the skills needed to lead people and drive organizational growth in the right direction. Hence the biggest focus area of most organizations when carrying out leadership development is to equip their leaders with the right skill set that will help them succeed as a leader.
b. Creating an internal succession pipeline: Not having an internal succession pipeline can derail an organization’s business operations from time to time as the organization is not equipped to provide an immediate replacement for a leader, whenever the need arises. An organization without a succession pipeline has to hire a new talent every time a leadership position is open.
c. High potential identification: High performing organizations invest a lot in identifying, training, and developing high potential employees as they can drive organizational growth. Organizations should identify employees who have the potential to lead early enough so that they can work on retaining and nurturing them for leadership positions.


2) Who to train?

In most organizations, new leaders go through a Leadership Development program. The programs are standardized and everyone eligible is provided with the same training. Having a specific leadership competency framework that is updated regularly to reflect the present and future competencies required to succeed in each leadership role, is the first step towards accurately identifying who to train and what to train. Now the question is, how do you identify who to train? The steps are listed below:


a. Create leadership competency frameworks: Identify the competency requirement of each leadership role, taking into account the changing nature of work and future needs.
b. Identify training needs accurately: Use leadership assessment or 360-degree assessment (customized for each job role as per the competency framework) to assess the training needs accurately and enable data-backed decision making. Identify skill gaps in each leader to create an individual development plan.


3) How to train?

When creating leadership development programs there are certain do’s and don’t that determine the success rate.
Do’s: How to train leaders to achieve leadership success? Take into account each leader’s/trainee’s needs, abilities and preference.
– Need: Provide training to fill skill gaps by assessing the current skill-set of each leader against the skills included in the leadership competency framework of their job role.
– Ability: Asses the learning agility of the trainee to find out how easy it is for them to up-skill
– Preference: Train each trainee with their most preferred mode of learning. While some find classroom learning most beneficial, others prefer learning online via e-modules and MOOCs. Some may require one-on-one mentoring/coaching to learn and up-skill themselves.


Pitfalls that hamper the success of leadership development programs.
a. Lack of senior management involvement in the leadership development process: We found out that in many organizations, leaders do not get involved in the leadership development process, and the reasons are obvious – leaders have extremely packed schedules. Getting the support of company leaders and management to contribute in leadership development is crucial as they are in the best position to suggest what skills are required most in leadership positions and how to best develop those skills in budding leaders.
b. Lack of competency-based leadership development: Most organizations do not have a structured leadership development process. Lack of clarity on job role results in organizations providing generic leadership development programs that fail to yield good results. Leadership development is not a one-size-fits-all endeavour. Every leader has specific training needs, and every leadership role has a different competency requirement.
c. The long duration of leadership development programs: The time taken to carry out leadership development differs based on the target audience. The duration increases with the seniority level of the participating leaders. Also, leadership development programs for newly hired leaders are longer than those for existing employees.


Identifying the skill gap is the first step toward an effective leadership development program. Having issues trying to identify what your employees need to learn and who needs the training?  Let eWorkerHR help you out.
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