Is your leadership development programme actually making the difference you need?

October 7, 2021

Nigel Girling

Head of Professional Qualifications
Macro photo of tooth wheel mechanism with arrows and OLD WAY, NEW WAY; concept of change

Across the UK and the rest of the world, organisations are investing massive amounts in trying to improve the effectiveness and impact of their leaders.

The influential magazine ‘Training’ showed in their 2021 survey that around 25% of all training investment was in leadership development. This represents huge proportion of the total budget, given how many other topics require training across our organisations.

Research from Forbes magazine indicates that more than £268 billion is spent every year on developing leaders and that a quarter of this is being spent on ‘developing leadership character’. However, the really crucial figure from the research is this:

Only 11% of executives surveyed believed that the spend was making a difference.

If the question had been whether the leadership development programme provide value, the answer might well have been far worse. There are many factors that influence this apparent failure. Let’s explore a few:

A lot of leadership development is based on ‘training’

There is strong evidence that leaders should be developed, not trained. Putting your leaders through a course, however well delivered, is not going to do it on its own. We know this, so we don’t just deliver some training. Because…

The 70:20:10 theory is well proven

Eichinger & Lombardo of the Center for Creative Leadership identified this rule 25 years ago – that 70% of the impact comes from challenges and experiences in the workplace, 20% from relationships and guidance and only 10% from ‘training’. Yet still so much leadership development fails to take this into account. Professional Qualification (PQ) programmes should be designed and delivered with this in mind.

Leaders are too busy – or don’t understand how – to put it into practice

It is clear that most managers and leaders are very busy. Going on a programme can take a big chunk out of their time when they have many other priorities. They go back to a pile of emails and meetings and the ‘training’ is soon forgotten. Again, PQ programmes should be designed to specifically ovecome this: that’s why we make all our PQ programmes experiential.

Much of it is theory and not that helpful to a practising leader

You don’t teach someone how to play the violin by sitting them in a room talking about violins. That would make no sense. It has to be practical and relevant. Play the damned violin… but with a mentor and practical guidance.

Much of it is based on what a training provider thinks ‘good’ looks like

Are they right? How do you know? How do they know? It has to be based on professional standards that have been tested and validated. Our PQ programmes are exactly that – professional qualifications. We didn’t just ‘make them up’… they are nationally and internationally regulated and so are we.

These are all avoidable mistakes. We all know that leadership is crucial to organisational performance, to recruiting and retaining our talent, to innovation and to building our capability. We want our leaders to be professionals, well-developed and to exhibit legitimate self-confidence. A confidence they’ve earned, not just smoke and mirrors.

Getting your leaders professionally developed and qualified is a fundamental.

Our programmes including mentoring guidance, practical application, reflection and challenges that will push your leaders to really think about how they behave, think and lead. If successful, they will earn a recognised and valued professional standing that will help them to inspire, to develop and to lead others.


Find out more about our professional qualifications in leadership

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IDG UK
IDG House Royal Berkshire Hotel London Road Ascot SL5 0PP UK
+44 (0) 207 798 2848

IDG India
301, Tower 2, Montreal Business Center Baner Road Pune 411045 India
+91 955 271 5800

IDG Middle East
5th Floor One Business Centre DMCC, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai UAE
+44 (0) 1276 686644