5 Mistakes Organizations Make when it comes to Leadership Development

September 19, 2022 by Gregory Offner

Imagine you just started a career, and someday want to take on a role with more responsibility within the organization. You’re probably interested in leadership development opportunities within your organization.

Fortunately, Leadership Development Programs are a multi-billion dollar industry — so there’s sure to be SOME kind of resource available within your organization.

Unfortunately, too many companies make one (or more) of these mistakes with respect to their leadership development program; and that could be costing you dearly.

In no particular order, here they are:

1. They Don’t Start on Day One

Have you ever noticed how some organizations have this weird “flex” when it comes to restricting your benefits until after an arbitrary time period has elapsed?

It’s common with healthcare benefits, vacation benefits, and some other ancillary benefits; but none of those practices are more self-injurious than delaying participation in a leadership development program.

Whether you’re leading yourself, or leading a division, the skills necessary to lead in today’s business environment have a tremendous knock-on effect when taught early (and reinforced often) in one’s career.

These skills include curiosity, change management, creativity, energy management (personal, psychological, financial etc), ethics, focus, gratitude, negotiation, empathy, how to do business at a business lunch — we could go on.

2. They’re “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” programs

Calling a leadership development program a “program” is inaccurate unless there’s course content that lasts beyond a 2 or 3 day training seminar.

Organizations who are doing it well structure their leadership development to look and feel more like an elite university course, rather than like a weekend self-help seminar at the local Hyatt.

3. The Program is Compliance Driven

If compliance driven leadership development programs had a curricula, they’d look a lot like this (with their “compliance driven rationale” next to it in parentheses):

  • Anti-Harassment (don’t get us sued for saying or doing the wrong thing)
  • Interviewing Skills (don’t get us sued for saying or doing the wrong thing)
  • Ethics (don’t steal, or get us sued for saying or doing the wrong thing)
  • Performance Management & Coaching (don’t get us sued for firing the wrong person, the wrong way)
  • Labor Relations (how to stop unionization)
  • Time Management (don’t get us sued for violating labor practices)

While these trainings (and their underlying motivations) are important to every organization, they’re hardly the stuff leaders are made of — it’s “check the box” compliance culture.

4. They’re taught by HR

Now, don’t get me wrong I love my HR people — but they’re rarely the best person for the job of leadership development programming.

Aside from the fact that most of them are overworked, under-resourced and (often) under appreciated by senior leadership, they’re also “HR”.

The generally accepted perception is that HR are the corporate equivalent of the Fun Police — not exactly the ideal choice to facilitate conversations on challenging or boring topics. While this may not be true, perception is often reality.

The best organizations bring in guest lecturers, use professional consultants, or leverage an internal learning and development (L&D) professional who specializes in Leadership Development.

5. The course content and delivery are woefully dated

Nothing loses your people’s attention faster than watching your facilitator roll in the old AV cart.

Today’s audiences quickly suss out (and are bored by) material that’s not current or relevant.

Given the demands on most internal stakeholders, keeping an internally run leadership development program “current” is, at best, a part-time job.

Further, nothing’s worse than watching someone who only does this once a year (see point 2) go through the motions with dated course material, than fumble and stumble through the “new case study” they’ve decided to try and integrate into the program.

An organization is only as good as the people within it, which is why one of our core beliefs is that “Better People are Better for Business” — as you build, refine, and reimagine your own leadership development we hope that you avoid these 5 mistakes organizations make.

If you’d like to hear more on this topic, follow this blog and connect with Gregory on LinkedIn


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