Professional Partner Content

Top Reasons Why Leadership Development Fails

The pandemic forced a massive shift in leadership development. Companies had to adapt their programs for a virtual and hybrid workplace, with many on a smaller budget. They had to reassess what skills leaders need to guide organizations through uncertainty and change. They also had to figure out how to retain employees and attract talent during a time when more than 47 million employees quit their jobs. The need to adapt hasn’t stopped—organizations are still juggling lean L&D teams and employees leaving.

Companies that stuck with the status quo or did nothing made the worst choice. Not investing in leadership development and adapting to changes in the workplace is why leadership development fails. It’s like sending leaders off to run a marathon without a pair of running shoes. Zero preparation guarantees instant failure.

Companies with evolving leadership development programs are a step ahead in this economy. So, what can you do to improve your programs? Avoid these common missteps:

  • Ditching the classroom. With many teams working in hybrid or remote environments for the long term, companies may not be able to bring learners together in a physical classroom. But if you can’t bring people together in person, you shouldn’t stop classroom training.

In fact, remote employees are looking for more opportunities to connect and learn in the classroom with other leaders. So instead of ditching the classroom, companies can use virtual classrooms to keep leaders connected. Using virtual classroom shows organizations’ ongoing dedication to growing and developing their employees. And the virtual classroom is not a compromise—the return-on-learning investment is the same as face-to-face engagements.

  • Relying on “old faithful” employees. Rather than investing in new leaders or improving the skills of current ones, companies tend to stick with the usual suspects: the people who get things done (in other words, the people who have been successful in the past).

Trusting the same group of reliable leaders may deliver short-term benefits and results. However, it does little to strengthen the overall leadership pipeline. And it can also burn out those “old faithful” high performers. That’s why leadership development fails over the long term for companies using this approach: High-potential employees are untapped.

  • Taking a build-it-and-they-will-come approach. Many companies make online learning and other self-directed resources available to leaders and then think their work is done.

While self-directed learning should be a part of an organization’s program, not all development should be independent.

DDI research confirms that learners are looking for less self-directed learning. Learners are overwhelmed by receiving content that is not curated for their leadership role, growth areas, or challenges.

  • Adopting a sink-or-swim strategy. The constant pressure to get things done quickly makes it tempting to follow “natural selection.” But the debate about whether a leader is born or made is over: Leadership is developed over time. While some people may have qualities that give them a leg up in certain situations, leadership requires focus and practice.

There’s evidence to support formal development, particularly with key leadership transitions. For example, according to DDI research, companies with transition programs to prepare their leaders to step up are more than two times more likely to be in the top 20 percent of organizations in their financial performance.

Learn more reasons why leadership development fails in DDI’s blog.

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