Why Do Leadership and Development Programs Fail?

Whether it’s during University or through seminars and training, over the years most leadership development programs have failed to produce good leaders. Thousands of books and articles have been written on the critical elements of leadership and the impact it makes on both people and organizations. Therefore, it is agreed upon that leadership is an important subject. However, in spite of all the wisdom accumulated through the past few decades on this crucial topic, majority of the leaders in today’s day and age are under-confident.

77% of those polled nationwide in the U.S. say that the country now has a crisis in leadership and confidence levels have fallen to the lowest levels recorded in recent times.

This can be observed quite clearly when we look at these figures. 30% of Fortune 500 chief executives in the past two decades have lasted less than three years. Top executive failure rates are as high as 75% and rarely less than 30%. Chief executives now are lasting 7.6 years on a global average down from 9.5 years in 1995. According to the Center for Creative Leadership 38% new chief executives fail in their first 18 months on the job.

In a provocative article in the Harvard Business Review, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, author of book is Confidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Self-Doubt, argues more males fail as leaders than women: “The main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women.”

Chamorrow-Premuzic goes on to state the paradoxical theory that “The same psychological characteristics that enable male managers to rise to the top of the corporate or political ladder are actually responsible for their downfall.” In other words, getting the job and getting around to actually doing it are activities that are opposite in nature.

So back to the initial subject, why are there high levels of leadership failure when the professional training and consulting industry is flourishing? An MIT study revealed that investment in leadership development approached $50 billion in the U.S. alone in the early 2000s, and has grown leaps and bounds since then. The MIT study identifies three root causes that are considered to account for leadership failure:
Focusing on Ownership and Accountability
The MIT study argues that ownership and control is the wrong issue and illustrates old-world thinking. Leaving responsibility solely to the CEO or management team or HR for developing leaders is not realistic and is not successful.

Productization of Leadership Development
In other words, leadership development is linked to the products of the organization, rather than the problems that need to be solved. This only leads to quick fixes and not permanent solutions.

The Use of Metrics
Having to account for all their expenses, most organizations are driven by metrics. This includes leadership development. The MIT study concludes that this practice is flawed, “The philosophy that dominates so many company cultures today is that initiatives that cannot be measured have no value. In most instances, that is a reasonable assumption. But it does not apply to leadership development — not, at least, in the quantifiable terms that dictate assessments of capital expenditures.”

So what can be done about the ineffectiveness of leadership development? The solution lies purely in an integrated approach to the recruitment, shared responsibility for personal growth and the development of an organizational culture that sees leadership development as an organic process. Below are a few key factors that leadership programs should focus on in order to make a real difference:

  • Instead of sharpening skill sets and competencies, leadership programs should focus on increasing a leader’s understanding on how their behavior impacts others.
  • An in-depth study of emotional intelligence that trains them on the subject of understanding and responding aptly to the emotions of others.
  • Extensive knowledge and a deep-rooted understanding of the dynamics of human behavior not just at a theoretical and superficial level but on an individual basis.
  • A consistent approach to training and experiential learning should be adopted as opposed to a one-time and information-based approach.
  • Leadership programs should be designed in a way that they feel like a rigorous process of self-development and self-mastery.

“The only real training for leadership is leadership.”- Antony Jay

Do let us know how your experience with leadership and development programs has been.

(Credit: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201310/why-leadership-development-fails-produce-good-leaders)