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Top Five Reasons Why Most Leadership Development Programs Fail

Updated: Jan 23

It’s no secret that there are endless leadership development programs (LDPS) out there that

promise to offer great value and results. However, the reality is that most leadership development programs fail. Perhaps you have been a part of one before and you haven’t achieved the success you’re looking for or you’re just now dabbling with the idea for your team. Regardless of the case, we’d like to share our perspective on the top reasons why we believe that these programs fail as well as what’s needed to be successful. Our goal is that you’ll be able to utilize this blog post to make an educated decision about what LDP is best for you and your team! Let’s take a closer look.


Leadership Development Program Challenges

  1. Unwillingness to Change the Current Culture - Sometimes leaders say they want their people to improve and as a result, their organization to improve. But, they don’t take a look at the leadership style or the current culture of the organization. What are the blind spots? Sometimes the current culture is what prevents LDPS from succeeding because the culture works against what the organization says they want to achieve.

  2. Unclear Success Measures - One of the most common shortfalls of LDPS is that whether it’s the program itself or the instructors of the program—all parties aren’t clear about what success actually looks like. Oftentimes, this can be a result of the organization itself not being clear on their vision of success. However, we know that the best leadership development programs have a clear question that drives the focus of all of the learning and that this begins on an individual basis with each team member and leader.

  3. Is it Equitable? - Is there fairness in regard to who gets into the program? Frequently, people are “allowed in” because they represent the current majority culture of the organization—this is often based on race and gender. If an individual doesn’t fit the mold that the current leadership is used to, they often get passed up. This causes skewed results in the organization and individuals who should be considered and cultivated go unnoticed.

  4. Lack of Consistency and Alignment Across All Leadership Levels - More times than not, the various levels of leaders are not learning the same thing. This occurs when the program fails to integrate what each individual is learning, into the day-to-day casual conversations, meetings and procedures and communicate that across all leadership levels. An example of this is when the organization’s talent pool of future leaders learn something that the current leadership has not yet learned. This puts everyone on differing pages and prevents lasting change in the organization. The critical conversations that need to be had on a daily basis, simply don’t happen and as a result, changes don’t get made.

  5. Logistically Too Large - Without proper planning, leadership development groups can simply become too large for their own good. LDP groups require a certain level of intimacy and safety which can often be forfeited by having too many individuals involved. 8-12 per group is the best number and in situations where interaction is solely virtual, it’s even more important that the group size is regulated so that everyone can have input, ask questions and go deeper. Within a smaller setting, team members are more apt to let go of ideas and beliefs that no longer serve them or the organization well and this is crucial to their success.

What Are the Results of a Good Leadership Development Program?

The results of a good leadership development program is increased value for the business in the areas of:

  • Increased engagement and retention

  • Better performance

  • Improved product quality

  • Less mistakes and efficient issue resolution at the root cause

The value provided for individuals and the organization as a whole is much more than just head and hands learning, it’s about the heart. The goal is for individuals to feel the freedom to reflect on their feelings about the content they are learning so that those feelings can inform what these team members want to let go of and as a result, grow and improve.


What’s Needed for Leadership Development Programs to be Effective?

Our leadership development program(s) promote and encourage the managers and leaders

involved to adopt growth mindsets as well as deliberately developmental mindsets. These

perspectives allow them to talk about mistakes, failures, and individual limitations. As a result of naming those, they then discuss what they are learning and applying as they work towards

making incremental improvements. In order for this to happen, it’s important that the current

leadership is providing an environment that feels safe both individually and as a team. When this breakthrough happens, team members begin to feel comfortable bringing up problems,

identifying them and creating a plan to overcome each one. In the end, success gives way to

leadership, and the program as well as the overall organization working together to solve

problems through daily, open communication.


Looking for an Effective Leadership Development Program?

Become a Part of the Scott Hackman Ventures Leadership Development Program


Our programs builds exceptional leaders. We can help you determine the next steps you should take to help you and your team grow. Book a free consultation with a member of our team to discuss your needs and the programs that we provide.


Email us at mindyhaas@scotthackman.com to get started.

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