Wednesday, 27 December 2017 13:34

Why Leadership Development Efforts Fail

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Leadership Development Fails Leadership Development Fails

McKinsey and Company, one of the largest consulting firms in the world, published a report outlining why leadership development efforts undertaken tend to fail. The reasons provided were overlooking context, decoupling reflection from real work, underestimating mind-sets and failing to measure results. What can be done to help minimize the prospects of leadership development efforts failing? Allow me to offer my views in this regard.


Awareness of Context

Prior to setting up a leadership development program, it is crucial to be aware of the context within which employees work. What sort of leadership exists? Where can it be improved? Is the culture of the existing organization one that is performance driven? If not, why not? What is the existing CEO mandate? Is it achievable? If not, why not?  Being aware of the existing real issues faced that provide context is necessary. Context provides a critical component of successful leadership. By being more attuned to the context of the existing organizational setting, companies would be better positioned to define desired outcomes of the leadership development programs in more practical and useful terms. This will also enable the leadership development efforts to be targeted at areas that are needed and merely desired.

Assessment of Program

Leadership development efforts should be results oriented and process driven. It should bring out the full potential of people, not limit the options they can reach out to. The extent to which this is occurring can only be established through regular assessments of leadership development efforts. Essentially leadership development efforts should be tied to real on-the-job projects that have tangible results and business impact. To extent to which this occurs, and why it is not occurring as it should, will elucidate areas of focus. It will allow the participants to assess their beliefs and how these beliefs translate into leadership behaviors that ultimately affects the business. This will go a long way in decoupling reflection from the real work work as it will push participants to reflect on the progress they are making and on the perils that lie ahead.

Changing Mindsets

Leadership development is less about developing behavior and more about changing mindsets. Mindsets establish, nurture and protect beliefs. These beliefs ultimately affect behavior. Attempting to change behavior is an exercise in futility. Behavior is habit bound. Behaviors do not change unless the beliefs that underlie behavior change. What has to be worked on is giving real life examples of how one’s beliefs affect the ability to think as leaders, to decide as leaders, and to behave as leaders. The program should enable reflective thinking and assessment of existing mindsets.

People who have assumed the role of followers have the mindset of followers. Such people demonstrate a follower’s mindset that manifest in a follower’s behavior. They do as they are told. They wait for instructions. They assume the leaders knows best. They avoid making tough decisions out of fear of making the wrong decision. A leader’s mindset is different. They belief in the power of people. They inspire greatness. They make the hard decisions, they accept challenges and above all they assume full accountability. 

For leadership development to materialize, leadership mindsets have to be formed. Until and unless this is done, participants who emerge from leadership development programs will not be true leaders, only leaders in disguise.

Read 1112 times Last modified on Tuesday, 19 May 2020 10:57
Dr Rumesh Kumar

Dr Rumesh Kumar is a certified project management professional, a certified professional trainer and performance improvement consultant specializing in the areas of leadership development, continual productivity improvement and enhancement of interpersonal skills.

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