• helenrogerson5

Could this be why your leadership development programs aren’t delivering?

This scenario may be familiar to many...

You go along to a training workshop or seminar. You are excited about what you are learning and can’t wait to get back to work so you can put it into practice. You are so pumped up and motivated by your experience!

Once back to your day to day, reality hits. It becomes too hard. Resistance, old patterns of behaviour, lack of support by your leader. It just becomes too hard!

Slowly over the next two weeks, the enthusiasm wanes. It is now business as usual.

There is no doubt that the majority businesses understand the value of investing in developing leadership capability. There is much research on the impact of good vs bad leadership. But many organisations fail to get the results they were seeking from this investment.


A major contributor is taking an individual approach rather than a systems approach.

The easiest way to explain this is to consider your organisation as a car. It might be a Honda Accord, a Range Rover Evoque or perhaps Ford Mustang.

Let’s say it’s a Honda Accord.

You send off a part of your engine to be modified to improve its performance. When the engine part comes back, it has been tuned up to the power of a Mustang. But it is put back into the Accord. The modified part cannot utilise its new capability because the systems in the Honda such as its brakes, chassis and engine does not allow it.

It is the same with developing leadership capability. We send our team members on a course or a program, tune them up to Mustang level, but bring them back to the same old car.

Taking a systems perspective, for leadership development to be successful the whole organisation needs to be involved in some form. If you like, the entire Honda needs to go to the workshop.

How do you do this?

There are many, many moving parts in a system and here are just three to consider:

From the Top

Leadership development starts at the top. Your most senior leaders need to participate in and be aware of the leadership programs. This puts them in a position where they can talk to, and support, the concepts and behaviours. They speak the same language and model the behaviours. Keeping with the car analogy, they are the drivers and need to be aware, and supportive, of how the engine part is being modified and understand how to get the best performance.


Culturally your organisation has to be ready for and accepting of leadership development programs. Of new ways of thinking and doing. But there may be no desire to change. Instead, there may be a willingness to accept, even embrace, the status quo. Let's consider authenticity for example; one organisation may support authenticity whereas another organisation does not provide the psychological safety for this to occur.

The artefacts, beliefs and behaviours which evidence an organisation’s culture must provide the right context for any learning to be effectively applied.

Outsourced or In-house

Leadership development programs should always be created in conjunction with the organisation. Never completely outsourced. The program needs to developed with active input from key stakeholders within that organisation so that they specific contextual needs and barriers are considered in its design.

Conversely completely in-sourced programs can also be problematic in that they may not be challenging the current status quo, staying within a comfort zone. It is a balancing act.

Taking a systems approach rather than an individual approach is harder and takes longer. But the results are embedded across the organisation and enduring.

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