The New Rules of Leadership Development

Young girl is watching sunset over Tokyo in Odaiba.

Why Leadership Development Programmes Fail

Are you satisfied with the leadership development programmes at your organisation? If you think they could be doing better, you’re in good company. More than half of respondents to our European Leadership Research were not satisfied with their leadership development. Additionally, executives rated leadership as the #1 skills gap in their organisation in our 2017 Global Talent Trends study.

It’s time for a new approach. In a work environment that has been fundamentally redefined by economic, demographic and technological change, leadership development has remained mostly fixed in tradition and status quo – removed from the reality of what it takes to lead today. Leadership programmes fail because there is a disconnect between the content that leaders learn in development programmes and the context they have to operate in.

This often occurs due to disconnects between business imperatives (“the why”), talent and leadership needs (“the what”), “how” leaders are developed and return on investment tracking (“the so what”).

Top Leadership Development Programmes

Combining the latest thinking from psychology and neuroscience – backed by extensive research – we can bring leadership development back to reality. There are 3 underestimated elements of leadership development programmes:


It starts with identity: Those with a strong leadership identity, who view themselves as leaders, are more likely to build their leadership competence and demonstrate greater effectiveness.


It’s all about context : The guru-led approach to development is no longer delivering the required impact. What works for one person will not necessarily work for the next, because they may operate in radically different contexts.


Real business impact requires lasting behaviour change : It’s not easy for people to change. It takes sustained hard work, continuously in the course of everyday leading and working.


To bring these concepts to life, leadership development becomes a journey rather than a programme – an experience rather than an event.  To reflect the three often-overlooked elements of leadership development, this journey should :

  • Build identity: Encourage leaders to explore the question: “Why do I lead here?” and to create their leadership charter. Use assessment tools to support personal insight and coaching to focus action.
  • Understand context: Create development experiences that empower leaders for the unique contextual challenges they will face, not to fit some standard leadership profile.
  • Shape behaviour over time: Set up the conditions for behaviour change. Provide bite-sized digital content and use targeted interventions to nudge behaviour change.  Focus face-to-face time on action, and use peer coaching circles to continue the challenge.


Leadership Development Journey

Development becomes a journey rather than a program and an experience rather than an event.


Innovative Leadership Programmes

Think of the innovations that have reshaped customer-facing communications and human interaction in general – social media, digital video, mobility, video games, personal shopping recommendations and so on. Imagine the potential of these innovations to enrich the leadership development design, when used in the context of your own organisation :

Digital content : We learn through online resources such as trade journals, research, blogs and YouTube.  Leadership development can tap into the ways we learn every day.

Gamification : Using gaming elements to capitalise on the neuro-dynamics of motivation, increasing the drive to learn and participate in the process.

Chat bots : Chat bots – computer programs that conduct a conversation – can provide real-time, interactive feedback to leaders on challenges they face or advice they are seeking.

Automated Personalisation : Data analysis of leaders’ learning paths can be used to provide personal recaps, development ideas and further customisation of the journey.

Play Zone : Innovations and ideas beyond content reinvigorate the curiosity of leaders.

Social Learning : A company social media hub can build global networks where leaders learn from each other.

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