A fourth reason why most leadership development programs fail is that most suffer from serious methodological shortcomings. First, many leadership development programs are “one and done” type events with participants not being held accountable for applying what they’ve learned. Second, learning complex skills takes considerable time and is not likely to happen by attending one or two-day training programs. Third, those delivering leadership development programs are generally individual contributors who lack the leadership experience needed to translate theory into practice. Finally, having only those in charge rather than intact teams attend leadership development programs makes it difficult for teams to apply whatever lessons are learned.
Fixing the pedagogy problem begins with selecting the right teachers. Good leaders beget good leadership, so those with track records of building teams that achieve superior results should teach some leadership development program components. Because of their content and adult learning expertise Leadership Development experts should design programs and deliver the remaining components. Those in positions of authority because of political savvy or favoritism should not teach leadership, as they have little to offer.
Organizations also need to build accountability mechanisms into all leadership development programs. At a minimum bosses should ask participants to explain what they learned from completing programs, participants should build development plans to apply their learning back at work, and regular one-on-one meetings should be held to review progress. Two other methodological fixes include action learning and intact team leadership development programs. Well-designed and executed action learning programs teach participants how to build teams, solve real organizational problems, identify those with true leadership talent, and have high ROIs. Teaching intact teams rather than individuals creates a common understanding of content and critical masses of employees to drive change.
Human Resources must overcome some challenges to fix the pedagogy problem. First, they will need to resist the pressure from top management to do more in less time, which drives the “one and done” mentality for leadership development. Second, they need bosses to buy in to the fact they also play an active role in learning. The right bosses need to help deliver programs and all should be responsible for insuring staff members apply what they’ve learned. Third, Human Resources needs to help organizations make the transition from individual to team oriented leadership development.