Leadership Development Works — If You Do It Right

When done correctly, yes: leadership development works. And more than that: it’s essential.

If your organization commits to developing its leaders, you can expect to gain a competitive advantage by improving the bottom line; attracting, developing, and retaining talent; driving strategy execution; and increasing your success when navigating change. It can be hard to measure the value or ROI of a program, especially without clearly defined parameters, but it can be done.

How do we know? Because we’ve studied it.

An extensive analysis of global data proves that leadership development programs can create a measurable impact by:

Making leadership development a learning process rather than an event. Informing the learning experience with cutting edge, global research. Tying what participants learn in the classroom to key leadership challenges they face on the job.

Learn more about common pitfalls of leadership development and 3 keys to making it work. 

At CCL, we implement 2 processes to gather feedback about the quality and impact of our programs, seeking input from both participants and their peers. Based on data from more than 5,000 program participants around the world — as well as 8,765 of their colleagues — we can confidently assert that leadership development works.

Virtually all of the participants surveyed (99%) said they achieved success on their target goals, be it related to communication, self-awareness, implementing change, or other areas.

A whopping 97% also told us 3 other things:

97% said that the program better prepared them for future leadership responsibilities. 97% said that the lessons they learned were relevant to their challenges as leaders. 97% said that colleagues who went through one of our programs were able to translate what they learned into organizational impact, especially when it comes to management capabilities, overall effectiveness, cross-boundary collaboration, and openness to diverse perspectives.

And about 95% also said they were more effective as a leader as a result of our program and that they were able to apply what they learned to their job, meaning that our programs are relevant to their specific experiences. And more than 80% of participants’ colleagues said that the participant was better than other leaders within or outside their organization after going through the program.

These results aren’t automatic, of course. There are plenty of leadership development initiatives or programs that fall short. A lack of senior-level support, expecting large-scale change without aligning a program with business strategy, or overselling the power of a single experience or tool are some of the common pitfalls for leadership development programs.

We’ve also found that bosses can make or break the success of leadership development programs.

So the next time you hear someone ask, “Does leadership development really work?” you can tell them yes, it does. If it’s a carefully planned, researched-based programs led by a specialized, ranked institution. In fact, isn’t just likely to work by improving your leaders and organization — the evidence indicates it’s practically a certainty.

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