Leadership Programs: Half Full or Half Empty?


Nearly every corporate executive will say that developing leaders is important to the company. But are they just paying lip service to leadership development? Our latest research reveals how many leaders are actually participating in development. With budgets tight, companies naturally cannot afford to provide development opportunities to every leader. Even in light of the current recession, however, the results are more disappointing than we expected. The research shows that only half of all leaders within U.S. companies participated in development over the past year. The other half received no development at all.

So, given that companies can’t afford to develop all leaders, who are the most critical leaders to target? This varies by company and the importance of different job roles. Generally, large companies are more likely to target executives for leadership development programs. Most of these companies view executive-level roles as the most critical. Executives create visions, set organizational objectives and are accountable for executing business strategies. Executives’ credibility has a huge impact on the confidence that stakeholders (and Wall Street analysts) place on the company’s ability to achieve success.

Small companies, on the other hand, focus more on their first-level managers for leadership development. In these organizations, success rests largely on the abilities of those who have a direct relationship with employees closest to the company’s products, services and customers.

As the economy starts to revive, we expect that leadership development programs will broaden to include a larger number of leaders. After a decline last year, companies are directing more funds to leadership development this year. This renewed focus on leadership development indicates that the business environment is starting to stabilize and that companies are once again planning for the future.

For more information on how many resources companies are allocating to their leadership development efforts (including spending and staffing), and how these programs are being conducted, see our new report Leadership Development Factbook 2009.

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