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Creating a Leadership Development Program for Today

Creating a Leadership Development Program for Today

Over the past three years, the workplace has changed dramatically. With the prevalence of remote and hybrid work and market uncertainty, leaders are facing new challenges and expectations. High-potential individuals and even seasoned leaders need support, but what worked in the past for leadership development no longer works.

I recently met with an executive, let’s call her Jane, who is facing this situation. Jane is concerned about the engagement level of her people leaders, many of which are new in their role or dealing with the challenges of remote/hybrid work for the first time and lacking fundamental leadership skills. On top of that, Jane’s leadership was affected by several upcoming maternity leaves, so it was critical for these leaders to take on more without burning out. Jane’s organization needed to up skill these leaders to achieve her vision for success next year, yet creating a successful learning program can be challenging.

Organizations spend over 60 billion dollars a year on leadership development programs, yet research shows that only 10% of that spending leads to tangible results. With so much on the line financially and interpersonally, it’s important to set up your leadership development for success. These programs can’t be one-size-fits-all, they have to be tailored to your organization and participants. If you’re not sure where to start, here are three ways you and your organization can design an experience that will take your leaders to the next level of greatness.

Be realistic about your current situation.

When I work with a new group, the first step is to set a baseline. It’s essential to assess where things are right now. Those commissioning the program must identify instances in which the present-state skill gap has become problematic and reflect on what solutions have been attempted in the past, both what has worked and what hasn’t.

Keep in mind how the participants' roles within the organization tie into the bigger picture, and reflect on the impact the skill gap is having on the business. If nothing changed, what would happen? Be honest here; sugarcoating problems won’t help in the long run.

[Related: Gratitude at Work Spurs Empathy and Compassion]

Gain perspective and buy-in.

In my talks with Jane, I counseled her to consult with some of her direct participants and their direct leaders to get their perspective on learning and development needs. No one knows their day-to-day challenges more than the individual experiencing them, so consulting with participants can offer unique insights that may not be known by those commissioning the program.

This input is extremely valuable, especially during the Discovery Phase, but it’s not the only value participants bring to the table. Research has shown that when people play a role in shaping a change, they are significantly more likely to embrace it. Inviting participants to share their perspective facilitates buy-in, leading to a more successful and impactful program. This is a great time to utilize a facilitator; it takes the focus off individuals and allows everyone to be an active participant.

[Related: Three Ways to Set Boundaries for a Healthier Return to the Office]

Create a shared vision of success.

In order for the program to be effective, those planning the program must be crystal clear on what “success” looks like. This vision is unique to every organization and to every person, so be specific.

As you prepare your program, ask yourself these questions:

  • What will each individual see, hear, and feel differently as a result of the leadership development? How will their teams feel?
  • What business milestones should influence the program design?
  • What kind of support will you need to create your vision?

My work with Jane was a game-changer for her and the individual leaders. Because they co-created a clear vision that worked for her and for the individual, her leadership team was able to better navigate their goals for the year, handle disruption without burnout, and expand their capacity.

Learning and development programs are a meaningful space for participants to explore what it means to be a leader. With a clearer understanding of what it takes, those in supervisory positions will be better equipped to inspire their reports and navigate the challenges that come with leadership.

[Related: 4 Tips for Managers in a Hybrid World]


Kathryn Landis the Founder and CEO of Kathryn Landis Consulting, a global executive and team coach firm dedicated to helping leaders take the next step towards greatness by empowering and inspiring their teams, becoming the best version of themselves in work and life, and making a positive impact. She also serves as a Professor of Leadership and Marketing at New York University and as a Board Member of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management Alumni Club of New York.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.