How Do You Rate Your Company’s Leadership Development Program?


Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, developer of world-class leadership development solutions for global companies and organizations, announced the results of its State of Leadership Development Survey. The survey revealed that only 7 percent of organizations feel they have a best-in-class leadership development program.

The survey also examines how learning and development (L&D) teams and businesses managers perceive leadership development and found that a perception gap exists between L&D and the rest of the business on the relevance and effectiveness of leadership development programs.

“Although these survey results do not completely surprise us, they do show that when leadership development programs are designed and developed as a strategic priority, aligned to both goals and key challenges, businesses have a better chance at growth,” said Ray Carvey, executive vice president of corporate learning at Harvard Business Publishing. “While it’s easy to read this report as L&D teams are consistently being overlooked, or not doing a great job interpreting and responding to the needs of the business, there is a big silver lining here: leadership development programs, when they work, absolutely have an impact on business success. L&D teams must embrace new ways of aligning with the business, demonstrating relevance and proving impact not only to change the perception of leadership development in their organizations but also to better prepare their businesses for future growth.”

The State of Leadership Development – For a majority of organizations, leadership development is still not considered a “business critical” investment. Many programs are missing the mark when it comes to relevance and innovation. Top barriers to success include time constraints, lack of funding and defendable ROI.

  • Best-in-class programs represent only 7 percent of organizations surveyed, and can be found in large public organizations with more than 10,000 employees in the aerospace, pharmaceutical and consumer goods industries.
  • Even among best-in-class programs, 40 percent of respondents feel that leadership development is only important – not fundamental – to business strategy.
  • Three-quarters of respondents believe leadership development needs to be more innovative in their learning techniques.
  • L&D professionals are responding to the changes in learner demographics and will increase their use of eLearning (50 percent), on-demand (50 percent) and freeware (53 percent) in the next three years.
  • Demonstrating integrity (77 percent) and managing complexity (75 percent) were the highest rated critical capabilities for leadership, though end users are less convinced that current programs are developing these capabilities enough.

DNA of Successful Programs – Best-in-class leadership development programs share three key traits: business priority, financial impact and C-level support. Additionally, these programs are equally available to leaders across the organization – from C-level executives through new managers. But even best-in-class programs struggle with both measurement and innovation.

  • Fifty percent of best-in-class companies consider leadership development a strategic priority, as opposed to only 28 percent of all other groups.
  • Best-in-class programs are viewed as a major driver of financial health (35 percent) and competitive performance (56 percent).
  • Nearly half of best-in-class organizations believe they have a strong pipeline of internal candidates.
  • Three-quarters of best-in-class programs enjoy strong CEO support, as opposed to only half of all companies.
  • As many best-in-class programs agree (42 percent) as disagree (40 percent) on their ability to measure program impact.

Mind the Perception Gap – The majority of business managers and L&D professionals are not seeing eye-to-eye on the impact or relevancy of leadership development programs.

  • Only 19 percent of business managers strongly agree that their leadership development programs have a high relevance to the business issues they face.
  • Seventy percent of L&D professionals expect leadership development to become a strategic priority in the next three years, compared to only 47 percent of business managers.
  • L&D professionals are 29 percent more likely than business managers to believe they have strong support from the CEO and the board.
  • L&D professionals are 36 percent more likely than business managers to believe they have a strong internal pipeline of leaders.
  • L&D professionals are more likely than business managers to forecast greater use of the following over the next three years: MOOCs (95 percent), on-demand content (72 percent) and freeware (65 percent); only 15 percent of best-in-class organizations are using digital classrooms, 19 percent using MOOCs.