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23 August 2023

Why Leadership Development Programmes Fail and How to Get Them Right

Organisations worldwide make significant investments in leadership development every year. Yet research indicates that few of these initiatives actually yield results.

Understanding the pivotal elements that determine the success or failure of a leadership development programme is critical to maximisng your investment.

Organisational success is tied to leaders’ ability to navigate a complex business landscape. This is only magnified during times of uncertainty and rapid transformation. With the immense pressures placed onto leadership teams, it’s no surprise that millions are invested into leadership development every year. Despite these heavy investments, it’s estimated that only 10% of leadership training actually delivers results.

In this article, we explore the common reasons why leadership development programmes fail to deliver and provide insight into the key factors that drive success.

Why do leadership development programmes fail?

1. Short-term focus

Many programmes focus on addressing immediate needs without considering the long-term. Reactive interventions may be necessary to address acute problems, but this approach must be integrated within a broader leadership development framework. Otherwise, critical long-term skills such as strategic thinking, resilience, and adaptability may be neglected.

2. Lack of context

A one-size fits all approach often fails to resonate with the unique dynamics of individual leaders, the organisation’s culture, and its values. Neglecting this context can result in a misalignment between the training content and the type of leadership needed. It also creates a disconnected learning experience that doesn’t address leaders’ individual needs and challenges. This can lead to reduced engagement, poor skill adoption and a low impact programme.

3. Lack of real-world application

Many programmes emphasise theoretical learning without connecting it to practical application. Theoretical knowledge is foundational, but impact is limited when confined to knowledge alone. Without creating a bridge towards practical action, leaders will struggle to translate their acquired knowledge into an applied skill.

4. Poor measurement

It is essential to accurately gauge progress and assess the impact of leadership development. Without a concrete measurement framework, it is challenging to evaluate whether meaningful change has occurred. This can leave organisations and leaders without a clear understanding of the return on their investment or how to refine further development initiatives.


How to ensure leadership development success

1. Align outcomes with organisational goals

When planning a leadership development programme, it’s essential to know what the programme should achieve. This ensures that any outcomes are directly linked to the organisation’s broader strategic vision and goals. Strategic alignment ensures that training content is focused on developing specific competencies that will drive business success.

2. Prioritise programmes with a whole person approach

Effective leadership does not rest on technical skill alone. It is also about cultivating emotional intelligence, adaptability, and resilience. Implementing programmes that address these skills ensure that development goes beyond a mere accumulation of technical skills. The result is well-rounded leaders who are equipped to drive enduring organisational success.

3. Develop a sustainability plan

Leadership development is not a one-off, but an ongoing journey of self-discovery and improvement. Integrating a sustainability plan ensures that skills and insights gained during the programme are not lost. Post-programme support mechanisms such as coaching and follow-up group sessions ensure that leaders have space to reflect and further develop their skills.

4. Implement a clear measurement framework

Robust measurement is critical to evaluating programme effectiveness. This starts with establishing clear programme outcomes followed by implementing the right tools and processes to measure progress. Common tools and processes include 360-degree feedback, psychometric assessments such as Wraw, and follow-up surveys. By following a measurement framework, stakeholders can witness the growth of their leaders and make informed decisions that lead to sustained success.


Leadership Development from The Wellbeing Project

We understand how important it is to get leadership development right. That’s why our leadership programme focuses on building leaders from the inside out. Developed by industry-leading business psychologists, our programme is designed to develop the behaviours, mindset and skills that underpin healthy, high performance.

Here’s how it works:

A tailored approach

We understand that each organisation and leader’s needs are unique. Our programme is fully customisable to ensure maximum engagement and enhanced learning impact.

Whole person focus

Every leader is on a personal journey. That’s why our programme takes a whole person approach incorporating the best of executive coaching, individual measurement, and experiential masterclasses.

Robust measurement

Measurement is key to success. The Wraw psychometric assessment sits at the heart of our programme, ensuring your leaders’ progress is measured over time.



Delivering a leadership programme that yields real business impact is a priority for many organisations. The key lies in understanding the components that guide success or failure. Being equipped with this knowledge ensures that you invest in leadership training that delivers real impact to your organisation and its leaders.

Explore our Leadership Development programme.

About the author

SANDRA ORDEL is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist at The Wellbeing Project. She has extensive consulting experience within a wide range of organisations and industry sectors.

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