Why have leadership development programmes?

As expected, there is still lots of ‘doom and gloom’ talk around  about the economic climate and many people talking about companies making cutbacks; often training one of the first areas and although some ‘mandatory’ training still goes on when things get tough. Stuff such as leadership training often gets sidelined. Why is that? Is it because people don’t believe it is vital or necessary? Or is it because it is hard to justify as they cannot show a return on the investment (ROI)?

Whatever, It seems ironic that the leadership that is needed in the organisation, to develop talent for the future; growing  effective leaders from within the organisation to take it forward seems to be lacking  Growing leaders from within using a leadership development programme, is key to an effective, progressive organisation which can retain staff and develop a motivated and stable workforce. It also allows huge saving on expensive recruitment and that ‘guessing game’ of the employment conundrum, have you got the right person for the job, do they fit in/understand the company and even then, do they plan to stay? So why are companies so loathed to invest in leadership training/development?


Well, let’s look at the possible arguments against having a formal leadership development framework?

1. It’s too expensive – well good development will no doubt cost, but it is an investment in the growth and well being of the company.  The issue I think is that people haven’t been able to justify the ROI of people doing the development, but recent research by the Institute of Leadership and Management ILM showed that of employers (150 from wide ranging sectors) who used ILM qualifications to develop staff in Leadership & management, reported a massive impact on staff performance, with 93% reporting an improvement!  Well that is a return on investment you cannot afford to ignore. In fact they went further to state particular areas where improvements had been noticed impact on staff:

No business can afford to ignore that sort of impact and it shows a fantastic return on investment when you consider the impact those improvements have on the whole business; other staff and customers.

2. The programmes/qualifications don’t fit our companies needs – Well, maybe in the old days, that was true; individuals and organisations often felt they were doing things that didn’t really help them, but needed to be done to complete the training/qualification. Things have changed dramatically and the range and flexibility that is now available in formalise leadership & management development, is amazing. Basically, anything is possible (within reason) from accrediting what internal development is already there, to starting using/selecting the best and most appropriate qualifications and units for your organisation and staff; under the new credit based (QCF) qualifications, flexibility is a key component and ILM offer over 110 different programmes, with really flexible routes to completion, based on the business and individuals needs.

3. Were too busy and we haven’t got the time at the moment – Well, the quicker you get started, the quicker it will be successful and you will see an impact. Great if your organisation is busy, but this is when we often take our eye of the ball and before we know it we are lacking in something (leader) to continue taking things forward. Its shouldn’t be a time consuming process; to get an effective programme in place and taking the time to select a training provider who will work with you, rather than just picking a ‘qualification’ off the shelf, will not only save time in the long term, but ensure you get something which fits the organisation (bespoke) and therefore makes it easier for staff to connect and understand it; motivates and encourages staff.

4. We have never needed it before and we have done alright – Time are changing and the market place is getting more competitive. Also, we have a different and often more transient labour force now and they need good leadership and development, if they are to be retained.  If you continue to do the same, you will at best get the same result and if you believe you have great leaders and managers now and can keep those people for the next 5 -10 years, then great. But wouldn’t it be wise to be ‘growing’ future leaders and managers, so that when people leave or you need to expand, you have readymade replacements?

5. Are managers are already experienced and skilled and we select new one with those skills. That may well be what the organisation perceives, but what about the staff (managers and potential managers)? Recent surveys have shown that 60% of UK managers did not choose to become a manager and many therefore lack confidence in their own abilities; many are chosen for being good at their job, not at leadership &/or management, that just becomes expected of them and that makes it difficult for them to seek help or feel confident in their abilities. We have to think about what we expect from our Managers now, they need to lead and what are the main characteristics expected of a leader? Well, in some recent research*, when some prominent HR professional where asked for their thoughts, it revealed the following:

(% of respondents)

Estimates expect there will be 900,000 new mangers between now and 2017, so we cannot just expect these people to all have these characteristics, without any planning and development. Now seem a perfect time to start developing them, from within the organisation.


Well, the key questions are, where will your leaders of tomorrow come from? What kind of investment are you making in identifying and developing individuals with the capability and motivation to reach the top of your organisation? What are you looking for when you are identifying people with the potential to lead areas of your business and how do you go about developing them?


The key message is that businesses need to ‘grow their own’ and therefore produce what they want, not take what they get and even possibly have to accept less than what they want! The recent research by ILM, ‘Creating Future Leaders’, outlines some of these key messages and encourages organisation to think about what they want from leaders and what they are doing to develop them, as good leaders can have a massive impact on the staff within an organisation, improving performance, motivation, retention and recruitment. Organisations need to think strategically/longer term about this as you don’t grow effective leaders in 5 minutes and as the ILM research show many of the skill expected, are often seen as ‘natural skills’; People Management, Communication Skills, Coaching and delivering feedback and team management. Expecting these to be habitual in people in management positions is naive and can be seriously damaging to the whole workforce.

(*ILM research of 150 companies reported in ‘Creating future leaders’)


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