Leadership training and development are one of the most important, yet misunderstood facets of many organizations today.

U.S. businesses report spending an estimated $14 billion each year to foster leadership development, and two-thirds of respondents on a survey conducted by The Conference Board and McKinsey reported human capital was their top priority both presently and for the future.

The Pitfalls of Leadership Development - And How You Can Avoid Them

Despite the focus on leadership and human capital development, many organizations are at a loss as to how to effectively manage their training programs in a way that will allow them to foster leaders.

Leadership Development

When developing training programs and materials specifically geared toward leadership development, here are the top four most common mistakes, along with some solutions to help you avoid these situations:

  1. Problem: A lack of individualized learning materials. This is a significant problem not just in corporate leadership development programs, but throughout organizational training and learning. Learning needs to be tailored to the individualized needs of the learners, whether that means providing relevant context that will help the learner retain the information, or just making it technologically-accessible to people with varying technology comfort levels, in the case of eLearning.

Solution: With any corporate or organization training, be it leadership development or anything else, it’s important to first take an assessment of who your learner will be, and to then tailor your coursework to make it relevant, meaningful and accessible. eLearning provides a great opportunity to easily, efficiently and inexpensively tailor leadership development across a broad audience, if you’re willing to take the initial time before creating coursework to really delve into who you’re targeting.

  1. Problem: Leadership development training often fails to provide for accountability and measurable metrics of success. Too often, organizations will see measuring accountability as simply doing a roll-call, and seeing how many seats are filled up in a classroom. Even if there is some measure of how well students do during a course, there’s often little room for measuring actual implementation of the soft skills learned during leadership development.

Solution: A lack of accountability is not just a problem in leadership development—it’s a problem throughout all corporate training. If you’re not providing tools for measuring success, leadership development programs start to be seen as pointless or irrelevant. In order to provide accountability, eLearning is a great start. You can measure far beyond course attendance, and instead track progress throughout the entire span of a course, and provide easy opportunities to give and receive feedback. It’s also possible to create a style of learning where concepts build on one-another, and a student has to successfully master one portion of the leadership development coursework before moving on to another. This can then be incorporated with more real-world accountability and measurement, such as tracking to see how many students who complete the course are then promoted within the organization within particular timeframes. With leadership development, it’s also crucial to carefully plan and outline objectives, just as you would with any other type of training. The learner needs to be able to clearly see what the goals are for the material being presented, and be shown how the specific information is directly applicable to their career path and goals.

  1. Problem: Programs and learning paths for leadership training and development are often presented in a way that’s lengthy, and causes the learner to lose focus. When this happens, courses either aren’t completed, or information isn’t retained.

Solution: This problem is most often a side effect of offsite and traditional classroom learning environments. The learner may feel as if they’re picking up the information when they’re in the classroom, but then find it of little usefulness or relevance in the “real world,” leading them to forget what was taught. Rather than having leadership development coursework take place in a classroom or offsite location, or be dependent on lengthy reading materials that lack relevance, eLearning can provide opportunities to chunk the information in relevant sections, and include multimedia components, case studies, the ability to interact with other students, and work at a pace the student is comfortable with. These are all easy ways to overcome a loss of focus, or students’ failure to complete leadership development coursework.

  1. Problem: Leadership development isn’t so much about teaching a particular skillset—instead, it’s about teaching a mindset, yet many leadership development courses ignore the emotional aspects of training.

Solution: eLearning provides a simplified way to evoke certain emotions in leadership development that will allow the training to have more of an impact on the learner. There are so many ways to evoke emotions, from the color of text utilized, to posing thought-provoking questions, or showing scenarios. Regardless of how it’s done, without eliciting certain emotions from the learner, you’re not going to get them to tap into what it really is to change their mindset and become a more effective leader.