How to Build a Successful Leadership Development Programme

Overall organisational success requires agile leaders who have Leadership 4.0 skills and qualities. However, this is not a one man’s job. In order for leaders to develop these skills and to adapt to the changing requirements of businesses, organisations need to support their leaders. And that’s where leadership development programmes come into play!

When executed right, a leadership development programme;

  • Equips leaders with skills that help their organisation to enhance productivity
  • Supports leaders to be future-fit
  • Paves the way to profitable business strategies
  • Increases employee engagement
  • Helps to identify and encourage potential leaders
  • Builds or improves corporate culture

So, it’s no surprise that for years, organisations have been spending money and time on improving the skills of business leaders and nurturing new talents. According to a McKinsey article, US companies spend almost $14 billion/year on leadership development. Moreover, when 500+ executives were asked to rank their top three human-capital priorities, leadership development was counted as a current and future priority. 

Considering the billions of dollars and years spent in leadership programmes, it’s only rational to assume that organisations have been successful in developing leaders with the right skills. However, that’s not the case at all. The same McKinsey article suggests that around 30% of US companies admit that they have missed out global opportunities because they lack leaders with the right capabilities. And only 7% of the organisations describe leadership development programs as “best in class,” according to Harvard Business Publishing research.

So what’s the struggle and how to overcome it?

The success of leadership development does not only depend on the readiness/willingness of the leader. It is also influenced by the approach and quality of the programme as well as the overall support of all stakeholders. So nothing has to be lacking in this equation. 

One size does not fit all

Traditional leadership development programs are usually based on an approach where a generic training program is provided regardless of the strategy, objectives and the needs of the leader and the organisation

Unlike traditional training programs, coaching and mentoring are more effective methods that are able to provide a tailor-made approach to leaders and organisations according to their specific needs. For instance, a coaching program for an organisation that focuses on making senior executives future-ready would be different from the one focusing on developing coach-like-leaders.

Moreover, through our experiences at SparkUs, we have seen that a hybrid structure combining leadership development training and coaching has been very effective in leadership development. 

On the other hand, defining the skills that matter the most and providing the right coaching program for the leaders at all levels is another challenge – especially in a large organisation. 

At this point, digital coaching comes to the rescue by being adaptable to large-scale businesses in a cost-effective manner. It allows organisations to personalise coaching conversations and deliver the same quality to larger audiences, without overspending.

You can take a look at our Novartis, HPE and Penta Technology case studies to see how it is possible to provide tailored coaching and mentoring programmes at a large scale through digital coaching.

Not sustainable and applicable training programmes

Organisational culture plays a big role in the way employees work and communicate, and it constitutes a collective mindset. This being the case, we see many inspirational leadership-development training programs losing their power because the leaders can’t apply their new mindset and skills to the whole organisation. This can be because of organisational barriers such as cross-functional conflict, lack of strategic clarity, old routines and the rooted management mindset of the other leaders. 

In order for any leadership development programme to be applicable and sustainable, it should also be aligned with the organisational needs. Therefore, coaching culture and mindset need to be applied in every part of the organisation. 

Digital coaching makes organisational change possible by allowing companies to attend to organisational processes and also support leaders and their employees with individual development tools. Thanks to the developments in HR technology, digital coaching enables companies to apply leadership programs according to:

  • The short-term objectives and long-term strategic goals of the business
  • Existing or predicted leadership gaps
  • Crucial leadership skills needed

This approach (which we also use at SparkUs) creates the conditions for leaders to apply their new skills and knowledge and foster individual and organisational improvement.

Image: An example of our approach, personalised for Penta Technology’s specific organisational needs.

Unmeasurable progress

Many companies face the challenge of gathering concrete metrics and tangible results about the effectiveness of a leadership development program. However, most of the traditional training programs can’t clearly demonstrate their return on investment (ROI). 

Measuring the effectiveness is not only important for the HR or the program manager, but it also motivates the leaders for further improvements. So monitoring leadership development is crucial for leaders to evaluate themselves and make the necessary adjustments, as well as for organisations to understand the true value of the program. 

Digital coaching allows organisations to measure and interpret data for actionable insights. To give an example, our coaching platform SparkUs makes it possible to:

  • Monitor the coaching engagement in real-time
  • Identify and track coaching ROI based on the strategic goals of the organisation
  • Make on-the-spot interventions and provide support where necessary
  • See if the program is being effectively utilised (measure the frequency of coaching sessions, number of actions taken and progress on the platform)

all without violating the confidentiality of the sessions.

Additionally, as stated before, we’ve been receiving very successful results from the approach where we combine a “modular leadership development program with digital coaching, specifically designed for the modules”.  

Organisations need more leaders that can navigate through an unpredictable future with confidence – now more than ever. Digital coaching programmes (alone or combined with a leadership program) are proved to be the best approaches that allow leaders to unleash their full potential and turn uncertainties into valuable learning experiences.