Five Ways You’re (Probably) Wasting Money on Leadership Development

Successful companies know that effective leadership development is critical for maintaining a competitive edge long-term. Often, they make large investments in leadership development training programs that motivate and inspire – but the glow quickly wears off. It is rare for traditional programs to prompt true cultural change. At best, participants retain and habitually apply just one or two principles in the months that follow. At worst, they resume old habits as soon as they get back to their desks. 

Despite good intentions, most leadership development programs are a waste of money. This is particularly true when it comes to common formats that fail to engage adult learners, including lectures, role playing, and hot seats. Smart companies are changing the way they approach leadership development to ensure they get a return on their investment.

Five Leadership Development Training Methods to Scrap

Redesigning leadership training to create long-term change starts with scrapping old methods that don’t work. These are five that your organization will be stronger without: 

Anything Optional

You wouldn’t want your doctor to care for your health without employing the most recent medical advances. The medical licensing boards agree. In fact, professionals in a variety of fields are required to participate in continuing education. Unfortunately, most companies don’t take the same approach to leadership development. While there may be an abundance of learning opportunities available, participation is optional. 

The truth is that not everyone has an interest in learning for the sake of learning. Leaving people to fit management training into busy schedules at their convenience typically results in a large number of untrained and low-skilled leaders. Instead, treat management development as the priority it is by requiring continuing education for your leaders.  

Single-Session Programs

A day or two of motivational workshops may offer some inspiration, but they rarely have a lasting impact on the organization’s management methods. Strong leadership development training is clear, concise, and consistent – and it is on-going to ensure methods become fully integrated with company culture. 

Instead of a one-and-done experience, industry leaders choose manager development methods that include on-going reinforcement, dramatically increasing the chances that most best practices will be implemented long-term.

Chet Holmes, author of The Ultimate Sales Machine, explains it this way: 

By rotating core material regularly, the same concepts are constantly reinforced and reiterated. Skills are impacted immediately in either training method, yet over time, skills are impacted permanently with repetition. 

Over-Reliance on On-The-Job Training

It’s an unfortunate fact that far too many organizations abandon their newest leaders to fend for themselves. Often, they hand over a self-paced course schedule and a pile of materials, along with the name of a mentor who is tasked with showing them the ropes. This method is based on a misinterpretation of research showing that adult learners prefer to take control of the pace of training

There is nothing wrong with self-directed learning, and in fact, it is often highly effective in catching and keeping the attention of developing leaders. The additional support of a mentor is an enormous asset. However, putting money into informal on-the-job training is a waste. There is typically no follow-up, and course completion is not validated.

Instead, the most effective leadership training programs are rethinking their definition of self-directed. While leaders might be given the flexibility to take training courses when and where it is most comfortable, there is accountability for completion and application of the material.

Traditional Formats 

It’s a digital world, and people are growing more accustomed to completing day-to-day activities with their mobile devices. From paying bills to consuming entertainment, it’s all about flexibility in time and place. Expecting this population to sit through long classroom lectures or participate in in-person role plays is a stretch. Instead, smart organizations are adapting to the expectations of their digitally-driven audience

Online leadership training is a growing trend that has proven quite popular with today’s leaders. These platforms offer consistent messaging across the organization, and they are accessible from any device with internet access. Participants can login at their convenience, dramatically increasing completion rates.

Static Modules 

Developing training, online or otherwise, is an expensive endeavor. Many organizations create evergreen leadership development content and use it for years. The problem is that outdated training is easy to spot, and participants immediately lose interest when they notice they are being offered obsolete material. 

The most successful companies constantly update and revise leadership development training to keep it fresh. This results in modules that keep participants engaged no matter how long they have been with the company. Instead of recycling old material, the training continuously reinforces foundational concepts in exciting and innovative ways. 

Choosing a Process that Works

Many companies fail to supply leadership management training that works. Outdated methods and old-school methods leave participants disengaged, preventing high-quality leadership skills from becoming a core part of the organizational culture. 

A Better Leader solves for common leadership development training issues with state-of-the-art online leadership training. Learning and Development professionals can choose from dozens of topics to create customized learning plans specific to organizational needs. While each module covers a different topic, a common theme unites them: the on-going quest to become an employer of choice. 


About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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