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Why Good Leadership Development is Important

L&D expert Nigel Paine outlines the risk of not developing your top talent

There is something rotten in the state of leadership development. It is a colossal industry; often the biggest budget line in any L&D programme. The Corporate Research Forum estimates annual expenditure on leadership development exceeds $50 billion. It is a massive worldwide operation and is growing strongly. Yet discontent with what that investment in leadership delivers is rife. That CRF survey, Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends (2015) and the Marshall School of Business ePulse survey reveal a widening gap between the investment, the expectations that the investment promises, and the overall confidence of CEOs in the leadership capability in their organizations. It would seem, that as investment grows, so does dissatisfaction with the quality and durability of those leadership development programmes. The enduring value in organizations seems to be hard to find and poor leadership abounds at every level.

So, if most leadership development does not work and it is too hard to put your finger on the criteria for success, perhaps, ultimately, it is better to save your money and make investments elsewhere? There are dramatic consequences, however, if you do nothing.

I also witnessed at first hand the ruinous waste of human talent caused by leadership incompetence, and the unhappiness and frustration of staff who felt marginalised, ignored and brutalised by the regime that they worked under. I hated the self-seeking leaders I met who nakedly demonstrated to the world that it was all about them and their compensation. They took a really short-term, narrow view of their role and their performance, and then moved on, leaving the chaos for someone else to sort out because they had a distorted idea of what leadership meant which focused on delivering short-term targets whatever the long-term consequences.  What made the difference? Were there any common factors that made some leadership programmes work whilst lots of others failed to deliver? I discovered that there were a whole raft of factors leading to the success or failure of leadership development. If you read Building Leadership Development Progammes: Zero-cost to high investment programmes that work, they are all there.

About the author: Nigel Paine is a change-focused leader with a worldwide reputation and extensive experience in leadership and consultancy. As the Head of Training and Development at BBC, he built one of the most successful learning and development operations in the UK. He now runs his own consultancy, which focuses on leadership, creativity, innovation and e-learning, working with companies in Europe, Brazil, Australia and the US. He is an academic director and member of the international advisory board at the University of Pennsylvania, board member of Management Issues and a Masie Learning Fellow.

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