The DNA of Successful Leadership Programs

In yesterday’s Advisor, we discussed results of a study by Harvard Business Publishing (HBP) Corporate Learning that showed that very few organizations consider their leadership development programs “best in class.” Today we present more findings from the survey.

  • DNA of successful programs. “Best-in-class” leadership development programs share three key traits: business priority, financial impact, and C-level support. Additionally, these programs are equally available to leaders across the organization, from C-level executives through new managers. But even “best in class” programs struggle with measurement and innovation.
    • One-half (50%) of “best in class” companies consider leadership development a strategic priority, as opposed to only 28% of all other groups.
    • “Best in class” programs are viewed as a major driver of financial health (35%) and competitive performance (56%).
    • Nearly one-half of “best in class” organizations believe they have a strong pipeline of internal candidates.
    • Three-quarters of “best in class” programs enjoy strong CEO support, as opposed to only one-half of all companies.
    • About as many “best in class” programs agree (42%) as disagree (40%) on their ability to measure program impact
  • Mind the perception gap. The majority of business managers and learning and development (L&D) professionals aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on the impact or relevance of leadership development programs.
    • Only 19% of business managers strongly agree that their leadership development programs have a high relevance to the business issues they face.
    • Seventy percent (70%) of L&D professionals expect leadership development to become a strategic priority in the next 3 years, compared to only 47% of business managers.
    • L&D professionals are 29% more likely than business managers to believe they have strong support from the CEO and the board.
    • L&D professionals are 36% more likely than business managers to believe they have a strong internal pipeline of leaders.
    • L&D professionals are more likely than business managers to forecast greater use of the following over the next 3 years: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) (95%), on-demand content (72%), and freeware (65%). Only 15% of best-in-class organizations are using digital classrooms; 19% are using MOOCs.


About the Survey

HBP Corporate Learning surveyed over 700 people, including L&D professionals (44%, or 324 people) and business managers (56%, or 413 people) over 2 weeks in November 2015. The majority came from large enterprises (10,000+ employees) and represent senior management most heavily, followed by midlevel managers. Almost all (90%) have attended a leadership development program, and over one-half of those attended in the past year.
A copy of the full report is available for download here.