HR Management, Strategic HR

Survey Reveals Room for Improvement with Leadership Development Programs

How satisfied are you with the success of your leadership development efforts? If you are like most participants in a recent survey, you might see a need for improvement.


The need to develop leaders to drive strategic change was identified as the top leadership development priority by the largest percentage of U.S. respondents in a global survey by the Hay Group division of Korn Ferry. However, many survey participants were not confident that their leaders were adequately prepared to do so.

In fact, only 17% expressed confidence that “they had the right leadership capabilities in place to execute their strategy.” Slightly more than half—54%—were somewhat confident, followed by 11% who were unsure, 13% who were somewhat not confident, and 5% who were definitely not confident.

In addition, a mere 18% said they “were confident that their leadership team demonstrated the behaviors needed to successfully deliver on strategic business priorities,” the firm reported.

“The best thought-out business strategy will fail miserably if the leaders within an organization don’t have the skills to make it come to fruition,” said Dennis Baltzley, senior client partner and global head of Leadership Development Solutions, Korn Ferry Hay Group.

“Effective leadership development is the key to helping leaders have the right knowledge and experiences necessary to drive change,” said Baltzley.

Most U.S. respondents also were less than satisfied with the return on investment (ROI) of their leadership development programs. The survey found that 53% ranked their ROI as fair, poor, or very poor—with only 12% indicating that their ROI is very good and 35% saying that it is good.

The majority—55%—said they would scrap at least half of their current approach to leadership development in an effort to improve outcomes.

“Many leadership development initiatives fail because they are simply a series of programs instead of a comprehensive approach that ties directly back into the business strategy,” said Stu Crandell, senior vice president, Korn Ferry Institute.

He said it is important to “not only focus on the whole person (competencies, experiences, traits, and drivers), but also leverage real strategic goals and applicable, on-the-job challenges to augment the relevance and impact of the development journey for individuals, their teams and organizations.”

Executive sponsorship is a key component to success with implementing leadership development efforts.

“We understand that executives are incredibly busy with business issues,” said Crandell, “but a focus on development—for themselves and for emerging leaders across their organization—is how successful implementation of organizational strategy can be realized.”