Companies can maximize the impact of their leadership development programs by evaluating the outcome of such programs based on participants’ improved leadership attitudes, mindset, behaviours, and effectiveness. Reviewing leadership solution, leadership and context factors that influence the success of leadership development programs can reveal the root causes of any weaknesses that emerge from the program evaluations.
Building on internal and external research, the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) has developed a framework that not only measures the impact of leadership development programs but also reveals the key contributing factors that influence their effectiveness.
The framework measures the impact of a leadership development program at four different levels—individual, group, organization, and society—and within each of those levels, in four different domains: attitude, mindset, behaviour, and effectiveness.
At the individual level, for example, an organization can evaluate whether leaders have increased their engagement while reducing their stress (attitude); enhanced their self-awareness of their impact on others and changed some of their beliefs of what makes a leader effective (mindset); changed their behaviour overtly, displaying for example improved communication and/or collaboration skills (behaviour); and improved their job performance and productivity (effectiveness).
The framework lays out similar attitude, mindset, behaviour, and effectiveness evaluation criteria for the group, organization, and society levels of impact. For example, more direct feedback at the group level, improved inter-departmental coordination and collaboration at the organization level, and, at the society level, better treatment of people who are different (e.g., hiring more people with disabilities) are some examples of a leadership development initiative’s positive impact on behaviour.
Evaluating the outcomes of leadership development programs and initiatives can reveal weaknesses. The source of those weaknesses, according to the CCL framework, can be traced three sets of key factors that can hinder or facilitate leadership initiatives:
Leadership Solution Factors. Leadership solution factors areproblems inherent in the design or implementation of the leadership development initiative or program. For example, was the program designed with goals that are aligned with the needs of the organization? Is the content research-based and relevant? Is the delivery of the content engaging?
Leadership Factors. Leadership factors includethe characteristics of the individual leader (knowledge, skills, and abilities), as well as personal characteristics, such as personality, values, and motivation. The more committed and engaged the leader, the better the outcome of the program. High leadership development efficacy—that is, an individual’s belief in his or her ability to develop leadership skills—increases the motivation to learn. Thus, enhancing the leadership development efficacy of participants through confidence building and modelling (e.g., sharing success stories) will significantly improve the results they attain in the program. Context Factors: Internal and external context factors can make a major difference in the effectiveness of leadership development. The economy, market trends, or even a global pandemic are examples of external context factors that can undermine or complicate efforts to develop leaders. Internal context factors, which can range from support from managers and senior leaders (e.g., encouraging leaders to implement newly learned behaviours) to whether development is valued in the organizational culture, also impact leadership development outcomes.
Developing your leaders is vital to the success of your organization or company. Even significant investment in leadership development programs, however, can fail to yield the expected results if you do not understand the mechanisms that enhance a program’s effectiveness.
The first step is to evaluate leadership development programs in your organizing using the criteria introduced here. Does your program improve the attitude, behaviour, mindset, and effectiveness of leaders at the individual level, as leaders working in groups, as leaders contributing to the success of the organization, and as leaders making a difference to society?
If you find weaknesses in your programs, review the three factors that might be undermining your efforts, using specific metrics when possible. For example, rate the value of each of your program components. Feedback from participants is vital. What percentage of participants feel they met their learning objectives (which reflects the positive or negative impact of the learning solutions factors)? What percentage of leaders say they were commitment to learning, and would apply what they learned (leader factors)? What percentage believe that their senior leaders support their development and model what they have learned (context factors)?
Thoroughly evaluating outcomes and exploring the factors influencing those outcomes is key to maximizing the impact of your investment in leadership development.
Sarah Stawiski’s profile at CCL
Stephen Jeong’s profile at CCL
Heather Champion’s profile at CCL
Leadership Development Impact (LDI) Framework. Sarah Stawiski, Stephen Jeong, and Heather Champion. CCL Research Insights (2021).
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