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THE BOTTOM LINE: Improving Your Leadership Development Strategy in 2020 for Better Business Impact

ICC March 2, 2020 0 Comments

By: Meredith Masse

Organizations’ leadership development programs are in trouble.


A recent study by The Conference Board uncovered that the number one concern for more than 1,000 C-level executives is developing next generation leaders. Attracting and retaining great talent come in at a very close second.

It’s interesting that these two challenges ranked higher even over cybersecurity, slowing economic growth, labor relations and even global political uncertainty.

What’s even more surprising is the data that follows. Even though developing next generation leaders is the number one concern:

Only 14% reported having good leadership bench strength.

This data point is shocking considering:

65% of the same 1,000 polled reported their organization already have an emerging leaders programs. Yet, 68% of that 65% noted the programs were less than stellar.

So developing leaders is the highest concern, these organizations have put development programs in place but only 14% of organizations are realizing any kind of leadership bench strength?


The problem is that the programs themselves are likely ineffective. More data shows that the vast majority of organizations are not intentionally aligning development programs with the business strategies and outcomes the leaders need to deliver.

A few more reasons why traditional leadership development no longer work with today’s modern learners:

Traditional learning focuses on theory and knowledge transfer versus practice and on-the-job-application over time. Many are still crowding leaders into a stuffy classrooms for 8 hours, 2 days, even a full week, feeding them knowledge and theory through a fire hose and expecting that alone will spark behavior change leading to better business results.

Now, if I asked if you could run a marathon tomorrow, could you do it? I certainly couldn’t. My guess is the vast majority of you couldn’t either. (If you said yes, just play along anyway). What if I invited you to a training with me tomorrow, gave you 8 hours of theory around how to run a marathon successfully with charts, graphs, knowledge and information. Would you be ready then? I mean, you now know how to run a marathon. That’s all it takes, right?

Let’s face it: no. It takes knowledge, then applying that knowledge in your first run. Then continuing to practice and run, you build up the strength, skill and muscle memory to run a little farther each time. You build up to 26.2 over time. Agreed?

The same is true with leadership skills like becoming conflict competent or emotionally intelligent, yet we hear organizations all the time asking for emotional intelligence training like that example of running a marathon tomorrow: “Here’s everything you need to know! Now, go forth and be emotionally intelligent. Good luck with that!” and participants are sent on their way with a pat on the back.

This may sound ridiculous. It is. But it happens. We have clients who ask us to deliver an emotional intelligence session in 4 hours… even 2… and check the box. True, participants may have a tiny bit more knowledge, but do you believe it’s enough to change behaviors?

And this is just one of the many challenges more modern leadership develop programs must overcome if the goal is real behavior change that has a positive impact on business outcomes is the intended results. (Isn’t this why we invest in our leaders, after all?)


ICC recently hosted a short webinar to tackle even more problems with traditional training. The best news is in the webinar we also offered lots of tips for what to do to overcome five major ways organizations’ traditional leadership development programs are doing a disservice to participants. We also shared how we’ve implemented the 4 Rs of Modern Learning to completely revamp the leadership development programs we deliver to support our clients in preparing that next generation of leaders and build organizational bench strength.


To watch the 60-minute webinar and get the full list of challenges and tips for tackling them, click here .

What are solutions you’ve implemented in your organization to deliver development that sticks, changes behaviors and contributes to better business results? We’d love to hear more in comments below. 

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Exciting news from ICC!

ICC is excited to announce that we have joined forces with Keystone Partners. With our shared commitment to providing innovative solutions as trusted advisors, Keystone Partners and ICC are set to revolutionize the HR industry and redefine the way organizations address their professional development and career transition needs.