• Jeff Doolittle

How to Improve Your Leadership Development Investment Performance


What you need to know to get the most significant return from leadership development.


We intuitively know that for leaders to be successful, we need to invest in developing our skills as leaders. The more a leader learns and effectively applies the better they become, and consequently, our organizations achieve better results. This statement is the tenet of leadership development. While there is truth to that statement, it overestimates the impact of the leader on the company and individual results, and it underestimates the impact of company culture, the leader-follower relationship and specific traits. Leaders perform within a company culture and are a part of the culture. Also, by sheer numbers alone the most substantial part of an organization is followers, not leaders. We tend to look to a leader to solve our problems rather than focusing on the reality that a company achieves most of their results through followers. By definition leaders need followers, or they are not leaders. Let's define leadership as service to others and followership as service to the leader both united in a common purpose and dependent on each other. To achieve greater success and maximize our leadership development investment performance we need to make some changes.


One More Tool for the Toolbelt

While the concept of followership is relatively new as compared to leadership, let’s consider a practical but fictitious leadership scenario to help us understand its meaning. You have likely heard the saying in leadership training that you are going to get another tool for your toolbelt. So, what if I gave builder “X” the best tools in their toolbelt, coached them to be their best physically, mentally and spiritually and put them in harsh working conditions and gave them a capable team that all spoke and understood different languages. Then I gave builder “Y” of same physical, mental, and spiritual well-being the same tools in their toolbelt and placed them in a good working environment with a capable team that all spoke the same language. Then I presented both builders with a challenge where they had the same amount of time and resources to build the same house. Which do you think would create the best home? Of course, the answer is obvious that a builder with better working conditions and a team that can communicate effectively can outperform a team in harsh conditions and cannot communicate effectively or efficiently. For too long companies have focused leadership development on the tools in the toolbelt of the leader, or the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the leader and not stopped to consider the impact of the leader-follower relationship, organizational culture, and specific traits. Before discussing what senior leaders need to understand and what they can do to maximize a company’s leadership development return on investment, let’s quickly take a step back and recognize how we got here.


Globalization and Today’s Workforce Realities

The business world is shrinking as large multinational companies continue to expand into new markets, and the makeup of our workforce in our companies is becoming more diverse. One of the critical issues facing most senior leaders is the lack of having ready now employees within their organization. For more than ten years we have known that as the Baby Boomers start to retire organizations would begin to struggle to find talent. Generation X is not large enough to fill the gaps created by the Baby Boomers exiting organizations. In turn, each of the past five years the war for talent has continued to intensify globally. In the past, it was a company-specific problem, but now globally countries are recognizing the challenges and looking at their policies to help expand their country’s workforce. If you listen to the news, you know our world is full of complex problems like cybersecurity, and global political uncertainty but the topic of talent management is in discussions from the boardroom to the breakroom and companies are turning to leadership development to help solve their complex challenges. The leadership development industry is booming. Likely your company is making new investments in leadership development or considering an investment.


3 Insights You Need to Understand