6 Top Leadership and Management Development Mistakes to Avoid

6 Top Leadership and Management Development Mistakes to Avoid
Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

Leadership and Management Development Matters
According to recent research by McKinsey and the Corporate Executive Board, more than 500 executives ranked leadership development among the top three human capital priorities, and two thirds of leaders rated developing effective leaders as their top concern.  In fact, US companies report spending $14 billion per year on leadership development. But they are not free from making leadership and management development mistakes.

Unfortunately, 60% of new leaders and new managers underperform during their first two years and nearly 70% of senior executives are only “somewhat” or “not at all satisfied” with the performance of their companies’ frontline leaders.  

So, why aren’t business leaders better prepared to handle the inherent challenges of leadership? What goes wrong between the intention and the results of leadership and management training programs?

Top Six Reasons Leadership and Management Programs Fail
Based upon data from our people manager assessment and leadership simulation assessment centers, here are the most common mistakes made by companies as they plan and roll out leadership and management development initiatives:

  1. Treating All Levels and Roles of Leadership the Same
    Most companies create levels and titles to calibrate hiring, performance management, and compensation systems.  From a learning and development perspective however, not all Manager, Director, or VP titles have the same span of control, scope, demands, or learning needs. 

    For example, at some organizations, not everyone with the title of manager has direct reports to lead and manage; they often manage a process or function.  Teaching these managers how to charter and lead a team would not align with their reality.

    To avoid this leadership and management development mistake, ensure that each offering has clear and agreed-upon criteria that identifies the attributes of the target audience who will benefit the most. 

  2. Not Focusing on Business Outcomes and Metrics First
    Too many instructional designers start with learning objectives, content, and training modalities.  This is a common, but easily fixed, leadership and management development mistake.  If you want to create an impactful learning solution for your leaders and managers, start with the desired business outcomes that matter most to the overall business and people strategies.

    Actively involve your key stakeholders to define the one or two business outcomes and how they align with your company’s people and business priorities.  Then identify how you will measure business success at the end of the program.  For example, most leadership development programs strive to improve the execution of key corporate strategies, and most management development programs look to enhance employee performance, engagement, retention, or relations.

  3. Trying to Do Too Much
    With so much at stake, it is tempting to want to teach leaders and managers everything you can about goal setting, building trust, feedback, coaching, career development, communication, conflict, change management, decision making, employee engagement, retention, onboarding, performance management, compensation, rewards and recognition, recruiting, hiring, team dynamics, etc.

    If you want to create higher performing leaders at your company however, your leadership and management development initiatives must keenly focus on your marketplace, your strategy, your culture, and the critical few leadership scenarios — that if leaders had high levels of proficiency — would lift performance where it matters most.  People can only learn and change so much at a time; not all skills are of equal value for your unique context.

    Once you can clearly articulate the business purpose and learning objectives, you can then focus on the critical few scenarios, skills, competencies, behaviors, and attitudes leaders will need to succeed and to be high performing in their specific situation.  Remember, when it comes to gaining new skills and changing behavior, less is more.

  4. Overlooking the Importance of On-the-Job Learning
    The farther learning is from current and future job responsibilities, the less likely your target audience is to change their behavior or performance.  To acquire new skills, people need relevant, frequent, targeted, and timely practice and feedback in areas that matter most to them, their boss, and the organization as a whole. 

    The more you link leadership development to real work using action learning principles, the deeper the learning and the greater the business impact. It only stands to reason that bringing learning and work into harmony will create better results and more lasting skills. Smart people leaders try to make every project a development opportunity.

  5. Underestimating the Difficulty of Behavioral Change
    New leadership skills require a change in behavior. A major mistake of many leadership development programs is to underestimate how hard it is to effect true behavioral change. There is inevitably real discomfort as employees stretch to practice and embed new ways of operating. 

    One-time, misaligned, unsupported, or unreinforced training events do not change behavior. Make sure that your learners have the support required for continuous learning.

  6. Failing to Create Accountability
    Another common mistake is to fail to measure and communicate training results. We believe that training measurement is vital to:

    — Track if your learning solution is making the desired impact
    — Understand if people are using the new knowledge, skills, and processes
    — Assess levels of manager support and reinforcement
    — Provide feedback for coaching that is targeted, relevant, and actionable

The Bottom Line
Even though most managers and leaders are not meeting expectations, companies continue to give managers and leaders wider responsibility over more employees to increase productivity and speed up decision making.  If you can avoid the top leadership and management development mistakes, you can set your leaders and managers up for success.

To learn more about how to develop better managers, download the 6 Management Best Practices that Make the Difference Between Effective and Extraordinary

Evaluate your Performance


Get key strategy, culture, and talent tools from industry experts that work


Health Checks

Assess how you stack up against leading organizations in areas matter most



Download published articles from experts to stay ahead of the competition



Review proven research-backed approaches to get aligned



Stay up to do date on the latest best practices that drive higher performance


Client Case Studies

Explore real world results for clients like you striving to create higher performance