4 Mistakes That Can Derail Your Leadership Development Program

In a previous blog post, we outlined the key steps to create a successful leadership program. While those points offer an effective framework to help you get started, the following four mistakes can still throw your program off course if you're not careful:

1. You limit it

In many ways, leadership development programs are essentially long-term staffing strategies. They help you identify talented employees who could potentially assume key management positions in the future. The success of these initiatives relies partly on the ability to pinpoint up-and-coming leaders from all areas of the company.

Don't limit your efforts to one department. Instead, communicate to the entire company that the opportunity for professional growth is available to anyone interested in expanding their knowledge, abilities and skills. 

2. You develop tunnel vision

Another common mistake is focusing all your resources on top-performing employees. Because someone has demonstrated excellent work in his or her current position doesn’t mean that person will evolve into an effective leader. Have an open mind, and be willing to look beyond obvious candidates for further development. (As noted in our previous post, potential leaders could be found anywhere in your company.)

Conversely, keep in mind that leadership roles aren't for everyone. An employee may demonstrate all of the skills and capabilities a manager needs to succeed, but what matters most is the professional's interest in becoming a leader for the organization. Some people are perfectly happy to stay in their current jobs or pursue a different path that does not take them to the management level.

3. You don't devote enough resources to the program

You don't necessarily have to take a purely internal approach. Outsourcing the leadership development process may be a better solution if you lack the necessary talent and tools to run it in-house. The last thing you want is to initiate a program, only to have it fizzle out because there aren't enough resources to keep it going.

Reputable staffing and consulting firms offer staff augmentation services that assist hiring managers in filling interim leadership roles and finding highly skilled professionals for open positions. Enlisting the help of staffing professionals can make it easier for firms to find leaders without sacrificing ongoing initiatives.

4. You don’t think about the long term

What good is a leadership development program if the employees who participate end up leaving the company to pursue other opportunities? Managers should make sure potential future leaders stay engaged by helping them visualize how they can advance in the organization. Can you help them set milestones? And what about offering specific opportunities to apply leadership skills? Connecting leadership candidates with mentors also can help ensure they remain engaged.

Also consider other ways you can keep your most talented individuals on board. This may include an employee rewards system, in which staff members earn incentives such as extra vacation days, designated parking spots or letters of appreciation from higher-ups for specific achievements long after the program has ended. 

Check out our collection of training and development research to learn more about the best ways to fill open leadership positions with internal talent. 

Related post