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Most executives understand the need for developing leaders around them. The upsides are mostly well known by now: better delivery; better quality of influence; better alignment; and less strain on the CEO, which enables higher quality strategic thinking.

Yet most leadership development initiatives generate very low ROI or ROT (return on time). 

This shouldn’t be the case and it needn’t be the case as developing leaders is controllable. It’s 100% in your hands.

So, in case you are considering putting energy and money into developing your leaders, this shortish read might be helpful in arranging your thoughts. Herein, I share a few best practices in point form for easy digestion.

Tie your leadership development to Strategy:

Without the ‘North Star effect’ that Strategy provides, leadership development is toothless and it will lack direction and rigour. If leaders are tasked with actual delivery, their leadership development takes on greater importance and necessity. 

Find a provider that can blend leadership with Strategy:

There are many leadership practitioners out there but few can move beyond teaching into consulting. Good leadership practitioners, or at least ones that have a performance orientation, are harder to find. In order to build leaders, you need a partner who you can trust to deliver results by working with the whole business picture, not just the leadership element.

Involve the CEO:

Any CEO worth his/her salt will take an active interest in building leaders around them. It’s a process that can’t be outsourced and if it is, the leadership development initiative will likely not gain much traction. The CEO should be relied upon to paint a picture of the future for developing leaders, articulate the interplay between the CEO role and the leader body, and be clear about the contribution that both the CEO and the leader body (i.e. Exco or SLT or Manco) are being relied on to make. 

Have a clear beginning and a clear end:

Good leadership development programs should not last for an eternity. They need to have clear boundaries within which to deliver finite results. There can be other times when you re-initiate leadership development initiatives, but they shouldn’t be nebulously ongoing.

Focus on character, skill, and knowledge:

Good leaders develop all of the above. If any are lacking, the whole is lacking. Make sure your program sets aside time to build all three aspects of your leaders.

Create time to think:

Stillness matters in leadership programs, but it’s usually in short supply due to overloaded design. Without the time to process and settle all the learnings that leadership development programs should generate, nothing gets ‘filed’ which will result in low traction and low ROI. 

Leadership development programs are potentially a major needle-mover and bright spot in the total experience of being in business. They should be remarkable in every way.  I trust that these points might be helpful in transforming yours into a standout offering to, arguably, some of the most important people to your business.

Jonathan-Rowan Belchers

Jonathan-Rowan Belchers

“I’m driven by the truth that one remarkable leader can change the fortunes of many. And I’m committed to championing those leaders across all continents.”

With an enduring passion for high performance and exceptional leadership, Jonathan-Rowan has advanced the footprint of Lockstep since founding it in 2006. A graduate of both Harvard and Berkeley and a certified business coach, he has 20+ years in the leadership advisory sector and lectures at a number of foremost business schools. He is an artist at heart – an avid reader, musician and painter.