Are You Sinking or Swimming with Leadership Development?

Getting the right things in place to stay on top of developing your leaders.

What is your organization doing to develop leadership? Are your leaders strategically focused and aligned for the future? Do they know how to attract and fully engage today’s and tomorrow’s employees?

Mercer | Mettle conducted its 2019 Leadership Development Trends by surveying more than 200 organizations to explore the challenges and best practices within leadership development.

According to the Mercer | Mettl study, more than 80 percent of surveyed organizations face a leadership talent shortage. That’s because most of the present leaders are Baby Boomers on the verge of retirement, or Millennials who mostly do not intend to stay in their current job for a long time period.

Leadership development programs cost a lot and usually extend over a long duration of time, with few programs designed and developed around a leadership competency framework. And unfortunately, 30 percent of organizations struggle to get existing senior leadership involvement in designing or taking part in an effective leadership program.


The first solution to raising leadership development lies in the design, development, and implementation of a leadership competency framework.

Second, Mercer | Mettle recommends shortening the duration of leadership development programs. Most leadership development programs last an average of eight months. Organizations that reduce their programs to six months or less are more likely to achieve their desired objectives compared with longer programs.

Senior leadership commitment and collaboration is another success factor for fruitful leadership development. Senior leaders need to work together with Learning and Development (L&D) professionals to develop new, existing, and emerging leaders. Once senior leaders are leading future leaders through example, program participation, and execution of leadership development programs, you cannot help but succeed.


A big challenge for senior leaders and HR professionals is hiring the right leaders. Too often, leaders are in the positions they have today because of a career development plan versus a proper leadership development plan.

If you don’t provide the right leadership training, newly hired or promoted leaders won’t be able to mesh interpersonally with the dynamics of new team members, nor deliver optimal work performance expected of them. New leaders could easily walk out the door because they feel overwhelmed or lack confidence in their ability to lead.

Leadership development objectives need to address the following researched needs that organizations shared:

  • Help leaders adjust and transition to the organization and leadership culture.
  • Provide coaching and feedback skills, along with the latest trends on how to effectively lead people.
  • Offer insights on transforming themselves and the future of work so they can better adapt to the change they inevitably will experience.
  • Guide them on the attitudes, behaviors, and skills they need to drive business results.
  • Understand the importance of collaboration through networking with peers and managers, developing partnerships with others, and building coalitions for achieving business success.
  • Monitor the psychological, motivational, and overall wellbeing of leadership candidates to ensure they are on the right track and that leadership development is the right path for them.


While having a leadership competency framework is key, it’s important to note that each leadership position within a given industry in each organization will be different. This requires organizations to identify the relevant competencies for each leadership role. And these competencies are never static. Review and update the competencies needed regularly, so it prepares your organization for the future.

As a Learning and Development professional, your goal is to provide learning content and leadership experiences that build up new, existing, and emerging leaders and help them acquire the leadership competencies included in your framework.

This means using validated leadership and talent assessment tools, along with 360-degree peer feedback to identify the training needs for each leader. L&D professionals then will help design an Individual Leadership Development Plan customized for each leader.

Draw upon your existing leaders to mentor new and emerging leaders so they can perpetuate successful behaviors and skills known to drive results. Ensure there is good knowledge sharing of present institutional knowledge and successful best practices for new leaders to try out and evaluate what works well for them.

Use a planned approach to leadership development to truly develop the leadership needs of your organization. Too often, leadership development is used as a reward for managers who are performing well. But if those managers do not have the motivation, desire, and abilities to lead others and the organization, then no amount of leadership development will make that individual become a leader.

Your leadership team already knows which business areas need new or stronger leaders. Senior leaders can define and describe the various leadership strengths needed for those positions.

Getting the right things in place to stay on top of leadership development warrants the need for:

  1. Having your current leadership team drive leadership development, not just HR.
  2. Determining which business areas require new or developed leaders and the specific leadership skill sets needed.
  3. Identifying potential leadership candidates such as high-performing individuals.
  4. Assessing candidates for leadership strengths and areas needing improvement.
  5. Creating an Individual Leadership Development Plan using courses, mentoring, and emerging leadership exercises.
  6. Monitoring and measuring successful implementation of leadership development skills with each leadership candidate.

Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP, is author of “Practicing Recognition” and Chief Learning Officer at Rideau Recognition Solutions. His consulting and learning skills focus on helping companies “give real recognition the right way wherever they are.” For recognition insights, visit: For more information, e-mail him at or visit

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