Improve Leadership Development: Begin at the End

Only 34% of organizations say they can prove that their leadership development program significantly impacted the organization’s ability to meet its business objectives. The main reason employers can’t prove leader development has any impact is that they don’t adequately measure it.

2021 Top Priorities to Improve Business Impact of Leadership Development

Most employers use antiquated models to measure leadership development rather than starting with the desired business outcomes and working backward. They rely on outmoded leader behaviors that do not fit the business needs, then focus on course completion and knowledge transfer rather than behavior change.

Organizations need emotionally intelligent and inclusive leaders who can drive business results by motivating and inspiring their teams through feedback, coaching and helping them grow in their careers while also helping the organization grow.

There are many ways to measure this. One is to go right to the source. Organizations should be asking a leader’s direct reports, in a series of anonymous surveys, whether leader training changed leader behaviors for the better and whether those behaviors are continuing over time. If the answer is “yes,” your training is on the right track and you should seek ways to ensure it continues and leaders continue to improve. If the answer is “no,” you need to figure out what you need to do differently to improve leader behaviors.

Many organizations don’t measure the impact of leadership development because of the perceived complexity and their belief that they cannot do it effectively. At the same time, developing better leaders is important, so organizations keep investing in leader development without having any evidence it’s having any business impact. This is the definition of insanity — doing the same thing repeatedly yet expecting a different result.

• How do we create a straightforward and impactful way to measure leadership effectiveness?

• How do we measure leadership development so it is directly tied to critical business outcomes?

Brandon Hall Group’s Learning-Performance Convergence Model can help you design programs that have greater impact on your leader behaviors and business outcomes.

Here is an overview to get you started:

Start by identifying the business impact you want your leader training to have. There should be several outcomes, ranging from standard business outcomes, such as revenue growth and customer satisfaction, to more specific leader-driven outcomes such as increased talent retention and highly engaged employees.

To improve business outcomes, leaders should be expected to achieve their own performance outcomes. These outcomes are based on specific behaviors that make business outcomes possible. For instance, talent retention involves giving employees a sense of belonging, helping them grow their skills to advance their careers and so on.

Then, only after you have thought through the first two steps, should you consider learning objectives. Many organizations start here and that is why leadership development often falters, because learning objectives are not linked to leader behaviors that drive business outcomes. A few learning objectives linked to leader behaviors and business outcomes include:

  • A demonstrable knowledge of emotional intelligence
  • Ability to coach performance through questioning and challenging an employee’s thinking.
  • Ability to set goals that align with businessgoals and an employee’s career aspirations.

From there, you should determine how the development will be structured between formal, informal and experiential learning. This can be as much art as science but with leadership development, there should be as much emphasis as possible on experiential learning and skills practice.

Behavior change requires practice. Introducing new leadership behaviors in an ILT or VILT session and expecting change without practice and reinforcement is learning malpractice.

By approaching your leadership development program in this way, measurement becomes much easier. You have already identified the leader behaviors you need to see to drive business outcomes. You can then measure whether these behaviors are present over time through observation, asking people who work with the leader and other metrics, including performance improvement by team members, goal acquisition, engagement scores of team members and career advancement.

It all starts at the end: What are the business outcomes you want your leaders to drive? Then teach, reinforce, enable practice and coach them to reach those behaviors.

This not only will improve measurement; it may redefine your whole approach to developing your leaders.


Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.