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    Jul 22, 2020    |   Psychometrics Canada

Leadership development efforts: Still the same many years later, but are they effective?

Written by Justin Deonarine, Organizational Psychologist


“Can we improve current leadership development efforts?” I first posed this question in 2014, while presenting research about leadership development efforts in North American organizations. In that study, 3 in 4 employees felt that leadership development efforts were, at best, limited in their effectiveness. I revisited this deep and complex topic in an article I wrote for HRD Magazine on improving leadership development in organizations, but it seems like a good time to return to the discussion with a fresh perspective.


In our 2020 People Trends Report, we asked about the methods of leadership development that are used in Canadian organizations today, and found the following results:

Leadership Development Activities

What leadership development activities does your organization use?


In 2014, workshops, cross-functional meetings and in-class training were the most commonly used methods. We can see that similar methods are still being used in 2020, with the exception that in-class training has been replaced by online learning. These methods tend to be popular, as they are broad solutions that can be used with many leaders looking to expand their capabilities.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 360-feedback, leadership assessments, coaching and formal mentoring programs are still the least used. These are more focused solutions that are tailored to the individual’s needs, and take more time to implement effectively.

However, these are also some of the most effective leadership development activities. Beyond being focused on the individual, these methods all promote awareness of self and others. Research from multiple sources shows that self- and other-awareness has a direct link with effective leadership performance. As a result, it’s noteworthy that fewer organizations are using these methods, as each of these activities can help leaders better understand their impact on others.

Organizations who spend more on leadership development are more likely to experience positive revenue growth. In 2016, Jack Zenger (from Zenger/Folkman) reported that 85% of Fortune 500 organizations use a 360-feedback process as part of their leadership development process. So, while larger organizations are harnessing the benefits of these focused efforts (especially developmental assessments), smaller organizations may be missing these opportunities.

A final note: Off-site retreats are only used by 29% of organizations. This suggests that leaders may be hesitant to step out of their day-to-day responsibilities, even though they should consider doing this more often. There appears to be a need to get leaders out of the daily work environment to “work on the business”, rather than “working in the business”.

Filed under: Leadership Development