Written by:

Holly Macdonald


March 28, 2010

Is leadership development a boondoggle? 

There is a heck of a lot of money spent on leadership training in North America.  Many programs and they all cost big bucks.  I’ve never been totally convinced that leadership is the holy grail that some seem to portray it as.  Setting direction may be a critical part of organizational success, but it helps if you can actually make progress in that direction.  This article seems to have nailed the other side of the story. 

I’m not saying that organizations shouldn’t spend money on leadership development, but it does seem that followers get the shaft in many companies.  Lots of attention/energy and yes, money gets thrown at this holy grail.  Does it really make that big of a difference?  I would rather spend organizational dollars on developing systems that allow my employees to serve customers, and helping supervisors learn their craft. 

My cynical self (and business sense) would tell me that much better money can be made to create a program once and sell the same generic product to many organizations.   Your development time is one-time and any customization is paid for, so you recoup your costs quickly.  You can license the training delivery, write books as companion pieces, field guides, etc, etc.  Plus it sounds sexy – leadership development – don’t we all want that.  But followership?  No one is going to buy it.  BUT, I think it would probably provide a better return on investment to develop your followers than the leadership development program du jour.