Why leadership development programs fail (the integral explanation)

Why leadership development programs fail (the integral explanation)

Why leadership development programs fail (the integral explanation)

When you search the internet for ‘why leadership development programs fail’ you will end up with more than 40 million hits but none related to ‘integral failure’.

99% of the leadership development programs fail because they miss one or more quadrants of what integral development is.

An integral leadership development program is covering at the same time:

  1. leader’s personality and inner narratives (Upper Left quadrant), growth mindset, motivations (for and about learning, advancing, growing – things others can not see)
  2. leader’s actions and behaviors (Upper Right q.), deeds and decisions (what others can see)
  3. leader’s cultural context (Lower Left q.), shared values, collective meaning-making, company’s culture, family – things others can not see
  4. leader’s non-cultural context (Lower Right q.), hierarchies, processes, systems – things everybody can see.
An integral leadership development program is covering at the same time: 1. leader's personality and inner narratives (UL q.), growth mindset, motivations (for and about learning, advancing, growing - things others can not see); 2. leader's actions and behaviours (UR q.), deeds and decisions (what others can see); 3. leader's cultural context (LL q.), shared values, collective meaning-making, company's culture, family - things others can not see; 4. leader's non-cultural context (LR q.), hierarchies, processes, systems - things everybody can see.
The Integral Perspective Of Leadership Development

Let’s map the reasons given for failing (main reasons are marked accordingly):

1. Failures in the UL Quadrant: Leadership Motivation And Mindset

  • programs are the ‘one size fit all’ type, missing the personalization; they are designed and thought of as quick fixes and silver bullets, products and commodities instead of ‘individual maps’
  • learning reflection is decoupled from real work  (lack of follow-up, bad learning technology, lack of application)
  • underestimating change beliefs: there is an ‘actionable’ UR quadrant type of programs which are trying to directly change leadership behaviors, missing the core idea in psychology: that mindsets put behaviors in motion.
  • the subject leaders are not confronted enough in their mindsets, the stakes of the program are low, formal and ineffective
  • there’s a difference of mindsets between program’s facilitator and the subject leader
  • the leader does not own the ‘accountability’ of the program, is not interested, does not invest resources and motivation into it (company does)
  • leader’s capacity for and style of learning is different from what the program proposes

2. Failures in the UR Quadrant: Leadership Skills And Behaviors

  • failing to follow-up/ apply in real life the insights from the program
  • wrong identification of the skills needing development

3. Failures in the LL Quadrant: Culture of Learning

  • overlooking/ underestimating the power of cultural context: if the system of relationships does not change, it will set people up to fail. The environment is more powerful than almost anybody’s power to change it.
  • lack of support from stakeholders (sponsors, work colleagues family, etc.)

4. Failures in the LR quadrant: Leadership Development Plans

  • not having an implementation plan, but mostly a one-time event (training, offsite meeting, coaching session) or an open-ended program
  • misalignment among leader’s values, company’s values and facilitator’s (program’s) values
  • bad timing in the general context of the economy/ company
  • wrong choice of the program’s content (teaching? mentoring? coaching?)
  • lack of 360 evaluation in the end

How to create an effective leadership development program

In conclusion, a good leadership development program should:

  • deeply understand the inner universe of the leader (UL quadrant) and take it into consideration in designing the program (development beliefs, style of learning, enneagram type, level of awareness, predominant types of intelligence, accountability, personality, etc.)
  • work with leader’s daily routines, typical actions, behaviors and transforming them by co-creation, avoidance, preservation or deletion try to measure development evolution (UR q.)
  • imply as much from the leader’s cultural context (family, peers, bosses, subordinates) by 360 interviews with any stakeholder of the program (LL q.)
  • align the program with the organizational context, sponsors guidelines, prerequisites, and inputs, measure the outcomes of the program as visible effects in the larger context  (LR q.)
It's all about the dynamic alignment of individual (leader's) and collective (company's) vision (inner motivation) and mission (outer manifestation).
It’s all about the dynamic alignment of individual (leader’s) and collective (company’s) vision (inner motivation) and mission (outer manifestation).

At leadershiplan, we created the perfect formula for leadership development: leadership plans co-created through coaching, with the first phase of deep diving the inner universe of the leader (UL quadrant), a series of practices and routines carefully crafted to develop new leadership habits and skills (UR quadrant), implying all the cultural context through 360 interviews of the stakeholders (LL quadrant) and implying the sponsors and company from the beginning to the end of the program (LR q.). See an example!

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