I recently read an article from Open Brackets about the five fatal flaws of leadership development programs.  Having recently experienced our own leadership development program – High Performance Leadership (HPL) – I decided to review my experience against these flaws and see how our program measures up.

1. A mile wide and an inch deep

Many leadership programs attempt to cover everything.  And of course, if you try to cover everything in a fixed amount of time, you can’t possibly achieve the level of depth required to really learn something.

Our HPL program focuses on a smaller number of key models and activities – based on the requirements and needs of the participants – and does them thoroughly. Our facilitators make sure the groups understands completely before they move on – it’s an interactive learning process, not a lecture.

As Ray McLean, co-founder of Leading Teams often likes to quote, “A lecture is the method of passing information from the notebook of the lecturer to the notebook of the student without going through the brains of either.” (Source under debate, believed to be Edwin E. Slosson.)

2. ‘One size fits all’

There is no one size fits all at Leading Teams.  Our cornerstone program, the Performance Improvement Program, is always tailored to the needs of our clients, so why would our professional development programs be any different?  On day one of the HPL program, each participant is asked what they want to get from the course. The facilitator uses that information to plot the content for the remainder of the program. At the end we review against those aims to make sure that we achieved them.

This means no two HPL programs will ever really be the same. Your experience on HPL will be governed by who you are, where you’ve come from and what you want / need to develop.

3. Development only happens in the training room

This simply isn’t the case. What good is ‘learning’ something if you never get the opportunity to put it into practice?  Although our programs consist of five facilitated days, those days are typically spread out over a period of around six months.  The reason behind this is to allow each individual the opportunity to practice, consolidate and embed what they’ve learned in each session before the next.  Each session touches on what was previously covered and uses the examples given by the group to further explore how the models and tools can be used. Some of the best learnings from our courses come from this sharing of the participants’ real-world experiences.

A group of leadership development participants standing in a factory

A High Performance Leadership group on site in the factory of one of the participants

At the end of the program group members are encouraged to stay in touch so that they can continue to challenge each other’s learning and development.

4. Participants not held accountable for their development

One of our key trademark behaviours at Leading Teams is ‘take responsibility’. We are all responsible for our own actions and for playing our part in the team. And we promote the same attitude on our programs – it’s an old saying but you will get out what you put in. The final day of HPL involves a presentation by each member of the group on what they’ve learnt, what they will be taking away and how they will be putting it into practice. There are no set rules on format – it’s down to each individual to represent their own experience. We invite the participants to bring supervisors, peers and colleagues from their own workplace so that they can demonstrate their learning to people within their organisation. This gives them support and accountability as they put their learning into practice back at work.

5. No clear link to other talent management processes

Some people join our programs with a clear goal for promotion or development in mind. Others join for more personal fulfilment. Whichever it is, we make sure to involve their plans and desires for the future in their learning.  One member of my own cohort used his experiences from the course to support his application for an acting supervisory role – in which he was successful. This has opened him up to the talent management pathways within his organisation and allowed him to come back to the group to discuss what he learnt and how he would use it as he goes through that pathway into a more permanent team leader position.

Leadership development is very personal – we all have individual gaps in our skills and knowledge. The key to a good leadership development program is finding one that taps into these gaps and shows you how to acknowledge them and address them. The Leading Teams High Performance Leadership Program is designed to do exactly that.

We have programs starting in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney in February 2018. If your preferred location isn’t listed let us know and we’ll start a waiting list.


Caroline Reid

Caroline Reid

Caroline worked for Leading Teams from 2016-2018.