26 February, 2021 | Category

By Katie Cook, Client Director at Checkside

Companies across the globe recognise the value a great leader brings and a great team of leaders multiplies that value many times. Hence business owners and CEOs worldwide focus a lot of attention on creating an environment where leaders are continually developed at all levels through their organisations.

The problem however is choosing the right approach from the myriad of programs and offers in the leadership space.

Given my career experiences in leadership training and the combined knowledge of the Checkside team, I am often asked which approach results in the best ongoing development, behavioural change and value creation across a whole organisation. As you might expect, there is not a quick and easy solution, but there are several common traps people fall into when designing leadership programs. Analysis by McKinsey demonstrates how much more effective your programs are when you can avoid these common mistakes1 and the impacts of avoiding these traps are outlined below.

Leadership Development Traps

Common traps

Implementing generic leadership programs without considering organisation-specific strategy and environment

Whilst studying the latest leadership theory may sometimes be beneficial, McKinsey found that leadership programs are 8.1 times more effective when they focus on leadership behaviours most critical to your own business’ performance and direction2. Our experience is that without this direct link to strategy, leaders can become disenchanted with the learning as they cannot see the relevance to themselves and their team and they cannot implement change in isolation.

Engaging in one-off, cohort-specific programs (whether they go for a day, a week, a month or even a year or two)

Leadership development programs are 6.9 times more effective when they cover the entire breadth and depth of your business2. Without this, you risk creating silos in your business and you end up having to choose and invest in new programs for different individuals or teams every year.  It is also very powerful to create a common language amongst your leaders to be shared throughout the business.

Forgetting to offer a safe environment and a strong coach to enable the transfer of learning

Offering leaders the opportunity to apply new skills to real work will make your program 6.1 times more effective2. In our experience, this opportunity needs to be matched with the appropriate coaching to provide feedback and enable leaders to learn from their mistakes.

Ignoring your leaders’ underlying mind-sets

Programs with a strong emphasis on building self and team awareness brings forward the mind-sets which underlie behaviour. This allows leaders the opportunity to challenge their underlying assumptions and triggers, increasing the likelihood of significant change in their behaviours and making your program over 5 times more effective2.

Failure to embed the program into the operating system

Development programs that truly accelerate performance are embedded in the “way we do business around here” because we have found that they are reinforced every day by the actions everyone takes. Increase your program’s effectiveness 5.6 times by looking it into systems such as the performance review process, the talent identification process, the career development process and the coaching and mentoring approach.

Measure what matters

Finally, when delivering programs, it is imperative that the outcomes of the program are measured. Whilst many will measure participation in the program or participant feedback, the ultimate measure of success for the CEO or business owner is the business impact or value derived from the changes. When we take the appropriate actions to address each of these challenges, we increase the chances of success of our leadership development initiative to 80%2.



The McKinsey research and findings strongly align with Checkside’s philosophy and approach to leadership development.

download our Learning Development Framework here  

To learn more, download the framework (using the button above) or call us to find out more about how we can help you design the right approach and program to maximise your ROI.

Katie Cook is a client director with Checkside specialising in Strategy Development, Strategy Execution and Leadership Development in Adelaide.  Prior to joining Checkside, Katie held roles as National People & Development Manager at Stratco following nine years at Deloitte where one of the roles she had was as a manager in the Learning & Development Team in the UK – designing, developing and implementing a broad range of leadership and core consulting skill programs in both the UK and at Deloitte University in Europe.


McKinsey articles:

1 https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/why-leadership-development-programs-fail

2 https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/whats-missing-in-leadership-development

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