Only 7% of Organizations Believe Their Leadership Development Programs are Best in Class According to Harvard Business Publishing State of Leadership Development Survey

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A new report from Harvard Business Publishing shows that while only 7% of organizations have leadership development programs that are considered Best in Class, these programs are shown to have a strong impact on a company's financial performance. However, a gap exists between L&D teams and their business partners on the relevance and effectiveness of leadership development programs.

Best in Class leadership development programs have an impact on financial and competitive performance.

There is a big silver lining here: leadership development programs, when they work, absolutely have an impact on business success.

Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, developer of world-class leadership development solutions for global companies and organizations, today announced the results of their State of Leadership Development Survey. The survey revealed that only 7 percent of organizations feel they have a Best in Class leadership development program. The survey also examines how learning and development (L&D) teams and businesses managers perceive leadership development and found that a perception gap exists between L&D and the rest of the business on the relevance and effectiveness of leadership development programs. A copy of the full report is available for download here.

“Although these survey results do not completely surprise us, they do show that when leadership development programs are designed and developed as a strategic priority, aligned to both goals and key challenges, businesses have a better chance at growth,” said Ray Carvey, executive vice president of Corporate Learning and International at Harvard Business Publishing. “While it’s easy to read this report as L&D teams are consistently being overlooked, or not doing a great job interpreting and responding to the needs of the business, there is a big silver lining here: leadership development programs, when they work, absolutely have an impact on business success. L&D teams must embrace new ways of aligning with the business, demonstrating relevance and proving impact not only to change the perception of leadership development in their organizations but also to better prepare their businesses for future growth.”

Top Survey Findings:

The State of Leadership Development
For a majority of organizations, leadership development is still not considered a “business critical” investment. Many programs are missing the mark when it comes to relevance and innovation. Top barriers to success include time constraints, lack of funding and defendable ROI.

  • Best in Class programs represent only 7 percent of organizations surveyed, and can be found in large public organizations with more than 10,000 employees in the aerospace, pharmaceutical, and consumer goods industries.
  • Even among Best in Class programs, 40 percent of respondents feel that leadership development is only important – not fundamental – to business strategy.
  • Three-quarters of respondents believe leadership development needs to be more innovative in their learning techniques
  • L&D professionals are responding to the changes in learner demographics and will increase their use of eLearning (50 percent), on-demand (50 percent) and freeware (53 percent) in the next three years
  • Demonstrating integrity (77 percent) and managing complexity (75 percent) were the highest rated critical capabilities for leadership, though end users are less convinced that current programs are developing these capabilities enough.

DNA of Successful Programs
Best-in-class leadership development programs share three key traits: business priority, financial impact and C-level support. Additionally, these programs are equally available to leaders across the organization – from C-level executives through new managers. But even Best in Class programs struggle with both measurement and innovation.

  • 50 percent of Best-in-Class companies consider leadership development a strategic priority, as opposed to only 28 percent of all other groups.
  • Best-in-class programs are viewed as a major driver of financial health (35 percent) and competitive performance (56 percent)
  • Nearly half of best-in-class organizations believe they have a strong pipeline of internal candidates.
  • Three-quarters of best-in-class programs enjoy strong CEO support, as opposed to only half of all companies.
  • As many Best in Class programs agree (42 percent) as disagree (40 percent) on their ability to measure program impact.

Mind the Perception Gap
The majority of business managers and L&D professionals aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on the impact or relevancy of leadership development programs.

  • Only 19 percent of business managers strongly agree that their leadership development programs have a high relevance to the business issues they face
  • 70 percent of L&D professionals expect leadership development to become a strategic priority in the next three years, compared to only 47 percent of business managers
  • L&D professionals are 29 percent more likely than business managers to believe they have strong support from the CEO and the Board
  • L&D professionals are 36 percent more likely than business managers to believe they have a strong internal pipeline of leaders
  • L&D professionals are more likely than business managers to forecast greater use of the following over the next three years: MOOCs (95 percent), on-demand content (72 percent) and freeware (65 percent); only 15 percent of best-in-class organizations are using digital classrooms, 19 percent using MOOCs

About the Survey
Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning surveyed over 700 people, including both L&D professionals (44 percent) and business managers (56 percent) over two weeks in November 2015. The majority came from large enterprises (10,000+ employees) and represent senior management most heavily, followed by mid-level managers. Almost all (90 percent) have attended a leadership development program, over half in the past year.

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About Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning
Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning partners with clients to create world-class leadership development solutions for managers at all levels. We leverage the management insight, thought leadership, and expertise of Harvard Business School faculty and authors from Harvard Business Review to create tailored leadership development solutions. With more than 20 years of practical experience, our innovative, technology-enabled solutions drive meaningful and lasting business results. Corporate Learning is a market group within Harvard Business Publishing. For more information, visit Follow us on Twitter @HBPCorpLearning and connect with other leadership development leaders on LinkedIn through the Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning Group.

Contact Details:
Kyle Tildsley
PAN Communications

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