The Effectiveness of Leadership Development Programs

Leadership development programs are an important part of any organization’s success. However, such an investment in high-potential employee training will only pay off if the program you choose fully meets the needs of your team. The results should be measurable and involve objective standards.

How Effective Are Leadership Development Programs?

Leadership effectiveness is easy to measure because you can consider priority issues for leaders and leadership as key metrics:

  • Strategy formation. It’s important to assess how well the manager or leader designs the organization’s development strategy;
  • Team’s effectiveness. Here, the number of employees with high potential, the level of involvement, and the motivation of employees are used as evaluation criteria. Also, leadership development programs for talented employees are utilized;
  • Personal and professional growth of leaders. Whether the head or manager takes the time for self-improvement, acquisition of new competencies, necessary for successful team management, or achieving the goals of the business.

In addition, the list of evaluation criteria includes success factors, results to achieve, and KPI progress both for each employee individually and for the team as a whole.

How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of a Leadership Development Program

The concept of assessing the effectiveness of a leadership development program is based on the amount of useful information, which can be obtained from the results of the training course. For this purpose, there are many tools and out-of-the-box methodologies that can be used to measure the usefulness of a particular leadership development program.

Preparing for the evaluation process of such a program involves:

  • Determining the evaluation criteria. These are returns on investment (ROI), KPI indicators, turnover rates, planned/actual course duration, and employee satisfaction after training;
  • Choosing tools to determine the qualitative indicators. Most often, internal surveys are used for this purpose. Analysis of their results is needed to identify specific indicators that require improvement.

It’s also important to get answers to questions such as:

  • Whether the program will significantly benefit your company;
  • How the expected success of the team will look after a certain period of time (e.g., in 5 years);
  • What kind of data contained in the development program will contribute to the development of employee skills;
  • Exactly how the results of the training program will be measured.

All components of the leadership development program should be measured and evaluated, including attendance rates.

Basic Evaluation Criteria

All of the criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of this or that leadership development program can be roughly divided into 2 main groups:

  • Those related to the training process;
  • To assess possible outcomes of the training.

Identifying the problem areas in a leadership development program is quite easy by evaluating the following basic factors:

  • The formation of new patterns of behavior in the team. Additional competencies and knowledge that managers acquire are needed, among other things, so that the acquired theory can be successfully turned into useful habits in reality. If the completed course does not motivate employees to form useful behaviors for the success of the whole team, the training program may not be suitable for them;
  • The degree of employee engagement in the successful completion of the program. It’s essential that the students perceive the training course as a great opportunity to acquire new competencies and skills, useful for their professional growth, rather than as a necessary formality or a waste of time;
  • Successful succession development for managers. An effective training program is required not only to achieve current goals in a short period of time. At the strategic planning level, such training is needed to develop the “core” of high-potential employees who can successfully train for leadership positions in the future.

If there are good results on all four of these criteria, the chosen program can be considered an effective investment in the development of your team.

For each of the indicators, in turn, the following evaluation criteria apply:

  • Sources of data used;
  • Data collection plans for each indicator;
  • The timeline for each of the steps;
  • Data output process explanation;
  • Accountability of data collection.

A clear plan for measuring results is the key to success for any leadership development program. A comparison chart can be used to analyze and easily visualize the data.

4 Levels of Outcome Measurement

The most popular metric for measuring the performance of a leadership development program is ROI. To calculate the total cost of the development project as well as the advantages of the training program. Once done, simply divide the total profit by the cost of the investment and multiply by 100. This will give you the ROI %.

This can also use a variety of quantitative measurement techniques, such as the Kirkpatrick-Phillips model.

Also, a tiered system of outcome assessment can be used for this purpose. It consists of 4 consecutive steps:

  1. Change in Response Quality. The Kirkpatrick-Phillips model involves criteria such as the level of engagement of trainees in the leadership development program and the relevance of knowledge and skills to the roles that employees occupy (or are preparing to occupy) in the organization. This is what determines the level of personal motivation of high-potential employees.
  2. Learning Measurement. A method such as a knowledge test, which is conducted before and after the training program, can be used to measure the progress as accurately as possible. However, for this, it’s necessary to establish in advance exactly what is planned to achieve.
  3. Measuring Behavioral Dynamics. In the Kirkpatrick-Phillips model, this indicator refers to how successfully employees are applying the skills they have learned in reality. Simply put, it’s about how relevant the program is to the professional development of high-potential employees. Regular surveys can also be used for verification.
  4. Outcome Measurement. In the Kirkpatrick-Phillips model, this stage assumes the level to which learning objectives have been achieved. Criteria such as reduced turnover, level of motivation, increased sales, and other important indicators are used for evaluation.

This way, you will get the most accurate assessment of the effectiveness of the development program for the team. If it’s not meeting your goals, you may need to look for another option for your employees.

How to Evaluate Support for Program Implementation

If the program has been as effective as possible, its success depends directly on the level of support from the environment. For example, if the program is developed or selected by an HR professional, it must receive the approval of the company owner.

The indicators that matter are:

  • The number of successful managers in the organization;
  • How actively employees participate in the leadership development program;
  • Whether managers and department heads participate along with team members;
  • The manager’s role in the success of the program.

In addition to company executives, the support of a next-level manager (NLM) is necessary for the successful implementation of the program. The NLM should set an example and show the employees the importance of such training. This provides two important benefits at once:

  • The NLM receives full-fledged feedback from the employees and can timely provide support if needed;
  • Employees gain trust in the training program offered to them when they see that the leader also takes part in it.

The discussion of the training program by the participants within the team also has a positive effect. This helps people use the knowledge and skills they have learned in reality.


Measurable results are an important ingredient for successful business management. In the case of leadership development programs, it becomes how much knowledge, competencies, and skills will be useful for the manager to improve his leadership skills.

Each development program can only be as effective and consistent with the team’s objectives as possible when its results and ROI are regularly assessed and analyzed. Various evaluation criteria are used for this purpose.