Which Leadership Development Programs Deliver the Greatest Results?

A woman looking straight ahead, smiling with her arms crossed while people work behind her
Share This Post:
Rate this post

From time to time, our clients ask us which leadership development programs deliver greater results. Although we are reluctant to provide data, the response we provide is based on the results of our evaluation of many programs for more than two decades. Unfortunately, this is a small sample compared to the number of programs available. Three significant forces have created a need to rank leadership development programs based on the results they deliver.

Don’t miss this intriguing
webinar from HRDQ-U

Don’t miss this intriguing webinar from HRDQ-U

Level 5 Leadership: Designing for Results

The Investment in Leadership Development

Because of the global pandemic, recession exists in some countries, and there is much global uncertainty about the future. Still, there is a hefty investment in leadership development. Depending on whose estimates you examine, global investment in leadership is somewhere between $20 and $50 billion. The investment is growing, sparked by the need to have great leaders with high integrity, agility, and diversity who can deliver results. This high level of investment requires a more significant need for accountability to show the business value for leadership development. The more you spend, the more you need to deliver results—pushing the evaluation beyond the classic approach of merely demonstrating the new behavior to proving how it has made a difference in the organization in business terms and, in some cases, the financial ROI.

Business Connection is the Key

Various studies, as I wrote in my book, Measuring for Success: What CEOs Really Think about Learning Investments, indicate that what executives most want to see from learning and development is the connection to the business. This is particularly true for soft skills. Unfortunately, few leadership development programs are measured at this level because executives can easily see the need for hard skills programs. They rarely question the value of entry-level training for new employees, compliance training, or technical training. They ask how the investment in leadership development (or other soft skills) connects to business needs when this is not so obvious to them. The challenge for leadership development providers is to align the program to the business initially, focus on business impact during this program, and validate business improvement in a follow-up to ensure it delivers the business value.

Lack of Relevant Ranking

Although there have been several attempts to rank leadership development programs, these rankings are not based on the business results they deliver or are designed to deliver. Instead, they are based on volume, faculty, history, and sometimes innovation.

In today’s climate, a ranking is needed based on business results delivered or how the programs are designed to deliver results throughout the process. If this existed, it would help internal leadership development teams see which programs have this focus and which do not. It could help guide them in deciding which program to pursue, explore, and implement on a pilot basis.

The Ranking System

The criteria for delivering results should be based on the key success factors for leadership development. These factors are based on hundreds of studies, which I reference in my book, Measuring Leadership Development: Quantify Your Program’s Impact and ROI on Organizational Performance, where leadership development was evaluated at the business impact or ROI Levels. If these factors are in place, results are delivered. An organization must use an established framework to design for the needed results instead of just measuring results – only to be frustrated with the lack of results.

The ranking should be based on eight success factors:

  1. Start with Why: Aligning Programs with the
  2. Make It Feasible: Selecting the Right
  3. Expect Success: Designing for Results with Impact
  4. Make It Matter: Designing for Input, Reaction, and
  5. Make It Stick: Designing for Application and
  6. Make It Credible: Measuring Business Results and Calculating ROI, if
  7. Tell the Story: Communicating Results to Key
  8. Optimize Results: Using Black Box Thinking to Increase


The ranking of leadership programs should be based on an objective process with rating systems, document reviews, and actual case studies. The outcome is a ranking system based on the extent to which programs are designed to deliver results. It’s clear that learning professionals can do more to design training for Level 5 results.

Headshot of Jack Phillips
Jack J. Phillips

Jack J. Phillips, Ph.D., chairman of ROI Institute, Inc., is a world-renowned expert on accountability, measurement, and evaluation. He provides consulting services for Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit entities, and government and non-governmental organizations globally. He is the author or editor of over 100 books, he conducts workshops, and he presents at conferences worldwide.

Jack has received several awards for his books and work. The American Society for Training and Development gave him its highest honor, Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Development. The International Society for Performance Improvement presented Jack with its highest award, the Thomas F. Gilbert Award, for his contribution to human performance technology. On three occasions, Meeting News named him one of the 25 Most Powerful People in the Meetings and Events Industry, based on his work on ROI. The Society for Human Resource Management presented him with an award for one of his books and honored a Phillips ROI study with its highest award for creativity. In 2019, Jack, along with his wife Patti P. Phillips, received the Distinguished Contributor Award from the Center for Talent Reporting for their contribution to the measurement and management of human capital. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and Fortune. He has been interviewed by several television programs, including CNN. Jack regularly consults with clients in manufacturing, service, and government organizations in 70 countries around the world.

Connect with Jack on LinkedIn, Twitter, and at jack@roiinstitute.net.

Recommended Webinar
Level 5 Leadership: Designing for Results

Examine case studies, measure the business value of your programs, and calculate the ROI to show the value of leadership development.

Level 5 Leadership: Designing for Results
More HRDQ-U Blog Posts

The most common word shared across most definitions of leadership is influence.

Consulting has grown steadily in recent years and is poised to be an essential contributor to organizations.

Read this blog to learn the 7 tips to maintaining professionalism during performances from a Disney veteran by reading this blog.
Related Topics
Career development
Career Development
Business coaching webinar
Creativity and innovation skills training
Creativity and Innovation
Webinar customer service
Customer Service
Which Leadership Development Programs Deliver the Greatest Results?
Decision Making
Diversity and inclusion webinars
Diversity and Inclusion
Which Leadership Development Programs Deliver the Greatest Results?
PM webinars
Project Management
Log In