The value of investing in leadership development

Posted on Jan 30, 2019 :: Partner
Posted by Patrick Riley

Peter Drucker and the late Warren Bennis, pioneers of contemporary leadership study, are credited with stating that managers get people to do things right and leaders get people to do the right thing. But if people are doing things right, then wouldn’t they also most likely be doing the right things? Not necessarily.

For six months, — one of the largest online job posting services — analyzed millions of listings on its site and found the professional attribute most frequently preferred or required in job postings was leadership. Not an individual skill, such as sales, marketing or project management, but leadership.

John C. Maxwell, renowned leadership author with more than 26 million books sold, states it simply: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

If you consider the world’s greatest successes and failures, you will see effective leadership, or the lack thereof, is the one constant. Certainly, circumstances within, and at times beyond, an organization’s control may contribute to success or failure, but how leaders interpret and respond to those circumstances is what really determines the end results. Indeed, everything rises and falls on leadership.

Need for leadership development

If this is true, then why aren’t companies pouring resources into developing leaders as much as possible? In addition to the fact that leadership training isn’t offered as much as it should be, not enough respect is given to the amount of time it takes to become an effective leader. Becoming an effective and influential leader takes work and practice. It is no different than becoming a master architect, musician, athlete or expert in any other profession: You must work hard and practice to become extraordinary and to truly make a difference.

In his bestseller “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell puts forth the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of “practice” to achieve a level of mastery in anything and become world-class. Certainly, that doesn’t guarantee greatness. But the idea is leadership — or any other skill or talent — isn’t simply innate or genetic. To become extraordinary at what you do, inborn talent is not enough. You must work at it, learn it, practice it. The very best in engineering, medicine, teaching and every other field prepare and practice. Why should the work, preparation and training to becomean outstanding leader be any different?

An adequate level of employee engagement, commitment and loyalty are critical to a company’s success. The degree of trust and credibility as well as the ability to deal with crises, chaos and overall performance in companies and organizations are some of the critical issues that contribute to the level of leadership. Great leaders focus on how they make their employees feel as well as how they help their employees perform. This, in turn, significantly influences the degree to which leaders are respected.

The need for ongoing leadership development, coaching, evaluation and measurement is critical to building and growing a team that makes an organization or business as successful as possible.

Leaders look throughout their organizations for innovation and new ideas. Successful leaders coach and mentor others, further increasing their capacity to perform at higher levels on a consistent basis.

According to an April 2018 article, employees desire the following at work:

  • Understanding the company vision
  • Feeling recognized
  • Expressing gratitude for their work
  • Letting employees know how their job impacts the company and its clients
  • Frequently discussing the meaning and value of the company
  • Sharing customer success stories
  • Ditching tunnel vision and focusing on the bigger picture

Who provides every one of these workplace attributes? Leaders do. Every single time.

Leaders must always be forward-looking. For organizations to keep moving forward and improving, they need to learn how to increase their influence, delegate to others and let go of control in order to bring out the best ideas and talent in their people. This requires a great deal of confidence within the leader and trust in others.

Are we too late for leadership  development training?

The average age managers begin leadership training is 42, which is a full decade after most begin supervising people. Ninety-five percent of employers believe leadership development should begin by age 21. This means we start training leaders 21 years too late.

WorkTrends found companies that scored the highest in offering their employees training and development racked up engagement scores 40 percent higher than those companies that scored the lowest in their training and development offerings.

A 2014 University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School study, in conjunction with the Human Capital Institute, found 85 percent of executives surveyed said there was an “urgent need to step up leadership development.”

Investing in employee development improves performance, increases satisfaction, attracts quality talent, addresses weaknesses in the workforce, creates a pipeline for future leadership and benefits the company by creating a “best place to work” environment and culture.

Leadership development results in greater engagement, which, in turn, results in more successful workplaces. It can cost a company up to 1.5 times an employee’s annual salary to fill a vacancy due to turnover. Investing in employee training and development results in greater engagement and retention as well as increasing the value of that individual to others, the company and the bottom line.


Leadership development is universally (and incorrectly) considered a “soft skill” and because of that, it takes a back seat to other priorities and resources in many companies. We know, however, an authentic commitment to developing the leadership skills of everyone in the organization leads to greater engagement, more goals achieved, improved productivity and increased revenues. Extraordinary companies regularly offer leadership development opportunities and expect those at all levels of their workforce to commit themselves to becoming better leaders every day.

I would challenge you today to start down the path of developing your best and brightest to not only learn important skills for their jobs, but to also focus on building their skills as organization leaders. Your customers, employees and financial statements will thank you for it.

Patrick Riley is the president of New Horizons of Wisconsin. New Horizons delivers high-quality live training to professionals in dozens of technology families. The firm has grown to be the largest in the state, annually providing more than 14,000 live training classes in more than 700 different course titles, delivered by 1,100 certified experts, providing their clients unparalleled depth and quality of learning. He also leads the company’s efforts into personal career development and is passionate about helping individuals enter and grow in the IT industry.


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