Measuring the success of Leadership Development

This week our first OD café for 2024 marked the kick-off of the new year. We appreciate the colleagues and clients who graciously accepted our invitation and contributed their real-life experiences to enrich the discussion. We shared stories of successful leadership development and explored current research about how and what to measure.

In this newsletter we share a few key takeaways from this engaging conversation:

  1. Clear upfront contracting of desired outcomes for individuals, relationships, and work deliverables is crucial. We should track shifts on the individual level, which should then translate to positively impact on relationships and lead to better agile implementation.
  2. Accurately measuring impact poses challenges, given issues of psychological safety, hindering open communication and honest feedback about how subordinates experience their leaders.
  3. Psychological safety issues may also hinder participants from implementing newly acquired knowledge and skills if toxic behaviour such as management by fear prevails in the workplace.
  4. Sustaining the momentum is challenging, especially when leaders do not align their actions with their words and do not ‘walk-the-talk’.
  5. Effective leadership development thrives when viewed as a journey toward organisational effectiveness rather than a once-off course.
  6. Genuine willingness to lead and a conscious choice are essential for success in leadership development.
  7. The success of leadership programs, following a top-down approach, hinges on their strategic rollout, starting from top management as champions of the programme and cascading down. However, it is still hard to measure whether the program’s outcomes truly reflect its effectiveness.
  8. Leadership programs should equip leaders with tools for facilitating essential conversations within the organisation. Unlike an electrician fixing something without explanation, OD practitioners guide rather than do it for you.
  9. Leadership development often yields “collateral benefits,” even when organisations implement programs without a clear purpose. Individuals and organisations often realise unintended positive gains, emphasising the long-term impact of leadership development.
  10. Emphasising the journey, organisations should connect leadership development programs with core organisational processes over time, echoing the core principle that OD should link to key effectiveness outcomes.


In conclusion, we don’t think many leadership development efforts are wasted, even if we don’t know what we are measuring BUT we should get better at contracting upfront about the metrics that matter, ensure that the journey is sustainable and that the positive impact is made visible throughout the organisation. Let’s continue to foster meaningful discussions and growth in the journey of leadership development!