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(Not All) Leadership Development is Broken

Today, while slurping my pumpkin soup between emails, alone in the office* I stumbled across this blog - Why Leadership Development Is Broken. It got me thinking about why we started our business, and I am reminded that one of our primary drivers was our firm belief that leadership development was (at least) a bit broken. Especially as senior executives, as we searched for options to genuinely invest in uplifting the capabilities of the leaders in our branches and divisions, both of us spent much more of our time than was probably considered ideal, in coaching conversations with our staff. The reason was simple – it worked. We got much more value out of spending our time that way, than sending people off on most of the leadership programs on offer. That’s not to say that we didn’t do both. And it’s not to say that people didn’t get useful stuff out of the programs they attended. But some were definitely better than others, and the ones that resulted in real, lasting change, always had an element of individual focus, like coaching, included.

Looking at the list of things that are broken about leadership development in the linked article, it appears as if someone** has made the case for the very approach to leadership development that we started talking about two years ago, which has become the foundation for what we do at The Expert Leader.

We view leadership as a process of influence. Which means it is something that can occur at every level, and be demonstrated by any member, of an organisation. We work with many technical leaders, experts and specialists. Many of them do not have the formal, positional power that comes with a management role, but they are leaders nonetheless (and in most cases, have greater capacity to influence than those that rely on positional power alone). Often, leadership programs are offered to people in particular executive or management roles, which likely means that some of the most influential employees miss out on a valuable opportunity to grow.

We take an individual approach to development. Using a coaching-based approach, we work with individuals to help them to tap into their strengths to address their unique challenges. This means there is not a one-size-fits all approach to leadership development, and nor should there be. Everyone is at a different stage in their journey, has a different foundation on which to build their capabilities, and different drivers and motivations.

Context is key. Exploring the leadership context is a key component of all of our individual programs. This is what keeps our approach grounded in reality. Yes, it’s based on research, but theories and models are only valuable as long as they’re useful, and we find that the context is critical to identifying the best approaches.

We leverage the outcome of surveys such as personality assessments and 360 degree feedback to address the unique challenges faced by an individual through coaching which encourages enduring behavioural change. Actually, it’s really no accident that I found that linked post – we are accredited to use Hogan Assessments for our programs, and we value them enormously, for both their evidence base, and the value that our clients extract from them***.

Organisations are a collection of individuals, and it turns out that a development approach that leverages a leader's unique strengths, addressing their specific challenges, within their distinct leadership context, really can work.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our leadership programs and workshops, drop us an email at

*I very much dislike being left alone in the office

**In this case, the someones are Jackie Sahm, MS, director of global learning, and Jocelyn Hays, MS, learning solutions manager at Hogan Assessments

***We receive no payment or reward for endorsing Hogan Assessments – but we like them, and we encourage you to take a look too


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