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Stop Making These Leadership Development Mistakes in 2023

We’re discovering more and more just how vital leadership development is for business success. Here’s how to incorporate a strategy that will boost company performance.

83% of businesses agree leadership development is important for the health of an organization, but only 5% of those have implemented it at all levels.

There is a disconnect between understanding the importance of development and actually spending the time and money to execute it effectively. The past couple of years have demonstrated how drastically the business world is changing. Doesn't that mean we should also focus on growing for the better?

Here are some common leadership development mistakes and how to avoid them.

The Importance of Leadership Development Plans

How do you intend to achieve your company’s mission without a plan? No strategy means no concrete steps, making it almost impossible for employees to reach their goals and milestones.

A good leadership development plan does the following:

  • Provides necessary tools. The foundation should focus on strengthening critical skills and knowledge needed to meet short- and long-term goals. Without this base, employees may struggle with day-to-day projects and lose productivity.

  • Builds loyalty and retention. A thorough approach shows employees you care about their future, growth, and careers. By investing in their potential, you make them feel valued, and that increases the likelihood they remain with your company.

  • Attracts top talent. In today’s environment, strong candidates have many career opportunities to choose from. Businesses that provide extensive (and effective) leadership development plans can stand out from the mass of job postings.

Common Leadership Development Mistakes

There are right and wrong ways to go about leadership development. If you make these common mistakes, you’re not getting the most out of your plan.

1. Lack of Connection to Business Strategy.

Development goals need to be specific. You can’t just go with the generic and expect the best results. What does your business need to flourish on?

For example, if your company is focused on building customer relationships, then training should align with that goal. This could mean you offer experiences for employees to improve their interpersonal skills, enhance communication, and integrate tools for handling external interactions.

2. Opportunities Are Not Available to All Employees.

Creating a growth strategy that includes everyone can be difficult. Many companies make the mistake of focusing on certain departments over others or forgetting that high-level positions (such as executives) could also benefit.

Consider that a recent Gallup study found that only one out of ten individuals had the natural talent required to make great managers, and only 18% of current managers possess the talent necessary for their roles. Development plans should provide ways to fill such gaps, so employees thrive in their current and future positions.

Everyone benefits from leadership development, and staff members at all levels will appreciate the inclusion. And who knows? You might even discover the makings of a great leader where you least expect.

3. Not Comprehensive Enough.

Holding one or two seminars per year is not enough. If you want individuals within the company to comprehend and apply what they learn, ongoing coaching and mentoring is a must. Otherwise, employees may forget the knowledge you’re striving to impart or fail to progress.

Your leadership development plan should focus on multiple areas over time. Limiting your strategy to focus on one topic, such as one specific weakness in an employee’s performance, can restrict growth potential and overall job performance. Instead, address all the areas and skills needed to be successful.

Finally, the types of learning methods should remain diverse. People resonate with different teaching styles. Research also shows learning something in multiple ways makes it easier to recall. Using many senses and parts of the brain while learning creates more neural pathways connected to that subject, leading to deeper comprehension and better retention, according to Brain-Based Teaching Strategies, Judy Willis.

Instead of a “one-size-fits-all” approach, try incorporating different learning options. This may include seminars, webinars, hands-on training, group sessions, and speakers. Try applying the 70-20-10 model to maximize efficiency: 70% of knowledge is gained from hands-on job experience, 20% from interactions with others (such as coaching), and 10% from traditional teaching settings.

The Next Step

What’s next now that you’ve decided to revamp your leadership development plan? First, meet with the various department heads within your company. Get their insights on the specifics and determine how their needs connect to your overall strategy.

Once the plan is complete, actively involve leaders across all levels in the execution. They can help set goals, regularly evaluate progress, and ask for employee feedback.

Just remember, as your company is constantly changing—so should your leadership development plan.



Judy Willis MD, M.Ed (2007) Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students' Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success, Childhood Education, 83:5, 310-315,


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