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How to Grow Long Term Leaders? Avoiding the “One and Done.”

Many of us, myself included have participated in a leadership development program, read a book, or listened to a podcast about leadership. Most of us have left a leadership development program feeling energized and full of new ideas, only to leave those ideas at the door we came through.

I have both taken and been involved in the planning of many leadership development programs in my career. Many programs suffer from a “one and done” problem. (Note the reference to college basketball. I’m a college basketball scandal follower.)

There is a shift in the workforce like none other, with five generations of people contributing to the workforce in some capacity. Millennials, born approximately in the early 1980’s through mid 1990’s, are largely moving up the ranks. 64% of millennials cite that their employers are not fully developing their leadership skills (HRPA, 2016); yet 79% of CEO’s worldwide are concerned that lack of essential skills in the workforce is hindering their organizational growth (LinkedIn, 2019). How do organizations design leadership development programs that provide value and skill future workforce leaders crave?

Plan with a purpose

The “one and done” leadership development approach occurs when organizations need to meet an objective or see a general need for leadership skills, and apply a “one size fits all” approach to the program. The issue is, leaders at different stages in their careers have different needs and challenges. Consider:

  • The organizational problem being addressed?

  • The 2-3 challenges employees are facing because of the problem?

  • What steps can employees and the organization take to address the problem?

  • How will employees use what they learned on the job?

A needs analysis, even simple in nature can help to uncover some basic benchmark skills employees have and the challenges they are facing. The data revealed from the analysis can help an organization frame their program in a way that employees get greater value from the results.

Don’t set it and forget it

What happens after the program is equally as important. Post-program follow up and assessment is key to supporting employees, allowing them to implement what they have learned. This may look like:

One-on-one meetings

Holding a one-on-one meeting with employees to discuss and together the employee and their manager can create a roadmap to help them develop the skills they learned.

Keep the content flowing

Consider developing small “micro” sized bites of content to help demonstrate how newly trained leaders can implement the skills they learned from the program. Distribute this content over a period of time to participants to support their learning.


Quantify your efforts by creating some simple measures to demonstrate the success of your program. How many participants have been promoted? Have metrics increased or decreased? Program measurement is vital to understanding the success of your program.

Circle of trust

Creating a community of practice among your program participants will help them learn and grow from each other. Consider using social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) or programs like Zoom or Microsoft Teams to lead follow up discussions among program participants. Encourage mentorship among novice and experienced leaders.

Do you want to develop long term leaders in your organization? Contact me and together let’s develop a plan to grow your team’s leadership skills.


LinkedIn 2020 Workplace Learning Report, 2020

HRPA, HR & Millennials Insights into your New Human Capital, 2016

Why Leadership-Development Programs Fail, McKinsey Quarterly, 2014

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