the United States entered into war
with Iraq. This decrease was due
more to the overarching economic
environment than to investments in
particular leadership development ini-
tiatives. Fourth, a strong conceptual
model must be created that explicates
the pathways by which leadership
development will contribute to orga-
nizational outcomes. To make claims
that a leadership development initia-
tive has led to specific types of out-
comes, leaders must be able to under-
stand and describe how one type of
outcome (for instance, development
of new leadership behaviors) can
have an impact on other types of out-
comes (for instance, changes in work
processes that lead to decreased
absenteeism for employees and save
the organization money). Fifth, the
specific evaluation tools and
processes used must have technically
strong characteristics, such as mea-
suring what they are intended to mea-
sure and enabling correct conclusions
to be drawn.
In deciding whether to invest in
leadership development and how to
evaluate its impact, leaders of for-
profit organizations might consider
the following issues. They can ask
how long they should stick with an
initiative before they can expect to see
results. The answer to the question
must be realistic and acceptable to the
leader and his or her stakeholders.
Leaders should be clear on the
type of evidence that will be needed
to show the value of the leadership
development initiative. For example,
is it important to show that leaders’
behaviors have changed? Is it impor-
Altman is vice president, research
and innovation, at CCL. He holds a
Ph.D. degree from the University of
California, Irvine.
Kelly-Radford is vice president,
global leadership development, at
CCL. She holds a Ph.D. degree from
the University of Georgia.
With the tightness of today’s econ-
omy, for-profit organizations are par-
ticularly concerned about whether
their investments in leadership devel-
opment achieve desired outcomes.
Therefore, a key challenge for them
is to design evaluations that target
short- and long-term impact in ways
that are connected to larger organiza-
tional goals.
To achieve this, several factors
should be kept in mind. First, it is
important for leaders to identify the
specific outcomes that are valuable,
and design or select leadership devel-
opment initiatives that explicitly tar-
get those outcomes. Second, organi-
zations must be clear about how long
it will take to achieve the desired out-
comes. Achieving complex or long-
term outcomes requires that organiza-
tions be patient. In tight economic
times, patience can be besieged by
pressure to achieve short-term results.
Third, organizations must consider
the effect of external forces on the
impact of leadership development.
For example, an organization that
was using leadership development to
meet financially related goals experi-
enced a huge decrease in profit after
tant to show that organization-level
measures have improved?
Leaders need to understand the
opportunity costs of not investing in
leadership development.
Leaders need to determine what
they want to learn. This goes beyond
thinking of evaluation for demon-
strating impact and moves into the
realm of organizational learning.
Evaluation should contribute to the
ability of people in the organization
to learn, and it should help them go
beyond their current understanding
of organizational issues and how
these issues relate to leadership
Leaders must keep in mind that
leadership development can have
individual as well as organizational
and systems impact. As a result, eval-
uations of leadership development
should be multilevel in focus. For
example, consider an employee who
gains critical awareness of the effect
her management performance has on
others. She learns that her conflict
management skills need further
development. She uses that awareness
and newly developed leadership capa-
bilities to facilitate problem solving
between individuals and groups that
are in constant conflict. Because of
her self-awareness, skills develop-
ment, and eventual intervention, con-
flict in her work group is more effec-
tively managed. Did her leadership
development affect the bottom line?
Indirectly, yes. Her development and
subsequent intervention helped the
organization retain more effective and
satisfied employees, thus reducing the
costs associated with turnover.

Get A Question of Leadership: What Are the Key Challenges that For-profit and Nonprofit Organizations Face in Evaluating Leadership Development? now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.