Leadership Development Practices in CanadaThe Conference Board of Canada recently published a report summarizing their research on leadership development from a cross section of public and private sector organizations. Participants identified their top leadership development drivers as:

  • addressing declining levels of leadership capacity
  • planning for succession and growing the talent pool
  • engaging and mobilizing employees
  • managing changing demographics and retirement challenges
  • attracting and retaining new talent

81% of respondents said leadership development was a strategic priority. Given research cited in the report that organizations with the highest quality of leadership are 13 times more likely to outperform their competitors on metrics including financial performance, quality of products and services, and employee retention and engagement, it’s almost a “motherhood question.”

The glaring gap between intentions and actions was highlighted when researchers Katie O’Brien and Colin Hall asked how important leadership development was relative to other organizational priorities. Only 31 percent reported that their organization actually puts a high priority on leadership development.

This rich report is full of information and insights. Here are a few that stood out:

  • Succession planning was the number one driver of leadership development. But it’s been mostly focused at the executive level and weak through management and very weak supervisory levels. Organizations aren’t building leadership depth to draw future leaders from.
  • Performance management linked to leadership development strategies was highly rated as a key talent management practice.
  • Less than a quarter of organizations are measuring competency growth over time. This aligns with our experience that many competency models are not being used effectively.
  • Most best-performing companies (100 percent in North America and 96 percent globally) have a formal process to identify their high potentials. Researchers discovered that only 39 percent of participating Canadian organizations have a leadership development program for their high potentials.
  • A survey by MetrixGlobal found that coaching produced a 529 per cent return on investment. Coaching was perceived as the most effective leadership development practice by respondents, yet is only used 73 per cent of the time.
  • Most organizations surveyed (66 per cent) are not formally evaluating their leadership development investments.


Based on their research the report concludes with these recommendations:

  • Make leadership development a strategic priority.
  • Align leadership development practices with changing demographics.
  • Identify organization-specific leadership competencies.
  • Formally identify and focus resources on developing high-potential employees.
  • Allocate resources to the leadership development practices that are the most effective.
  • Measure and evaluate leadership development.

My next blog post outlines an upcoming Conference Board of Canada webinar I’ll be participating in on December 17 to discuss the research report findings and how to act on them.