Designing Results-Oriented Leadership Development Programmes

operations and supply chain management

By Camelia Ilie, Guillermo Cardoza and Schon Beechler

In business, one would typically not make a large investment without an idea of how to gauge its results. This does not happen with leadership development programmes (LDPs), which lack the typical business analysis of return on investment and the impact of the programmes. Our research is focussed on addressing this gap by identifying and explaining two often-overlooked elements that have a significant impact on both individual leaders and organisations.

According to the Corporate Learning Factbook (2014),1 spending on corporate training grew by more than $130 Billion worldwide in 2013. This report mentions that 60 percent of all companies indicate that the leadership gap is their top business challenge, and, therefore, they invest 35% of their entire training budget (35 cents of every training dollar) on LDPs. Also, a recent survey by Deloitte (2016) reports that 89 percent of executives rated organisational leadership as an important priority, and more than half of the respondents mentioned that their organisations are not ready to meet leadership needs.

Many LDPs graduates do go on to become successful senior leaders. However, there is no proven method to assess how much, if any, of their success is due to the programme. Since only rising stars are invited to attend LDPs, one could argue that their careers would have turned out the same without any training.

Much of the confusion stems from the designation “leader,” which evokes a variety of images and emotions.  Leaders are judged by their inner and outer qualities, and leadership development is geared toward nurturing both. Companies are increasingly aware that leadership is as much about how one thinks and feels as it is about tangible business outcomes.2,3 Yet how these interact to enable leadership success remains largely a mystery. For both companies and learning providers, this creates a lot of guesswork when it comes to designing a curriculum.

Our research question is focussed on how various aspects of leadership development programmes affect participants both individually (i.e., their knowledge, behaviour, and attitudes) and organisationally (i.e., their contributions to the company).4 While there is no universal formula for cultivating leadership, our research suggests some specific ways for companies to maximise the impact of their current programmes.

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About the Authors

Camelia Ilie is Associate Professor and Dean of Executive Education at INCAE Business School. She is also the Chair of the Center for Collaborative & Women Leadership at the Business School. She teaches leadership development, neuroscience and transformation and organisational change. An engineer with a specialisation in Optical and Biomedical Devices, she earned her doctorate, Summa Cum Laude, from the Pontificia de Comillas University in Spain.

Guillermo Cardoza , is full Professor at INCAE Business School. He was a Research Fellow at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, where he conducted research on innovation and competitiveness in emerging economies. During his term as Executive Director of the Latin American Academy of Science, he created and directed the Center for Science Studies and Information. He was a professor at IE Business School in Spain for 14 years.

Schon Beechler is Senior Affiliate Professor of Leadership and Organisational Behaviour, INSEAD. She received her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Anthropology with high honours from Oberlin College and earned a joint PhD in Business Administration and Sociology from the University of Michigan. She is a specialist in global leadership and the management of multinational corporations.


1. Corporate Learning Factbook. (2014). The Corporate Learning Factbook 2014: Benchmarks, Trends, and Analysis of the U.S. Training Market. Available at

2. Tompson, H.B. & Tompson, G. (2013).The Focus of Leadership Development in MNCs. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 8(1): 67-75.

3. Thomas J.R. (2013). Developing Tomorrow’s Global Leaders. MIT Sloan Management Review, 55(1): 12-13

4. Ilie, C. 2009. The impact of management development programmes on business strategies. Doctoral thesis. Universidad Comillas—ICADE. Madrid. 

5. Ilie, C., Cardoza, G., Beechler, S, Hugas, J. Designing leadership development programs for high impact in Emerging Economies: The case of Spanish Multinationals in Latin America,, 2017

6. De Vries, K. M. & Korotov, K. (2007). Creating transformational Executive Education programs. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(3): 375-387

7. Dalakoura, A. (2010). Differentiating leader and leadership development. A collective framework for leadership development. Journal of Management Development, 29(5): 432-441.

8. DiStefano, J., Kemanian, V., Keys, T., & Strebel, P. (2005). Mastering Executive Education: How to combine content with context and emotion – the IMD Guide: 42-54. Session scripting. Pearson Education Limited, Harlow: FT Press.


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