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American Companies Spend More than $15B on Leadership Development

It’s hard not to love the American commitment to leadership. It’s likely that your next thought may be, “Is it working?” And then maybe, “What does ‘working’ look like?”


Peter Bregman, business advisor and author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, argues that leadership development programs strive too earnestly to create safe environments for learning. But the best learning often comes in times of risk and struggle. I picked that up in a Forbes article entitled, “If You Think Leadership Development Is A Waste Of Time You May Be Right”.

One of my favorite quotes comes from training…physical training…it’s from celebrity trainer, Bob Harper, “You have to get uncomfortable to see change”. Simple, right? Anyone who works out regularly knows that it has to hurt a little (sometimes even a lot) to see results. The same applies to personal challenges; you can’t change what you refuse to confront.

Now let’s bring it back to leadership development. We spend more than $15B annually to develop our leaders (get the Bersin Research Executive Summary here). How often do you think our developing leaders get uncomfortable? How often do you think they watch themselves lead, recognize what needs to be improved, and then make and practice those changes. In reality, most leaders — like people in general — see something they like or don’t like about how someone else is doing something and then borrow or alter styles and strategies to forge their own approach. What could you learn if you stopped for a moment and watched yourself?