The Limitations of Leadership Development Programs

–My Interview on the Unlabeled Leadership Podcast hosted by Gary DePaul

Unlabeled Leadership helps you develop your leadership capabilities to achieve the results you want. Rather than using labels that mystify and obscure the meaning of leadership, Gary DePaul and guests share personal stories about the small acts and the big ones, leading to substantial results. These acts can profoundly influence the performance of your peers, teams, organization, and even yourself. When we strengthen our leadership, work becomes more satisfying and rewarding!

In Episode 11, I invited Jack Bucalo, a leadership development expert, who characterizes traditional leadership development programs and describes their limitations. He explains what these programs need that’s different from the traditional approach. Jack Bucalo has authored more than fifty detailed and actionable articles about HR and leadership development. When Jack was the Corporate Senior VP of Human Resources and Chief HR Officer for Fiserv, he partnered with the Chief Executive Officer and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee to develop the first Fiserv executive development leadership center.

Part 1: Skills Addressed in Traditional Leadership Development

Jack explains that traditional leadership development programs are about training management about soft skills, including leadership styles, behaviors, and interpersonal skills. Yet, CEOs and line executives fail to mitigate leadership performance gaps.

Part 2: Why Have Traditional Leadership Development Programs Failed?

Leadership development programs need a mix of hard and soft skills. Jack shares some reputable research studies that described specific skills that should be included in leadership development.


Jack Bucalo
Jack Bucalo
JACK has led the Global HR function for a Fortune 500 and 1000 international company and several other large international companies. With four years of line experience complementing his HR experience, he believes that the CHRO or HR Leader should play a more direct role in helping the CEO to achieve the company's business objectives and strategic goals, while effectively implementing its administrative duties. In doing so successfully, the CHRO or HR Leader can become an equal business partner with his/her line management peers while becoming more directly involved in the company's operational mainstream, rather than being just an administrative afterthought. As a pragmatic practitioner, Jack publishes detailed and actionable articles on a wide variety on critically-important HR issues on BIZCATALYST 360°. He is also on the advisory board for other web sites. Jack's over 20 years of executive-level HR experience for which he was responsible for company, executive and Board-related matters, form the basis for most of viewpoints.

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  1. Aldo, your comments are well taken. Here are my responses to your two major points.

    1. LD programs should be an integral part of the business processes. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of them, they are not because they deal almost exclusively with soft skills without any mention of the hard skills that are critical to job success or the leader’s real world business objectives.
    2. LD programs should focus on current business strategies and real world business problems. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of them, they do not.

    Best regards, Jack

  2. The success of a company also passes through its leadership. All organizations that aim to strengthen their leadership pipeline and fill any strategic talent gaps for business growth should prioritize leadership development and build a corporate culture on that. If the leadership plays a central role in the success of any organization, then, the development programs must become an integral part of business processes.
    First of all, it is a priority to integrate leadership development programs into corporate culture and strategy, making sure they are constantly promoted by top management.
    Furthermore, it must be realized that leadership development is a continuous and constant process and cannot consist of one-time courses or one-off events. So it is necessary to make development programs more relevant and engaging, focusing on current strategies and real business problems, as well as presenting a relevant and appropriate development program at all levels of the organization, including senior and C-level profiles.
    Finally, doing investment cuts in leadership development programs at the most critical times for the business is counterproductive because these are phases in which, indeed it is necessary to redouble efforts.