And What Organizations Can Do About It

Two studies from CCL on the effectiveness of leadership development programs share one important finding. They indicate that boss support for a leader’s development can make a significant impact on leader development outcomes. Self-awareness, leadership capability, and leadership effectiveness were all significantly improved when bosses are involved and supportive.

Strong boss support also resulted in leaders having greater impact on the teams they lead. Specifically, leaders who reported having supportive bosses also received more favorable ratings on organizational effectiveness, management capabilities, and employee empowerment. For organizations investing in the development of their people—whether entry-level contributors, mid-level managers or C-suite executives—the message is clear.

Engaging program participants is not enough. To get the most out of your investment, you will need to engage bosses in the development of your people. When you do, you can produce clear and sustained improvements that benefit both individual program participants and the organizations they serve.

The Process: 2 Global Evaluations

To determine the impact bosses have on leadership development, CCL explored data from 2 global evaluation resources. First, we analyzed 2,461 responses to a Return on Leadership Learning (ROLL) survey that is routinely sent to participants in five CCL leadership development programs two months after program completion. The results go beyond initial impressions to show us how participants report the program impacts work performance once they return to the job.

In addition, we analyzed Reflections® 360-degree feedback data for 1,895 leaders who attended CCL’s Leadership Development Program. The Reflections data are collected three months after the conclusion of a program and provides insight into how much organizational impact has occurred from the boss’ perspective—as a result of changes in the leaders’ behavior.

The Impact

Greater Boss Support Drives Better Individual Outcomes

The ROLL survey looked at four key outcomes of leadership development:

  • Self-awareness—having an accurate view of one’s strengths and weaknesses and how they impact others.
  • Leadership capability—the degree to which individuals believe they are capable and ready for their roles.
  • Leadership effectiveness—the application of new knowledge and skills learned in a leadership development program.
  • Engagement—passion and dedication individuals bring to their work and their organization.

On average, participants reported that their leadership development experience made a significant impact on each of the 4 parameters. When we took a closer look at the data, though, we uncovered significant differences across each of these 4 developmental outcomes between those who reported high boss
support and those who reported low boss support.

The ROLL survey showed that even average boss support can improve leadership development outcomes. Those who get little to no support from their bosses for their development activities, though, lag well behind those who receive some or a lot of support.

Greater Boss Support Drives Better Organizational Outcomes

While the ROLL survey focused on individual performance, the Reflections® 360-degree feedback data provide insights into the impact leadership development can produce across the broader organization. We can look at what others think about changes in the areas the leader is responsible for managing.

Management capabilities of their employees, organizational effectiveness, and empowerment. Reflections® data show that bosses rated most leaders participating in the Leadership Development Program with high marks for organizational impact resulting from program participation:

  • 79% showed increased or significantly increased organizational effectiveness.
  • 64% showed increased or significantly increased employee empowerment.
  • 75% showed increased or significantly increased management capabilities

Although the average impact of the program was high, leaders who exhibited the most change in each of the three key leadership parameters were more likely to have strong support from their bosses. Those who exhibited no change after their leadership course were more likely to lack boss support. For example, there was a 16% gap in boss support between leaders who made significant improvement in their organizational effectiveness and those who made no improvement. There were similar gaps of 8% and 13% in empowerment and management capabilities, respectively. It is clear that boss support is key to enhancing successful transition of classroom learnings into the workplace.

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