• Innovation
  • Adaptivity
  • Talent Retention
  • Collaboration
  • Employee and Customer Engagement

Addressing these top business challenges requires interdependent work and reliance on informal relationships as channels of communication and influence. In response, scholars and practitioners alike have called for the development of organizations’ leadership capacity (Day, 2001, VanVelsor, McCauley, & Ruderman, 2010). Such approaches would transcend the development of individual leaders to enhance the complex social interactions that underpin organizational leadership. With this imperative in mind, we set out to gain a better understanding of the current state of leadership development practice:

  • Where are leadership development practitioners focusing their efforts – individuals or collectives?
  • How effective are organizations at developing
    • Individuals’ knowledge, skills, and abilities (human capital)?
    • The relationships among individuals that enhance cooperation and resource exchange to create organizational value (social capital)?
  • How are networks, which underpin social capital, being incorporated into leadership development?

Our survey was completed by 299 leadership development practitioners from a variety of sectors: corporate (35%), education (18%), government (12%), and non-profit (15%). They worked with either internal (50%), external (15%), or a mixture of both types of clients (35%). The majority of respondents were female (52%) and had worked for their organization for 10 years. Although the majority of respondents were from the US (60%), in total 34 countries were represented in the sample.


The results indicate an unbalanced leadership development focus.

improvingAlthough the transition to developing the leadership capacity of collectives is happening, greater emphasis remains on developing human capital and individual leaders. Nearly all leadership development practitioners reported that their work focused on helping individuals improve themselves and their effectiveness in their leader role. Substantially fewer leadership development practitioners reported that their work focused on helping individuals (often formal leaders) improve the effectiveness of their group or helping groups improve their own internal capacity to lead themselves and enhance their own collective effectiveness.


gapHuman and social capital were recognized by 96% of the leadership development practitioners surveyed as important for organizational success. Unfortunately, only 64% of respondents said organizations are effective at developing human capital, and only 44% said that organizations are effective at developing social capital.



WhenTalking Networks 2 asked specifically about the role of networks in the leadership development they provide, many professionals report that they talked about networks, but far fewer have used network analytic methods. Interestingly, among those who have, network analysis was rated as the most effective strategy for helping a group understand its relationships.


Talking Networks 1

Findings reported here are preliminary results from ongoing research conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership in collaboration with Dorothy Carter and Cindy Maupin from the University of Georgia.   For more information please contact: Kristin Cullen-Lester, Ph.D., Senior Research Faculty, Center for Creative Leadership, cullenk@ccl.org



Day, D. V. (2001). Leadership development: A review in context. The Leadership Quarterly, 11, 581-613.

Van Velsor, E., McCauley, C. D., & Ruderman, M. N. (Eds.). (2010). The CCL Handbook of Leadership Development (Vol. 122). John Wiley & Sons.


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