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Long-term effectiveness of a transitional leadership development program: an exploratory study

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Although leadership development programs are in high demand, research into their long-term outcomes has been sparse. The main purpose of this article is to explore how a transformational leadership development program can affect the lives of its participants. We address three fundamental questions: (1) What do transformational leadership programs transform? (2) How does the change process occur? (3) How are behavioral changes maintained over time? To set the stage for this research, we begin by looking at why executives attend leadership development programs. Subsequently, we present the results of an exploratory longitudinal outcome study of a leadership development program for senior executives. Changes are evaluated both quantitatively through test-retest results of a 360° survey across 12 key leadership dimensions, taken by 11 senior executives in 2005 and again in 2006. We also explore change qualitatively through semi-structured interviews with the executives in our sample. The results of this exploratory study show that for one cohort of participants who have completed the program, individual 360° ratings one year post-program in several GELI dimensions have improved. Dimensions that show a marked increase in ratings included rewarding and feedback and emotional intelligence, and we posit that this indicates an enhanced level of self-awareness among participants. We identify several positive change factors mentioned consistently by participants in this program: involvement in group coaching; realistic action plans; acting out and experimenting with new behaviors; and follow-up partnerships in a learning community. We look at the best practices that enhance individual development and change, and discuss the limitations of this study as well as implications for future research.

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