Korn Ferry Study Points to Dissatisfaction with Leadership Development Efforts and Leaders' Ability to Drive Strategic Change


- Leaders Say They Would Throw Away Half of their Current Leadership Development Approach
- More than Half Rank Leadership Development ROI as Fair to Very Poor

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 21, 2016 — A recent analysis of responses by U.S. business and HR leaders to a comprehensive global study by the Korn Ferry division of Korn Ferry (NYSE:KFY) shows a critical need to improve leadership development initiatives.

U.S. respondents made up nearly one third of the 7,500 global respondents, and their answers generally mirrored responses from other parts of the world.

The largest percentage of U.S. respondents said their most important leadership development priority was developing leaders to drive strategic change. However, only 17 percent said they were confident they had the right leadership capabilities in place to execute their strategy, and only 18 percent were confident that their leadership team demonstrated the behaviors needed to successfully deliver on strategic business priorities.

“The best thought-out business strategy will fail miserably if the leaders within an organization don’t have the skills to make it come to fruition,” said Dennis Baltzley, Senior Client Partner and Global Head of Leadership Development Solutions, Korn Ferry. “Effective leadership development is the key to helping leaders have the right knowledge and experiences necessary to drive change.”

Survey respondents in the United States voiced their dissatisfaction with the outcomes of their leadership development programs, with 53 percent ranking their leadership development ROI as only fair to very poor. Also, when asked if they were able to completely start over with leadership development programming, 55 percent of respondents said that they would throw out at least half of their current approach in pursuit of improved outcomes.

“Many leadership development initiatives fail because they are simply a series of programs instead of a comprehensive approach that ties directly back into the business strategy,” said Stu Crandell, Senior Vice President, Korn Ferry Institute. “We not only focus on the whole person (competencies, experiences, traits and drivers), but also leverage real strategic goals and applicable, on-the-job challenges to augment the relevance and impact of the development journey for individuals, their teams and organizations.

In the study, the vast majority (87 percent) of U.S. respondents said that connecting leadership development with social responsibility efforts positively impacts their company’s overall engagement and performance.

“A growing number of people across all levels want to work for an organization that is aligned with their values and committed to serving the world in a positive way,” said Baltzley. “Linking leadership development to social responsibility helps the individual, the organization and the greater good.”

The study also found that executives may be their own biggest barrier to achieving leadership development success. Respondents, many of whom were executives, cited a lack of executive sponsorship as the largest barrier to successful implementation of leadership development programs.

“We understand that executives are incredibly busy with business issues, but a focus on development – for themselves and for emerging leaders across their organization – is how successful implementation of organizational strategy can be realized,” said Crandell.

About the Study

Korn Ferry commissioned a comprehensive, global executive survey of views on leadership development in July and August of 2015. The survey generated more than 7,500 responses from 107 countries, with 2,480 coming from the United States.

The Real World Leadership North America Edition of this research can be found at www.kornferry.com/real-world-leadership.

Select Key U.S. Findings

1. Do you have the right leadership capabilities in place to execute on your organization’s strategic business priorities?

  • Definitely yes   17 percent
  • Somewhat yes   54 percent
  • Unsure   11 percent
  • Somewhat no   13 percent
  • Definitely no   5 percent

2. Does your leadership team demonstrate the leadership behaviors needed for your organization to successfully deliver on its strategic business priorities?

  • Definitely yes   18 percent
  • Somewhat yes   55 percent
  • Unsure  8 percent
  • Somewhat no   15 percent
  • Definitely no   4 percent

3. Does your organization leverage its corporate and social responsibility agenda to develop leaders?

  • Definitely yes   23 percent
  • Somewhat yes   37 percent
  • Somewhat not   27 percent
  • Definitely not   13 percent

4. To what extent as leveraging corporate and social responsibility agendas impacted your company’s overall engagement and performance?

  • A lot   27 percent
  • Some   60 percent
  • Little   12 percent
  • None   1 percent

5. How would you describe your return on leadership development?

  • Very Good   12 percent
  • Good   35 percent
  • Fair   39 percent
  • Poor   11 percent
  • Very poor   3 percent

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is the preeminent global people and organizational advisory firm. We help leaders, organizations, and societies succeed by releasing the full power and potential of people. Our nearly 7,000 colleagues deliver services through our Executive Search, Korn Ferry and Korn Ferry divisions.

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