By Mattson Newell, a Director for Partners In Leadership who works with leaders to create greater accountability across the workforce and facilitates enterprise-wide culture change. 

"Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile."--Vince Lombardi

The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi's birthday is this month on June 11, and he provided this great quote on leadership years ago, yet it is just as relevant today as it was then. Why? Because every organization needs more great leaders and they don't just fall out of the sky, they need to be developed.

Developing Leaders

According to the Association for Talent Development, U.S. businesses spent more than $70 billion dollars on training in 2015, with the majority of those dollars being spent on "leadership training." However 75 percent of organizations say their leadership development programs are ineffective.

Organizations clearly see the need to develop their leaders, but many fail at doing just that. One major reason organizations struggle is because they treat leadership development and running the business as separate, rather than interrelated challenges.

When you send a leader to be "trained" or "developed," you often take them out of their everyday job with the hopes that in the day-long or week-long training they will retain something they can apply.

While there is a chance this happens, much of it goes by the wayside, and this un-targeted, shotgun approach yields little return.

A recent McKinsey  report shared, "Too many training initiatives we come across rest on the assumption that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate, regardless of strategy, organizational culture or CEO mandate."

When you isolate leadership development from the rest of the business, you are creating leaders who can operate in a vacuum but not operate in your business and your culture.

Obviously, that is not a desired outcome. You want leadership development that develops your people to deliver your desired results.

3 Steps to Enhance Leadership Development

Experience working with small start-ups to Fortune 50 organizations show 3 steps that can help pave the way to successful leadership development.         

1. Identify High-Potential Leaders Early

By having systems that identify high-potential leaders early, you allow the maximum time possible to develop, train, and mentor those leaders.

Many of the leading organizations in leadership development according to Chief Executive, including GE, P&G, and Dell have had these programs in place for years.

One of the risks you can run is identifying the wrong people with the wrong skillset of "to-be" leaders. Too often we focus on weaknesses; when, in reality, we should be identifying their strengths.

As Einstein said, "Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

Make sure you are identifying  the right leaders with the right skillsets needed to lead, and we will all look like geniuses.

2. Align Leadership Development with Your Results, Culture, and Strategy

Aligning your  leadership development with your key business results, culture, and strategy is imperative. This ensures that any leadership "training" or "bootcamp" isn't just a retreat and time away from the office but time applicable to the office.

I was speaking with the COO of a Fortune 500 Company who shared, "I am begging my team to give us practical training that we can reinforce and integrate. We can't just send our people to to a one-day workshop and expect them to change."

Stanley Black & Decker CEO John Lundgren combines formal leadership development with his informal mentoring and coaching in what he calls "boundary-less" behavior: 

"I spend as much time as possible with our early-career, high-potential associates to ensure that they understand our values and our strategy and that they are being given appropriate opportunities to develop their leadership skills."

If our people don't understand your results, culture, and strategy, you are developing leaders who have no direction of where to lead.

3. Assess, Measure, and Adjust.

Finally, assess, measure, and adjust. Any static leadership program is a program destined to fail.

The program must adjust, change, and adapt and be as agile as we need our organizations to be. If we expect our leaders to be able to lead through change, we need to be willing to change how we are developing them in the first place.

Lombardi was right: Leaders are not born, they are made. How are you developing your leaders today?

Published on: Jun 10, 2016
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