Leadership Development Programs Today: A Guide to Effective Strategy Execution or Fads du Jour?


  • Hester Nienaber Unisa
  • Richard McNeill Northern Arizon University




Leaders, organizational performance, strategy execution, competitive advantage, leadership development, leader competence


Leaders are answerable. Organizational performance is attained by successful strategy execution. Consequently, organizations heavily spend on leadership development to hone leaders’ competence aimed at ensuring the organization’s competitive success. However, the success of such programs is questioned because of, amongst others, (a) frequently reported strategy implementation failure, allegedly owing to the absence of a competitive advantage and (b) observations that leadership as a mandatory source of competitive advantage has declined, despite leadership development initiatives. Thus, the question arises whether organizations systematically use leadership development foundational metrics (e.g., direction-setting capacity, trust, etc.) for effective strategy implementation. As part of a larger study, this report accounts for organizational use of leadership development metrics in strategy implementation. We followed the guidance of reputable scholars in conducting the empirical study. Limited information on the topic dictated an exploratory approach to gain insights to lay the foundation for future descriptive and explanatory studies. The considerable amount of data required to answer the question necessitated an exploratory survey. We collected data from a purposely selected population with an online questionnaire, based on a literature review and pre-tested with Human Resource professionals, complying with ethical principles. The findings include: The study met norms for exploratory surveys and trustworthiness criteria. More than half of the diverse respondents (concerning demographic variables, strategies applied, and ensuing organizational performance) reported the use of leadership development metrics in strategy implementation. However, few respondents linked the metrics used to competitive advantage. The implications include that the leadership development interventions may not have been optimal in ensuring effective strategy implementation based on competitive advantage. It can be concluded that the leadership metrics the respondents’ organizations have used may have been ineffective in ensuring competitive success. The value of this paper stems from its actionable insights based on proven theory and validated by an exploratory survey. However, the main limitation of the study is its cross-sectional nature. Hence, we recommend further descriptive and explanatory research to enable broader generalizations.