Leadership Training Design, Delivery, and Implementation: A Meta-Analysis

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Abstract

Recent estimates suggest that although a majority of funds in organizational training budgets tend to be allocated to leadership training (Ho, 2016; O’Leonard, 2014), only a small minority of organizations believe their leadership training programs are highly effective (Schwartz, Bersin, & Pelster, 2014), calling into question the effectiveness of current leadership development initiatives. To help address this issue, this meta-analysis estimates the extent to which leadership training is effective and identifies the conditions under which these programs are most effective. In doing so, we estimate the effectiveness of leadership training across four criteria (reactions, learning, transfer, and results; Kirkpatrick, 1959) using only employee data and we examine 15 moderators of training design and delivery to determine which elements are associated with the most effective leadership training interventions. Data from 335 independent samples suggest that leadership training is substantially more effective than previously thought, leading to improvements in reactions (δ = .63), learning (δ = .73), transfer (δ = .82), and results (δ = .72), the strength of these effects differs based on various design, delivery, and implementation characteristics. Moderator analyses support the use of needs analysis, feedback, multiple delivery methods (especially practice), spaced training sessions, a location that is on-site, and face-to-face delivery that is not self-administered. Results also suggest that the content of training, attendance policy, and duration influence the effectiveness of the training program. Practical implications for training development and theoretical implications for leadership and training literatures are discussed.

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