Most American businesses don't understand the difference between management training and leadership development, and wrongly believe the answer to middle manager shortages is simply to throw money at the problem.
A study of more than 700 firms and 40 senior HR professionals by talent management firm Bersin & Associates has found that more than half of American businesses say they are facing leadership shortages, primarily at the mid-management and director level, yet often do not know what to do about it.
As a result, four out of 10 firms put leadership development programmes in place simply because they are desperate to plug this shortage of internal leadership candidates.
A similar percentage do it because they want to reduce gaps in leadership skills, while only a third see the main aim of their programme as being to grow and develop their leaders more quickly.
According to Kim Lamoureux, senior analyst at Bersin & Associates and primary author of the study, the best leadership programmes need to be guided right from the top and not solely led by the training and development side of the business.
"Successful initiatives have strong executive sponsorship and engagement," he explained.
Another key finding was that the business impact of leadership development programmes is not determined by how much money you spend but by how your programmes are designed and executed, pointed out Josh Bersin, Bersin & Associates president.
"We also found that most organisations still confuse management training with leadership development," he added.
More than a third of companies outsourced at least half of the content of their leadership development programmes, he added.
Just over a tenth – 13 per cent – kept all their programmes in-house.