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Traditional Training will not make It for the future of Leadership Development

Most companies are suffering from the lack of talent to fulfill their business strategies and only a few have changed their way of developing leadership skills – keeping as treasure the traditional: in-class training, development paths and obscure definitions of potential. Today, only 14% of companies have a strong leadership bench, the lowest number we’ve ever seen according to the Global Leadership Forecast 2018.

When you ask CEOs on their top challenges, it is not surprising the top 2 they mention are: Developing next generation leaders and Failure to retain / attract top talent. However, what is surprising is the misalignment with the specific needs for corporations:

  • Scaling up digital leadership skills

  • Understanding that gender diversity improves profitability

  • Developing leadership potential earlier

  • Senior leaders’ alignment on culture and skills of the future

  • Cultural shifts such as: Informed decisions through data and analytics, integration of diverse perspectives to drive change and embracing failure in pursuit of innovation

  • More personalized leadership grooming

traditional model of leadership

Most companies use a traditional model of leadership, build around a linear framework built on ladders. For example, moving as an individual contributor to supervisor to manager of managers and so on. The decision on readiness for the next move is built around the concept of “9 boxes” measuring potential and performance. The boxes determine a development path built around training and assignments that are “sink or swim”.

The pace of change of business models with agile organizational setups, built around customer journeys, digitalization and data decision models - all this complexity make the traditional leadership model obsolete. Progressive and linear development of skills are no longer adequate.

So, what are the options to align leadership development with the needs of corporations?

In an agile organization – employees should be given tools to enable education, exposure, experience and assessment. These tools should not be accessible through a linear learning program but embedded to the specificities of the individual – because organizations do not need knowledge acquisition, but the actual activation of the knowledge reflected through new behaviors.

There are a couple of traditional approaches that need to be revised:

  • the idea of leadership programs that are scheduled

  • trainings of more than a day

  • 'home made’ trainings that do not have external perspectives

  • the concept that potential is a benchmark towards higher management – people can be ‘superstars’ in a specific domain

And some new approaches which need to be considered:

  • the development of leadership needs to have a personalized dimension

  • technology should provide accessibility to micro-learning in order to sustain learning and practice

  • short-term assignments or projects should be used more frequently as a tool to acquire experience

  • access to coaches and mentors to activate the motivation and cultural affinity required to progress

Technology today has drastically reduced the cost of personalization of the learning journey; combining micro-learning, human assistance with coaches, access to scenario-based assessment, agile triggers for goal setting. We can say that technology allows the reinforcement of the human aspect and the speed to market in distributing packages of behavioral change across organizations.

The advancements of neuroscience and its expansion into learning have improved the ROI of coaching through tangible results. We are living in exciting times where disruption is happening on the way we develop leaders.


Ivan Palomino

Founder of Bessern

We fast-track behavior change


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