cover photo Reflect Blog
Ingo Kallenbach

Pitfalls in leadership development: the three most frequent mistakes

How you can successfully support your junior staff by adhering to basic principles

Companies invest a lot of time and money in the development of their managers, but the desired effect usually fails to materialize. The reason for the failure of many programs is often the non-observance of basic principles that simply block a sustainable effect.

So that you do not get caught in the pitfalls of leadership development, we have compiled the most frequent mistakes for you and supplemented them with practical suggestions for solutions.

No connection between training and everyday working life

It undoubtedly makes sense for participants to withdraw to a certain extent from everyday business in order to be able to focus on their personal development. What can inevitably become a pitfall, however, is too great a gap between everyday work and development measures. To the point, this can be reflected in a real isolation of management training from the actual working process, so that the situational conditions differ fundamentally from real everyday life.

In order not to succumb to this trap, the trainings should be integrated into the daily work routine, for example through the combination of seminars in which specialist knowledge is imparted in connection with a concrete project. Leave the leadership of this project to your junior staff and accompany them with words and deeds. In this way, the acquired knowledge can be directly applied and at the same time transferred to real work experience.

This "on-the-job learning" enables the acquisition of leadership knowledge and skills under real conditions. Participants learn from the ground up what it means to take a leading role in your company. Even if in this case projects may take more time, an enormous learning progress is achieved, which can already become clearly visible in the next project cycle.

Non-observance of the leadership situation in the concrete work context

Many programs are based on the assumption that, regardless of a company's strategy and culture, a certain style of leadership with the necessary skills is appropriate for everyone. However, this assumption ignores the biggest influencing factor: The specific leadership situation in the concrete working context. Where a kind of partnership preparation achieves the greatest effects at one point, direct guidance is necessary at another. The respective situation determines the specific role and the corresponding skills and competences.

Accordingly, an analysis of the initial situation should take place before the actual implementation of the measures. It is crucial to clarify what the company expects from the program and what goals are to be achieved. On this basis, a small but precisely tailored number of leadership qualities can be identified that are essential for the success of the company.

At this point, the individual strengths of the participants can also be addressed and their personal abilities can be linked to the leadership situation and the concrete working context. Individual coaching by external coaches can analyse the leadership situation at a glance from outside and identify the personal strengths of the new generation.




Blocking development through inner posture

Developing into an effective leader also requires an adjustment of personal behaviour. At the same time, this means an alignment of the underlying ways of thinking, which are regarded as the actual causes of behaviour. Psychology has shown that people tend to stick to their ways of thinking and behave in a congruent manner.

Because of this mechanism, the inner attitude can block personal and professional development. This explains why there is often resistance from the participants in measures that are decided "from above". Especially when the need for a change in behaviour is subjectively incomprehensible or contradicts one's own convictions. This becomes particularly problematic if internal talents who are already accustomed to the existing structures are to be promoted.       

Changes in behaviour always mean leaving familiar patterns behind and allowing new ways of thinking. This involves enormous efforts, which can be perceived as unpleasant in the first instance. To make real progress in leadership development, the underlying beliefs of the participants blocking this development should be identified. Only through their reflection and understanding can profound development processes be set in motion that have a lasting effect on the participants' behaviour.


Companies can avoid the most common mistakes in leadership development by integrating their programs into the real world, adapting specific leadership skills to the context and examining the underlying mindsets of participants that influence development.

In addition to adhering to these fundamental principles, it is particularly important to monitor and quantify the effects of the programs in the long term. In this way, changes in leadership performance can be demonstrated and professional and even personal development of the participants can be directly attributed to the programs.

(editorial realization: Corinna Brucker)

Do you have any questions about leadership development or do you need professional support in the development of an individual, sustainable program? Then please inform yourself further about our services in this area or simply contact us.