Measuring the Outcomes of Leadership Development Programs

Article excerpt

The lack of research evaluating the outcomes of leadership development programs and the lack of a suitable evaluation instrument are evident in the literature. This study represents the first attempt at providing a comprehensive method to evaluate and measure leadership development programs on a post-program level. Social learning theory, adult learning theory, and the EvaluLEAD framework influenced the theoretical model developed in this research. The EvaluLEAD principles provide a basis for the conceptual model and results in the development of a program evaluation instrtkment named the Leadership Program Outcomes Measure. Finally, the application of this measure to one statewide leadership development program is presented.

Keywords: leadership program evaluation; leadership; outcomes; instrument; evaluation; adult learning

The foundation of leadership development programs began in 1983 with the vision of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF). The WKKF (2001) funded the creation of the first organized statewide leadership development programs to exist in the United States. These programs were geared toward participants primarily from rural areas. They presently extend to 32 states and three countries, lay claim to thousands of alumni, and receive an immense amount of stakeholder support. However, the lack of research evaluating the outcomes of leadership development programs and the lack of a suitable evaluation instrument are evident in the literature.

This dearth of evaluation mechanisms has not gone unnoticed in the research community. Pointing to this serious shortage of rigorous, systematic evidence in program evaluation, Carman (2007) and the WKKF (2001) have called for an increase in leadership development program evaluation.

This study, Measuring the Outcomes of Leadership Development Programs, sought to assist in leadership program evaluation through the creation of an instrument that measured program outcomes on the individual, organizational, and community levels. We used the early WKKF model to measure the outcomes of one statewide leadership development program created in 1985, and we built on an evaluation framework called EvaluLEAD proposed by Grove, Kibel, and Haas (2005). The results of this study provide the first examination of the effect of a leadership development program at the post-program evaluation level. The study employed a comprehensive instrument called the Leadership Program Outcomes Measure (LPOM). The LPOM was developed by Black (2006) to gain insight into alumni outcomes and program achievements. It has important connotations for those who manage leadership development programs and who wish to evaluate post-program outcomes.

Carter and Rudd (2000) suggest that the two primary goals of early leadership development programs were to develop leadership skills in the participants and to enhance participants' knowledge of topics. Social learning theory (SLT) of Bandura (1986), adult learning theory (Birkenholz, 1999; Caffarella, 2002; Knowles, 1984; Lieb, 1991), and Rost's (1993) leadership paradigm influenced the theoretical model that was developed in our research for evaluating leadership development programs. The researchers acknowledge the existence of other exemplary leadership research; however, we believe that these theories were best suited to capturing leadership program development outcomes. The proposed model (see Figure 1) attempts to capture the elements relating to participants of leadership programs, which in turn leads to a theory-driven evaluation approach (Bledsoe & Graham, 2005).

This study is designed to address the dearth of evaluation methods available to those who plan and administer leadership development programs. There are relatively few published studies designed to measure the level of change that a participant experiences from his or her leadership program experience and to what degree this change radiates from the participant to the community in which he or she interacts. …