What McKinsey think about the transfer of learning in leadership development

Emma Weber

A few months ago McKinsey released their latest quarterly review – “WHAT’S MISSING IN LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT?”

In the review they talk about a Fortune survey, which found that only 7% of CEOs think their organisations are developing effective leaders.

Their latest global survey found only 11% of executives believed their leadership development initiatives are creating the desired results.

McKinsey do not offer any magic treasure to solve the problem – but suggest that many things must be in place to create success in leadership development.

They talk about 4 key steps that are missing in leadership development:

  1. Focusing on the behaviour that really matters, based on context

  2. Ensuring sufficient reach across the organisation

  3. Designing for the transfer of learning (yay!)

  4. Using system reinforcement to lock in change

They found that organisations with successful leadership development programs are much more likely to have in place a requirement that leaders apply their learning into the context of their job role and workplace.

They also suggest that self aware leaders who are able to adapt and adjust behaviour are four times as likely to lead change effectively.

Furthermore McKinsey observed that successful leadership development programs were three times as likely to be providing coaching to support leaders with this requirement.

In our recent Learning Transfer Research we considered the rise of the workplace coach in supporting the transfer of learning.

We found that twice as many learning leaders are finding their organisation’s investment in learning is far superior when leaders practice and demonstrate coaching at every level.

It is clear coaching will be essential in creating personalised and successful learning transfer support for all programs including leadership development within organisations.


THIS WEEK in a live, interactive webinar I will be examining this and more findings from the global learning transfer research we released earlier in the year, alongside research expert Will Thalheimer who will be sharing findings from his scientific review of transfer.


Emma Weber

Emma Weber is a recognized authority on the transfer of learning. As CEO of Lever – Transfer of Learning, she has helped companies such as Telstra, Oracle and BMW deliver and measure tangible business results from learning. Emma has also been a guest speaker at learning effectiveness conferences worldwide and authored the hugely successful book Turning Learning into Action. Much more detail around the issues and solutions examined in this article are available in the book – please feel free to download a free chapter.