The lack of empirical evidence on leadership development emphasizes significant question marks on the efficacy of interventions and the return on the organizational investment (Moxley, 1998; and more recently by Burgoyne et al., 2004).
Is it more of an act of faith to continue to invest in organized formal interventions despite the prominence of research suggesting that informal, naturalistic influences appear to be predominant? Further, the focus on the individual, as the measure of the return on the investment, is also problematic.
For example, Drath (1998) advocates that leadership development will move towards team development in the form of distributed leadership. Day (2000) argues for leadership development as the development of social capital, and an investment into developing social systems as vehicles of leadership influence may have greater longevity than an investment in human capital in the form of leader development.
Difficulties may then become associated with seeking to measure the efficacy of interventions to develop a broader social group; such difficulties emerge as a consequence of potentially numerous unintended social interactions that may stimulate or limit development processes.
This notion of interaction within an ‘open-system’ has been an argument limiting an ability to understand the efficacy of investment in leadership development (Burgoyne et al., 2004): hence the continuance of a ‘blind faith’ supported by equivocal metrics.
Often such faith is reassured by drawing upon others ‘best’ practice. Two questions emerge: how transferable are ‘best’ practices? Can recipes drawn from best practice be applicable regardless of contexts? The next article examines the issue of contextualized intervention.