Training or Mentorship to Build Leadership Skills?

Peter Harms

Leadership development services are at least a USD $134 billion annual expenditure in the US, leading many to question the estimated and actual Return on Investment (ROI).

Paul Lester

Paul Lester

A six-month study of U.S. Military Academy cadets at West Point provided answers.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Peter Harms collaborated with Paul Lester of the U.S. Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Directory, U.S. Military Academy’ Sean Hanna, Gretchen Vogelgesang of Federal Management Partners, and University of Washington’s Bruce Avolio to evaluate:

Sean Hanna

– Sean Hanna

  • -Candidates’s readiness to receive candid feedback from multiple sources,
  • Mentoring from a supportive leadership coach,

-Realistic advancement opportunities in the organization.

Bruce Avolio

Participants were randomly assigned to an individual mentorship program or classroom-based group leadership training.

Those who participated in the mentorships were significantly more likely to report increased confidence in assuming a leadership role than those in the classroom training.

The mentoring group’s effectiveness was significantly related to the mentorship coaches’ ability to:

  • Establish a trust-based collaborative relationship,
  • Provide support,
  • Offer candid observational feedback,
  • Advocate for cadets who exercise leadership.

Additionally, participants who reported greatest gains in leadership skills and confidence were:

  • Open to receiving candid feedback from mentors,
  • Willing to receive challenging developmental feedback.

The least expensive approach to leadership development did not produce the greatest results, suggesting the value of individualized leadership coaching

Ted Kaptchuk

Ted Kaptchuk

The powerful effect of individual attention was demonstrated when attention from experts provided a placebo effect for 250 patients with documented symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Those who received the most individualized attention in three no-treatment conditions reported the greatest symptom relief even though they received no medical intervention and participants were informed that the “treatment” was a placebo, reported Harvard’s Ted Kaptchuk.

The most important “active ingredient” in leadership development training may be personalized attention, followed by candidates’s willingness to receive candid feedback and to implement recommendations.

 -*How has personalized mentoring helped you develop leadership competencies?

©Kathryn Welds


4 thoughts on “Training or Mentorship to Build Leadership Skills?

  1. Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson

    Hi Kathryn,
    Some of my best workplace mentors have been my friends either in the workplace or who have experience there. They give me the “personalized attention” and feedback that helps me grow. The funny thing is, I think of them as friends, and am only recently realizing that they are also “mentors” in the business sense of the word. Of course, this is not to knock the more formal mentoring relationships. I just mean to say it would be good to count the riches of friendship in our search for mentors. Thanks for sharing this! Jennifer

    1. kathrynwelds Post author

      Thank you, Jennifer, for stopping by and sharing your reaction. You raise an important point about flexible boundaries between work and non-work life relationships as work and life become more seamless. It sounds like you have followed the best practice of assembling your personal “Board of Directors” to advise on various areas of life. Sometimes recommendations in one life sphere are surprisingly applicable in other seemingly unrelated areas for an innovative perspective on work and life dilemmas!

      On Mon, Feb 4, 2013 at 10:53 AM, Kathryn Welds |Curated Research and

  2. Pingback: ROI of Effective Managers | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

  3. Pingback: “Derailing” Personality Measures Predict Leadership Mishaps | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s