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What Makes a Leadership Development Programme Great?

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a room listening to someone who, at first glance seemed to be just what the company needed. Someone who could talk your people through the ins and outs of how to become a great leader, guiding them through the skills they need and giving them practical tips along the way. But sitting there you realise the reality this time is a list of leadership models from a bygone era, presented in an unengaging way that quickly has the audience drifting off. One definitely to chalk up to experience. Luckily, occasions like this are rare these days and there are some great training programs out there to choose from. But it’s also the case that not all good training programs are created equal. And with leadership being such a broad sprawling topic full of jargon, models, and know-how it’s not surprising that there is a real variety of approaches, voices, and opinions out there.  So how do you know which leadership development programme is right for your people?

There is always going to be some degree of trial and error to see what fits, but through our experience working with blue-chip companies all over the world, we have seen some of the best (and the worst) of the programs on offer. Here is some of what we’ve learnt. 

Positively changes your leaders

Let’s start with the most obvious. And that’s choosing a leadership development programme which evokes a positive change in your leaders. Although it may sound simple, the reality is that we all have an in-built bias for the status quo, and so “change” even when it’s obviously to the benefit of the person, isn’t always the natural path for people to take. Positive changes require both the motivation to change, and the removal of the barriers which prevent that change, a weighing up of pros and cons, and a commitment to persevere with new mindsets, skills, and behaviours until they start to stick.  Any good leadership development programme needs to not just have the content but to include the necessary levers for positive change that allow people to overcome these in-build biases. 

Facilitators who know people

The second is to choose the trainer carefully. Some facilitators may know their stuff, but, unfortunately, they don’t know people. And so they miss the mark by reeling off chunks of interesting know-how but are disconnected from the realities of what makes people tick. And this is where knowing about the brain comes in. Because what makes the brain tick lies at the heart of what makes people tick. And so only by knowing the ins and outs of the brain can you start to facilitate leadership development programmes that engage people at a personal level. At Synaptic Potential we don’t just know what makes the brain tick, we know what makes a leader’s brain tick, and we design our leadership development program specifically around this knowledge to make sure we are 100% aligned with the needs, motivations and desires of your people. 

High-quality content

High-quality content is another obvious one when it comes to leadership development programmes. Of course, you need high-quality content! But what actually is high-quality content? And how can you tell what’s high quality and what’s just smoke and mirrors? From our experience, one way is to see whether what’s learnt from the program actually sticks. Are the gems of knowledge just one-hit wonders that sound great on the day, or do people actually embed them into their ways of working? Time and again, we come in to do training sessions for companies who have tried other options, but which have failed to make any tangible different to the day-to-day workings of their leaders. Our high-quality content is evidence-based rather than just theory-based and therefore has solid foundations in the latest science behind what makes a great leader.  


Everyone is different. And it’s this diversity that makes organisations so unique in their skills, behaviours, and mindset. But it also means that everyone has a unique training trajectory to get them from A to B in their leadership journey. Often training programs try to be efficient by creating a one size fits all solution that ends up being a poor fit for everyone. Although personalised training programs can be costly, segmentation and customization with group programs mean that people can find the knowledge assets that are most relevant to them. It’s something we’ve found to work really well with our Neuroscience at Work programmes, which has flexible modules that can be self-paced and tailored to the person’s needs. 

Balance of enjoyable and challenging

People often talk about being “in the zone”, also known as mental flow. It’s something that happens when people find themselves in that perfect sweet spot between working on something that is both challenging (but not over their heads) and highly interesting, where people become immersed in the task at hand, and find the whole experience incredibly satisfying and enjoyable. In other words, it is one of the holy grails of employee engagement that should be top of mind when companies are creating high-performing neural environments that allow their people to thrive at work.  It’s also a key ingredient to any great leadership development program. Even the very best content will fall flat if the training experience isn’t enjoyable, or if it doesn’t challenge people to think differently, or move out of their comfort zone and try something new. 

Choosing a leadership development programme that is right for your leaders

At Synaptic Potential we pride ourselves in knowing what makes a great leadership development program. We believe that it starts with knowing how the human brain works. How it makes decisions. How it generates ideas. How it is acutely sensitive to the social signals around it. Our neuroscience-based leadership development programme is designed to tackle the skills, behaviours, and mindsets that a great leader needs, within a framework of behaviour change and habit formation.

Synaptic Potential offers science-based solutions and strategies that support, shape and align your people development initiatives, workspace design and organisational policies. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you unlock the Whole Brain Potential™ of your leaders or managers and teams then please get in touch to start a conversation.

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