The optimisation of leadership development

Author: Michael Simmons

The Optimisation of Leadership Development 

Michael Simmons
11 December 2017 

Simmons, M. (2017). The Optimisation of Leadership Development. (Executive Summary of a thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Master of Professional Practice, Otago Polytechnic.)

Executive Summary

As the recently appointed Programme Lead of Otago Polytechnic’s consultancy unit, Capable Training, I undertook this project to investigate how to optimise a consultancy service within a tertiary institution. The two part project focused on optimising the strategy of Capable Training and the leadership development services it provides. 

A grounded theory research methodology was employed. Using a range of data, including academic research, internal documents, economic and industry trends, I sought to build a business strategy for Capable Training and a model for the optimisation of leadership development.

The research into strategy found that Capable Training has a number of elements in its favour. Its relationship to Capable NZ provides a diverse range of potential clients as well as access to expertise in applied work based learning and reflective practice. Strong feedback from previous work also points towards a strength in teaching quality. A more planned approach to business development, technology aided learning and designing courses using applied learning methods all represent potential opportunities for Capable Training. However, in a small and crowded market, issues around human resources, diversity of services and the lack of a clear point of difference present challenges. Financial viability in its first year operating in a new structure is identified as a key priority.

The research into the optimisation of leadership development began with the large body of research that shows training, the main form of leadership development has a poor transfer of learning to the workplace. It was found the optimisation of leadership development requires an integrated approach where Action Learning programmes are surrounded and supported by: senior leadership support and participation, a needs analysis that links to organisational strategy, the selection of suitable high potential participants and multi‐level evaluation.

The five components that lead to the optimisation of leadership development are combined into the ‘Integrated Leadership Development Model’ (ILDM), an innovation in leadership development that bridges the gap between academic research and current organisational practice. A planning guide that allows Capable Training to work through a step by step process to design tailored leadership development programmes for clients based off the ILDM was produced. At each stage in the design process the main points of the relevant academic research are summarised, questions posed and spaces provided for organisations to create a customised programme.

This project has generated a great leap forward in my career. Through the ILDM, myself and the organisations that I serve can now be assured that the investment made in leadership development is evidenced based and has the greatest potential to maximise transfer of learning to the workplace. During my research project, implementation of aspects of the ILDM and other elements of my research showed the positive effect my new learning was having and the gradual transformation in my practice even before my research concluded.  

Key words: Leadership; Development; Optimisation; Training; Learning and Development.


This thesis is not publicly available. The Executive Summary is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International.

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