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Maximizing Leadership Development ROI: Finding the Right Program Length

As a leader, picking how long a leader development program should be is super important for boosting your team’s skills and getting the most out of your investment. Studies show that the length of the program really matters: longer
ones lead to better profits by turning execs and managers into stronger leaders. Johnson and Cartwright (2019) found that longer programs, spanning several months, let you really dive deep into leadership skills, understand them better, and use them in different
situations, which has a big impact on how well your organization does. On the other hand, Bennett and Teng (2018) discovered that shorter programs, lasting a few weeks or months, still help develop leaders and boost profits by focusing on specific skills.
But they’re not as effective in the long run. Short programs give quick wins, while longer ones give lasting, strong results.

Choosing how long your program should be comes down to balancing quick learning with long-term skill use. Longer programs give you more time to practice and reinforce skills every day, which really pays off in the end. So, when
you’re deciding, think about your goals and how deeply you want to develop your team’s leadership. To get the most out of your investment, match the program length with each person’s role and how much development they need. Consider the pros and cons of each
length, line them up with your organization’s goals, and make a smart choice that’ll benefit your team the most.

1.5-Day Programs: ROI: 44% to 72%. Ideal for: Front-line managers, quick problem-solving.


  • Quick results: Ideal for addressing immediate leadership gaps.
  • Cost-effective: Lower investment with substantial returns.


  • Limited depth: Not suitable for comprehensive, long-term development.
  • Narrow scope: Focused on specific skill enhancement.

3-Day Programs: ROI: 50% to 87%. Ideal for: Mid-level managers and a balanced approach.


  • Comprehensive learning: A more holistic approach to leadership development.
  • Improved decision-making: Time to reflect and apply new knowledge.


  • Longer time commitment: May not be suitable for all schedules.
  • Moderate investment: Balancing cost and benefit.

6-Month Programs: ROI: >200%. Ideal for: Directors and leaders of organizational change.


  • In-depth transformation: Substantial time for skill development and change.
  • Team enhancement: Positively affects the whole organization.


  • Longer commitment: Requires substantial dedication from participants.
  • Higher investment: Considerable but justifiable for the long-term.

1-Year Programs: Maximum ROI. >200%. Ideal for: Executives and Presidents.


  • Comprehensive transformation: Profound change in leadership capabilities.
  • Strategic impact: Fosters significant organizational improvements.


  • Long-term commitment: Participants must commit to a year.
  • Highest investment: Offers the most substantial returns but at a cost.

Citation List:

– Johnson, A., & Cartwright, M. (2019). “The Impact of Leadership Development Programmes: A Review of the Literature.” *Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 40*(2), 133-146.

– Bennett, K., & Teng, A. (2018). “Short-Term vs. Long-Term Leadership Development Programs: – A Comparative Analysis.” *Journal of Management Development, 37*(5), 442-455.