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THE EFFECTIVENESS OF MANAGEMENT AND LEADERSHIP TRAINING


Abstract Several meta-analyses and reviews focusing on either overall training effectiveness or on the effectiveness of management and leadership specifically were identified non-systematically. Identified research provides support for the claim that management and leadership expertise can be taught through training programmes. Additionally, Avolio et al. (2010) have estimated that leadership training programmes will usually have high returns on investment for companies, but it remains uncertain whether such programmes will be cost-effective in an animal advocacy context. Lacerenza et al. (2017) identify a number of moderators that seemed to improve the effectiveness of leadership training; their findings mostly align with AAC’s previous findings, but suggest that face-to-face delivery improves effectiveness. Avolio et al.’s (2009) findings provide reason to doubt that leadership training programmes focused on “transformational leadership” will be more effective than other possible training types.


Introduction Animal Advocacy Careers (AAC) is considering creating, running, or funding a number of training programmes, including programmes focused on improving management and leadership skills. AAC has already conducted brief research on “The Characteristics of Effective Training Programmes” and “The Characteristics of Good Management and Leadership.” However, some research that is of high relevance to AAC’s plans was not identified during those projects, or was identified but was not relevant to the focus of those projects. That research is considered here. Methodology This research was conducted less systematically than our previous research projects. The research items considered here were mostly identified during previous research projects, by chance, or were recommended to us by advisers, though a few supplementary Google Scholar searches were conducted. For some of the most important research items, their citations were checked to see if more recent meta-analyses or reviews covering similar topics had been conducted. Findings and discussion The full results are available in the “Summary of findings” spreadsheet. This research provides support for the claim that management and leadership expertise can be taught through training programmes:

  • Arthur et al.’s (2003) meta-analysis found that training interventions have significant effects on “behavioural” (and “reaction”) outcomes, and similar point estimates across each of reaction, learning, behaviour, and results outcomes, though the effects on “learning” and “results” outcomes were not significant.

  • Avolio et al.’s (2009) meta-analysis found that manipulations of leadership have significant effects on intended outcomes, including behavioural outcomes.

  • Lacerenza et al. (2017) found significant effects of leadership training on each of reaction, learning, behaviour, and results outcomes.

These findings should be considered alongside AAC’s previous research, which noted that high performance on scales measuring “transformational leadership” and “contingent reward” behaviours is correlated with positive behavioural and organisational results outcomes. However, a few key uncertainties remain:

  • Meta-analyses have found significant effects for training, including leadership training, with point estimates suggesting moderate effect-sizes. But what does this suggest about the cost-effectiveness of management and leadership training interventions? Meta-analyses do not tend to mention the costs of training programmes. Avolio et al. (2010) use the results from Avolio et al. (2009) and some interview data with executives to estimate a Return On Development Investment for leadership training programmes. They come to some optimistic conclusions, but this is based on hypothetical input data.

  • Will these effects occur in the animal advocacy context, too? There is little reason to expect that they will not, but this is an untested (and difficult to test) assumption.

  • In many of these meta-analyses, there is substantial heterogeneity. Even if meta-analyses find significant effects overall, this does not mean that any single training programme is guaranteed to have positive effects. How can AAC ensure that the training it provides or funds is effective?

The research included here has several other implications for the effectiveness of management and leadership training:

  • Lacerenza et al. (2017) identify a number of moderators that seemed to improve the effectiveness of leadership training: “the use of needs analysis, feedback, multiple delivery methods (especially practice), spaced training sessions, a location that is on-site, and face-to-face delivery that is not self-administered.” These findings on the importance of feedback, practice, and spaced training sessions match up with the findings from AAC’s previous research on “The Characteristics of Effective Training Programmes.” However, Lacerenza et al.’s finding that face-to-face delivery improves effectiveness differs from the findings of that research.

  • Avolio et al.’s (2009) lower point estimates for the effects of trainings based on “new” theories of leadership than for trainings based on “traditional” or “pygmalion” theories of leadership somewhat contradicts the findings of AAC’s previous research on “The Characteristics of Good Management and Leadership.” That research suggested that training focused on “transformational leadership,” “ethical leadership,” or “servant leadership” might be most effective. However, that research also found that contingent reward behaviors were similarly important to transformational leadership; Avolio et al.’s findings could be taken as further evidence that training focused on the proper use of contingent reward behaviours can be effective. Note also that the confidence intervals for the effect sizes of these three types of training all overlapped.

  • Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick (2009) claim that there is little correlation between level 2 (learning outcomes) and levels 3 and 4 (behavioural and results outcomes), which suggests that evaluating learning outcomes will not be of much use in training evaluations. However, the original empirical basis of this claim could not be identified. In contrast, Arthur et al. (2003) and Alliger et al. (1997) provide some evidence that learning effects are correlated with behavioural effects.

References The full list of references is available in the third tab of the “Summary of findings” spreadsheet.

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Animal Advocacy Careers (“AAC”) is operating through a fiscal sponsorship with Players Philanthropy Fund (Federal Tax ID: 27-6601178), a Maryland charitable trust with federal tax-exempt status as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to AAC are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.