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Leadership development “Moneyball”

3 min read


“Moneyball” was a book and movie based on Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and his use of statistics (sabermetrics, to be precise) to get the most production out of his team by spending the least amount of money.

Here’s some statistics on leadership development based on what I’d consider highly credible research. Use it to outfox your competition or to sound like a smarty-pants at your next networking event.

  1. “Only 7% of high-potential employees are not currently high performers. Performance is a prerequisite for potential.”
  2. Only 29% of high performers are also high-potential employees. While having what it takes to achieve top performance today, the remaining 71% of high performers are missing something needed to excel at the next level of the organization. Source for Nos. 1 and 2: Corporate Leadership Council High-Potential Management Survey, 2005
  3. Successful executives learn their most important leadership lessons though:
    • 70%: Challenging assignments (job changes and stretch assignments)
    • 20%: Other people (bosses, coaches, mentors, etc…)
    • 10%: Formal courses and books
      Source: Center for Creative Leadership
  4. “Companies reporting strong leadership development programs are 1.5 times more likely to be found atop Fortune magazine’s ‘Most Admired Companies’ list.” Source: Consulting Psychology Journal, 2003, “The Return on Investment of Leadership Development: Differentiating our Discipline”
  5. Hewitt’s 2005 study showed 100% of the top 20 companies for leadership development had CEOs who were actively involved in developing leadership talent, compared with 65% of other companies (outside the top 20).
  6. An executive development survey found that 43% of CEOs and 71% of senior executives reported that they had worked with a coach. “Most telling, 92% of leaders being coached say they plan to use a coach again.” Source: Fast Company
  7. “Organizations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance, quality of products and services, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.” Source: Great Leadership
  8. DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2011 notes that barely more than 1 in 3 organizations report that leaders have high-quality, effective development plans, despite the fact that having effective plans is related to the quality of leadership development.
  9. Of respondents who were included in’s 2009 Best Companies for Leaders list, 94% said their organization is active in developing successors for “mission-critical roles,” compared with about two-thirds of respondents from other organizations. (Source: 2009 Best Companies for Leadership study, Hay Group and
  10. 6 best practices for leadership development:
    • “Develop strong executive engagement”
    • “Define tailored leadership competencies”
    • “Align with business strategy”
    • “Target all levels of leadership”
    • “Apply a comprehensive learning approach”
    • “Integrate with talent management”
      (Source: 2008 High-Impact Leadership Development; 2009: Best Practices, Bersin)

Dan McCarthy is the director of Executive Development Programs at the University of New Hampshire. He writes the award-winning leadership-development blog Great Leadership and is consistently ranked as one of the top digital influencers in leadership and talent management. He’s a regular contributor to SmartBlog on Leadership. E-mail McCarthy.