ABSTRACT: In 2004, a provincial cancer agency in Canada developed and implemented a provincewide Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) to enhance organizational leadership and relationships. Research using a quasi-experimental survey design determined whether LDI implementation influenced the emotional health and leadership practices of LDI participants. An ethnographic approach (18 focus groups and 13 individual interviews) explored participants' perceptions of the LDI. This article presents qualitative findings that contribute to understanding the statistically significant findings of increasing levels of cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and burnout for most LDI participants. The LDI was regarded as a critical strategy for helping leaders grow and cope with change and help in changing organizational leadership culture to be more collaborative and inclusive. However, an organizational history of short-lived, flavor-of-the-month development initiatives and growing skepticism and disengagement by leaders represented in the themes of Catch-22 and “there is no going back” contributes to understanding why these quantitative measures increased. Few studies have explored the hypothesis that real organizational development happens through a series of planned stages. In this study, leaders experienced escalating frustration because change was not seen to occur fast enough in “others” and reported that this was necessary before they would alter their own behavior. Leadership development programs in general need to reflect the reality that it takes considerable time, patience, and effort to effect fundamental change in leadership culture.
Journal of Leadership Studies 05/2010; 4(1):6 - 19.