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The Use of Evidence-Based Practice in the Field of Leadership Development


Evidence-based practice (EBP) is commonly used to inform practice decisions in the fields of medicine, nursing, social work, child welfare, and criminal justice.

These fields have established standards of practice that guide decision-making about what treatments and protocols to use with individual patients, clients, and offenders to ensure the highest possible accountability for producing good results.

How is evidence-based practice being used in the field of leadership development?

This is a question we set out to answer in a current research project for a leadership funder.

  • Were there leadership theories that conceived leadership as a relational, collective process?
  • Were there hypotheses being formed and tested in practice?
  • Was there evidence about the leadership process and practice needed to produce large scale change and population level results?
  • What research and evaluation approaches are appropriate for assessing a developmental, open system, like leadership development?

We learned a lot from doing this scan. A few insights include:

  • Achieving large-scale results (systems change, field impact, population level results, and community well-being) depends on building leadership relationships across sectors, communities, institutions, and social and economic divides (e.g., race, class, gender).
  • Focusing on getti