At its best, leadership development initiatives are designed to fit the needs and issues of the client. Some help people get along in an organization, some focus on individual development, some focus on culture change...and those are only a few examples. My graduate degree is in that field and I work in that business, too. Just cautioning the board not to assume leadership development is a cookie-cutter process.
As far as program effectiveness is concerned: While there may be examples of "neutered" top performers in some cases, I'd hesitate before painting leadership development initiatives with such a broad brush. Research simply doesn't support that notion. I respect you may have personal experience that says otherwise, but let's be careful about generalizing.
Leadership development in athletics is interesting. We tend to equate "leadership" with on-field performance. If a player shines as an individual performer, we call him/her a leader. Our judgement isn't generally informed by whether they do less obvious things to enhance a team's performance. Are they agile learners? Are they effective communicators and teachers of one another? Can they reflect on what was successful and what wasn't (and adapt accordingly)? These attributes are essential in all high-stakes, high performance contexts. Look at the Patriots. They succeed with several superstars, but lots of few JAGs. The right combination and chemistry of JAGs can outperform star-laden rosters. We like to think Belicik is just that brilliant. But if you listen to his players after they retire, you'll hear stories of leadership from coaches and players. Not just on-field leadership, but a culture, a discipline, and an identity focused on achieving the team's objectives. I'd say that's relevant to football.
And wouldn't you say that culture has to start with the coaching? That it is almost impossible for it to carryover from the players, who generally aren't around for the many years it takes to establish an identity?
That was my point in the whole leadership rant, that this can't be about players failing to lead, but that at a systematic level there is a failure of leadership.