Leadership Development Plan

After reading this guide, you will understand how to improve leadership skills training in your organization, and get actionable tips for building a leadership development plan.

Discover:

What is leadership development?

Leadership development is the process of improving leadership skills and competencies through various activities.

In leadership development, staff at all levels are taught the invaluable leadership skills that allow them to properly lead, inspire and guide their teams to success.

This type of development is important to properly cultivate a culture of leadership throughout an organization.

Leadership development training can take on many forms, both on-site, such as internal training and mentorship programs, and off-site, such as training seminars, conferences, online training, or graduate programs.

To effectively action leadership development, an organization should create a leadership development plan.

This plan will lay out the steps that the organization will take, what is expected of staff who undergo this development, and how the development will help both the organization and the staff.

Why is leadership development important?

Leadership development benefits an organization in a multitude of ways.

1. It drives better business results

Including higher financial performance and more consistent achievement within departments guided by proficient leaders.

2. Skilled leaders are more agile

An organization with empowered leaders can navigate today’s complex business environment and solve problems quickly and effectively.

3. Good leadership drives innovation

A workforce with effective leaders will be inspired to believe in, and work for, a greater vision.

4. Skilled leaders attract and keep employees

Good leadership can inspire higher engagement from their staff and reduce turnover. A great leader will attract talented new employees and will be able to keep the ones that they have, which leads to better work satisfaction.

5. Improves employee engagement

More than half of American workers are disengaged at work. Effective leadership that knows how to increase engagement within teams using purpose and recognition has been shown to increase profitability within an organization.

6. Improves communication inside and outside the organization

Good communication can make or break a company. If the leaders within a company make effective communication a priority, it leads to increases in productivity, better speed of execution of tasks, and a more positive organizational culture.

7. Improves Customer retention

Customers will be more loyal when leaders are effective in engaging employees. Leading by example improves the customer experience.

8. Increases employee loyalty

Inhouse leadership development inspires loyalty from employees, as it shows that there are growth opportunities available for them. It is also cheaper, and requires less time, than finding, hiring and training leaders from outside.

9. Proper leadership development strategy fuels business strategy

A properly developed leadership development strategy is an invaluable tool for driving and achieving the organization’s business strategy. In taking the time to understand what your organization needs from its leaders, you will better understand the business strategy that will work best for you. These two strategies go hand-in-hand, developing one will help in achieving the other.

No matter the industry, every organization can benefit from developing leadership skills from within their organization and prioritizing leadership in their company culture.

Leadership development goals

For a leadership development program to be effective, there must be clear goals that are set at the beginning of the process. Some, or all, of the following goals can be used as a starting point.

1. Demonstrate personal responsibility

A true leader owns their actions and the consequences of them, whether good or bad.

They are able to look at the outcomes of their decisions, and appreciate the lessons that both success and failure teach.

Employees notice if a manager never takes responsibility for their actions, or worse, pushes the responsibility for their failures onto their subordinates.

2. Practice self-discipline

When making decisions, it can be tempting to make ones that benefit the individual, rather than the team or organization.

A good leader considers all options then chooses the one that is best for the company, rather than themselves. This practice involves shedding bias and developing integrity.

3. Develop active listening skills

Sometimes leading means listening, rather than speaking.

Every member of a team has some valuable input and experience that they can share, and a good leader takes the time to create a space for discussion and actively listen to each person.

4. Expand and diversify knowledge

Leaders need to be well-rounded, with a wide array of skills in different areas of competence.

In taking the time to study fields that may be outside of their direct role, a leader will be better able to handle issues as they arise in a creative and agile fashion.

5. Focus on time management

A leader is not going to be much use to anyone if they are consistently running behind on projects and don’t have enough time to actually lead.

In focusing on proper time management, a leader can make sure that they set a good example and are available for their team.

6. Creating a culture of mentorship

A key role of a leader is to foster leadership in others.

Being able to identify and develop those skills in team members is an important aspect of a leader’s job, and is essential in the development of a leadership culture within an organization.

This involves coaching, giving actionable feedback, and paying attention to how team members are approaching challenging projects.

7. Improve communication practices

A leader is only as effective as their communication.

Great ideas and active mentorship won’t go far if a leader’s communication style lets them down.

Developing communication skills takes time and effort and includes building rapport with team members, understanding how, and when, to use persuasion, and improving conflict management skills.

8. Practice big-picture thinking

Leaders shouldn’t think small. Problem-solving and effective team management are dependent on a leader who can make decisions that will benefit the team not just immediately, but down the road as well.

Using these goals as a starting point will help an organization dial in on what is important, what changes need to be prioritized, and what kind of training will be most effective in developing the leadership that they would like to see within their organization.

Leadership development plan template

So, how to improve leadership skills within your organization? You should start with a leadership development plan.

It is the roadmap of how your organization is going to nurture leadership skills in employees of all levels. It should cover goals that align with both strategic business needs and interpersonal, or more human, needs.

It should address the needs of leaders of all levels within the organization, both current leaders and those you wish to train for future leadership positions.

An example of a good leadership development plan is one that has followed the following steps:

1. Define what type of leaders do you need

First of all, you need to understand what type of leaders you need, what set of skills are most essential for your business, and will be valuable in the future.

To do so, it's better to take a step back and review your key business objectives, if you don't have a clear list, then it is time to make it.

Tips:

  • Create a list of skills that you are expecting to see in a good leader that fits your company. It should be aligned with your business.
  • If you have a different department that requires improvements in leadership, create a separate profile for them.
  • Assess where your leadership is. Create a leadership assessment for your employees. Using a variety of methods, including anonymous, email, and face-to-face feedback, your organization can develop a clear idea of where the leadership currently is.
  • Also, it might be good to have a list of employees who demonstrate an interest in management roles and are talented enough to take leadership roles.

2. Align your business needs with an employees career vision

Talk to the employees who will participate in this leadership development and try to align their career vision and path with your ideas and business path.

Having the same direction in development will affect final results dramatically.

Tips:

  • Of course, a culture of leadership is easier to develop with engaged employees who view the organization in a positive light. So, sometimes it will be better not to focus on people who are going to leave the company.
  • One-on-one meetings will be the most beneficial tool for discovering what your employee’s career vision is. Make the time to meet with employees on a regular basis to ensure that the two paths are in accordance.
  • Be willing to listen to your employee’s ideas about what is needed both in leadership development and business strategy. You might get unexpected insight into your organization and ideas for the future.

3. Create a list of leadership development goals and skills

As discussed above, leadership development goals are an important part of this strategy. Without clear goals, it will be hard to understand what to do and how effective your plan is.

The required qualities and skills of your organization’s leadership will determine the relevant leadership development goals.

Tips:

  • These goals must be achievable, measurable, and should correlate with the key business objectives.
  • Take a look at leadership skills, it might help you.
  • Create a list of goals and skills required for each individual or role.
  • Rank their importance so people will focus on the most valuable or important goals for them.
  • Define a clear timeline for each goal, it will motivate people to act.
  • Be clear about what success for each goal looks like. The clearer this list is, the more successful employees will be in reaching their goals.
  • Look within your organization for examples of success. It is better to show, rather than tell.

4. Identify which methods of development to use and create a development plan

There are many different methods that can be used for leadership development:

  • mentorship programs,
  • formal training,
  • volunteering,
  • task forces,
  • working groups and committees,
  • changing the way the responsibility is taken,
  • and others.

You can read more about ideas on how to develop leadership skills in this employee development article.

Some companies will develop these methods in house, while others bring in a third party company who specializes in this type of development, it's up to you what to choose.

Tips:

  • We recommend creating a separate leadership development plan for each role or individual. It will make it more personal and role oriented, and as a result, it will be much more engaging and relevant.
  • Focus on those methods that fit you, some of them are expensive, while others require experience.
  • Think about the realization stage.

5. Measure and analyze the program results

As mentioned the development plan must be measurable, otherwise, it will be impossible to quantify its success.

By using measurable goals, concrete criteria, feedback from employees, and data, your organization will be able to measure the success of the program and make adjustments where necessary.
Get more ideas from the Reviewing & Monitoring Results chapter of this employee development article.

Tips:

  • Set timeframes and review results frequently.
  • Communicate with employees, their feedback will be really important.
  • Come back to the plan and adjust it if necessary.

Using these steps, your organization can create a leadership development plan template to follow. In doing so, a culture of leadership and positive development will be established, and beneficial results will follow.