Creating a Successful Leadership Development Plan

The human factor should never be ignored in determining organizational success. It’s standard practice for businesses to assess achievement based on revenue and profit. However, many company accomplishments are dependent on having strong leaders who are loyal, dependable, and capable of quickly adapting to changing marketplace conditions.

Leadership development is, therefore, an essential component in preparing for the future. Without planning for the continuous growth of confident and competent leaders, you risk encountering leadership gaps in the coming years – which could have serious repercussions for your business. 

Developing a leadership development strategy allows you to incorporate the skills, attributes, and techniques necessary to propel your business forward and ensure that your leaders remain efficient, productive, and motivated to succeed. 

With a robust leadership development plan in place to support and encourage the next generation of leaders, you can safeguard your organization from disruption, increase employee satisfaction, improve mental health and well-being, and reduce staff turnover in one smooth process. 

What is a Leadership Development Plan? 

A leadership development plan is a structured blueprint for developing the skills and competencies required of the managers and leaders within your organization. Leadership development plans are not one size fits all, however, and should be tailored to meet the needs of each employee based on their individual roles and responsibilities.

Leadership development is beneficial to employees and the business because effective leadership training increases career satisfaction, helps people feel more involved, and offers valuable opportunities for growth and progression. Leadership skills development plans need to be well-written, adaptable over time, and provide the right environment and encouragement for people to succeed. 

Benefits of Leadership Development Plans 

There are no downsides to adopting solid leadership and development policies, and research statistics support the need for implementation. Employee experience is critical. 

According to a PR Newswire survey:

  • 66% of professionals do not plan to stay with their current organization long-term.
  • 66% said that there isn't enough support for progression to leadership roles.
  • 86% would change jobs if they were offered more professional development opportunities. 
  • Leadership/management support was ranked the most important element of company culture.

Through the careful design and implementation of your leadership improvement plans, you can support your employees better and simultaneously reap multiple organizational rewards:

Defined leadership style - Simply promoting the staff with the strongest personalities does guarantee success. The process of leadership development should be strategic, with appropriate leadership styles mapped out across departments and teams. 

Increased productivity – Managers and supervisors who take leadership development training have a deeper understanding of their team members. They understand how to get the best output from every individual while ensuring all personality types are supported, and everyone feels valued. 

Better Decision Making – When teams work together efficiently, ideas flow, discussions are productive, and communication is effective, leading to better overall decision-making. 

Improved Communication – When everyone is on the same page, and communications are clear, everyone knows what is expected of them. Projects are more likely to run smoothly and to timescale.

Customer Retention – When leaders set a good example by nurturing and supporting employees, the overall brand image is improved, and customers have a better experience.  

Workforce Retention – Motivated staff are loyal staff. Under strong leadership, employees feel their contributions are valued. Plus, leadership and development plans are a clear indicator that the company is willing to invest in their future. 

Talent Attraction – Businesses that build a reputation for investing in the growth and development of employees often become industry leaders and employers of choice. For this reason, they are able to attract diverse teams made up of the best candidates for continued progression.

Improved Innovation – As teams become more diverse and actively engaged, they are inspired to achieve more.   

All of these factors lead to a more positive organizational culture and increased efficiency across the board, leading to higher revenues and increased profits. 

How to Create a Leadership Development Plan 

The key characteristic of any leadership development plan template is that goals are “SMART.” This means making them:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Employees need leadership training at various stages of their careers:

  • Early career – Young and ambitious professionals with a few years’ experience can be groomed for retention and additional responsibility with preemptive leadership training. 
  • Mid-career – Managers who take additional leadership training drive performance forward, are better networkers, and are more adept in fast-paced environments.
  • Top-level – Just because someone reaches senior level doesn’t mean they have the right skills to keep driving innovation as the business evolves. Even partners, board members, and CEOs need leadership training to ensure they continue to steer the organization in the right direction. 
  • Situation-specific – Leadership training for specific business challenges (for example, a merger or acquisition) helps maintain analytical and strategic focus. 

Each leadership development plan is a roadmap of how you plan to nurture your employee’s skills. Both business needs and human considerations should be taken into account. The steps to work through to design effective leadership training processes are as follows. 

Identify Required Leadership Qualities 

What type of leaders do you need, and what skills must they have to be of most value to your business in the future? 

Start by making a list of current leadership strengths and weaknesses to identify gaps for current improvements, and build out from there. When conducting your leadership assessments, it’s a good idea to put together a list of employees who have already shown interest in progressing to management roles. This way, you can match training requirements with individual needs as you create each leadership skills development plan.

Bear in mind there are several different styles of leadership, including:

  • Democratic  
  • Autocratic 
  • Laissez-faire
  • Transactional 
  • Authoritative
  • Pacesetting
  • Coaching
  • Affiliative
  • Servant
  • Transformational

No one style is likely an ideal fit, so you’ll need to design your training to combine a cross-section of the qualities you need. 

Communicate Your Leadership Vision

It’s essential that your employees’ career vision aligns with your business needs. Otherwise, any training efforts are likely to be ineffective – and an unnecessary expense. Clearly communicate your intentions with participants to check that your plans are perceived as a benefit to them personally and professionally, as well as being a step in the right direction for the business. One-on-one meetings are usually the best way to have these conversations and set the correct tone for leadership development going forward. 

Define Leadership Development Goals 

If you don’t know where you want to be, it’s impossible to make a plan to get there or know when you arrive. This is why having a definitive list of leadership goals is essential to any leadership development strategy. Remember that goals must be both measurable and attainable and should link directly to broader business objectives. Goal setting typically includes creating a list of ideal skills for each leadership role and ranking them in terms of importance. From there, you can build a development program that is timely and sets firm expectations. 

You can separate goals using both operational and career objectives. Operational objectives include increasing profitability, improving customer service, staff retention, or achieving growth. Examples of career-based development objectives include:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Social Intelligence
  • Change management
  • Problem-solving
  • Planning
  • Delegating
  • Decision making
  • People management
  • Effective communication
  • Trust building

Determine Training Methods 

How do you plan to achieve your goals? There are several techniques you can use, including:

  • Professional coaching
  • Formal training courses
  • Mentorship programs
  • 360-degree feedback
  • Changes to standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • Workshops
  • Self-directed learning

Some organizations develop in-house training, while others opt for outsourced third-party programs for improved scalability and access to experienced professionals.

Decide on a Timeline

You must set clear, specific, and realistic timeframes, so employees and mentors have something concrete to work towards. Depending on the leadership level and job role, timescales for a comprehensive leadership development plan may vary between a few months and a few years. 

Assess and Adjust

The beauty of any leadership improvement plan is that it’s a living process that can be reassessed and adjusted at any time to take account of unexpected developments or business interruptions. Targets and timescales can be evaluated and revised on an ongoing basis – on the condition that this does not detract from employee motivation. Changes must be based on their professional development scenario, not on the organization’s convenience to complete the training. 

Measure and Analyze the Results

Performance goals must be measurable. Otherwise, it’s impossible to quantify success. An effective strategy is to set at least two key performance metrics for each goal. Include precise amounts in logical measures and track by date with a clear start and endpoint. Most businesses use a combination of company data and employee feedback to complete the analysis. 

Leadership Development Plan Example 

Now that we’ve discussed building strategies in theory, let’s look at a leadership development plan example in a real-world scenario. 

The template below would be suitable for a mid-career level supervisor or manager looking to take a step up into a higher position of authority. A job specification at this level would likely require proof of effective team management and communication, plus project management ability. It’s also feasible that organizations want their employees to have a solid network of industry connections to bolster their reputation as a leader. So these are the goals and criteria we’ve chosen in this instance. We’ve left the dates blank for now. Still, you can use this leadership development plan template for any role or leadership level by switching the goals, strategy, success measures and setting target dates accordingly. 

infographic showing examples of 4 leadership goals, 2-step strategy, and 2 success metrics.

Unlock Your Potential with LeggUP 

Need help with coaching or building a leadership development plan? 

Whether your organization is looking to empower new managers or retain top talent, LeggUP can help. We specialize in helping organizations make the most of their people and culture. Our unique coaching platform focuses on enhancing well-being to drive performance, enabling businesses to build adaptable workforces that are quick to embrace change, and are resilient in the face of disruption. 

With LeggUP by your side, it’s never been easier to set benchmarks, customize your coaching, and track your success. 

Contact us today to discuss your organization’s needs and how we can help.  

Tom Finn

Chief Executive Officer

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