Executive Master of Leadership Blog

4 Easy Steps to Writing a Leadership Development Plan that Works

[fa icon="calendar'] Jul 12, 2018 8:41:00 AM / by John Schiavone

Use these four simple steps to write a leadership development plan that actually works.

As generations retire or ascend the rungs of the leadership ladder, organizations face common challenges when developing leaders. Let's explore how organizations and individuals alike can write a leadership development plan that works.

Follow along or write your leadership training plan offline with our Leadership Development Plan Checklist.

Download the Leadership Development Plan Checklist

1. Communicate Your Vision

At the core of every great organization is a deeply embedded culture which garners the ability of employees, managers, and executives to grow with the company, and eventually lead. According to Forbes, executive leadership can multiply its power and become culturally embedded when it creates other leaders throughout the ranks of an organization.

Having a clear vision is the first step to sustaining a positive organizational culture. Conveying the company's vision isn’t just stating “what” it is, but living out the purpose or the “why,” and personifying the organization’s core values of integrity, knowledge, and loyalty day in and day out.

An organization that can attract leaders who understand its mission and core values beyond the surface or bottom line can better identify and recruit the pieces needed for a sustainable leadership pipeline. When beginning to create your leadership development plan, ensure that your organization’s vision is at the forefront.

2. Set Organizational Goals

Your goals should reflect both the vision of your organization as well as the leadership team. Ask yourself, what does my ideal leadership team look like? How do I get there? What sort of timeline needs to be set so I can effectively and efficiently grow my team?

2a. Set a Goal 

Your goals should start with a distinct idea like, “increase top-line revenue by improving the sales team's phone skills.” The goal is simple and easily understood. A specific goal allows leaders to effectively communicate the purpose of leadership development exercises during training.

2b. Choose a Method

How you intend to accomplish this goal can be more thoroughly stated. For instance maybe you decide to develop a script which the sales team can fall back on, you assign an hour each week that the team can practice scenarios, and have each member record their progress.

2c. Establish a Timeline

Finally, be sure to set a strict timeline and keep to it. Monitor the success of your goals and reassess if necessary. Having a timeline will allow you accurately and consistently track results, as well as gauge whether your employees can realistically accomplish the goal in the allotted time.

Understand Leadership Styles

When setting your organizational goals, consider the leadership styles you believe will best facilitate your goals. When developing leaders, organizations must understand their vision and culture, as well as the best leadership style for achieving their mission.

An understanding of various leadership styles can allow executives to not only adopt the correct characteristics for themselves but also appoint the best leaders throughout the organization. Find out your leadership style by taking our Leadership Style Self-Assessment.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to leadership style, so try to consider which leadership styles are the most effective specifically for YOUR organization when creating your leadership development strategy.

For instance, if you’re writing a private sector leadership development plan for a creative agency, you probably won’t want to develop someone with an autocratic leadership style. Autocratic leaders generally have complete control over staff, rarely consider worker suggestions, or share power. In this example, a transformational leader who can inspire teams and maintain an environment of intellectual stimulation is a better fit.

Download the Leadership Development Plan Checklist


3. Develop Your Methods

Once you have determined what you believe to be your company’s core values and how you identify great leaders, get an idea of how you will execute their development within the company.

Off-Site Leadership Training Programs

Although 75% of executives across a range of private and nonprofit organizations agree that executive leadership development and succession planning is extremely important, less than half see their organization making investments. Leaders want to know that their organization is committed to them, and additional training is often the most effective way of doing this.

When creating your leadership development plan, consider leadership training solutions that will help your leaders grow. Off-site meetings can be a practical solution because it gives people the opportunity to address challenges in new environments and develop fresh solutions which they can then introduce to the company.

Don't overlook the day-to-day environment either. Business environments are hectic which makes coaching and developing management staff difficult. Off-site leadership training programs give employees the time to practice reflection from outside the company's walls.

Types of Leadership Training Programs

  1. Leadership workshops and seminars
  2. Online training courses
  3. Leadership conferences
  4. Leadership coaching
  5. Graduate programs

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On-Site Leadership Training Programs 

If you feel that on-site coaching is your best approach, the Harvard Business Review suggests that managers should “focus less on the frequency of their developmental conversations with employees and more on depth and quality.” It can be a delicate balance.

While studies have shown annual performance reviews provide too little feedback, it can be challenging to have frequent leadership conversations without negatively affecting productivity. One solution is to provide leaders with online resources where they can continuously develop their leadership skills.

4. Monitor Progress 

Disciplined commitment to developing leadership skills is the most critical factor for growth. Merely writing a personal leadership development plan is not enough. If you're responsible for hiring or training employees, ensure your plan allows you to monitor and reassess it as often as possible. Here are a few ways to do this:

4a. Set a regular practice of self-reflection

During the work week, it is difficult for any leader to stop, take a deep breath, and see how their efforts are impacting the organization. Establishing a routine that values practicing self-reflection will help leaders identify questions before they need answers, and risks before they become problems. Whether you reflect on a team member or the organization's growth, practicing mindfulness informs your future mindset.

4b. Adjust your leadership plan when necessary

Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." Like a tactical military plan, new information and challenges force leaders to adjust. Change is inevitable. Adaptability is invaluable. When circumstances require an adjustment, reevaluate the goal, method, and timeline through the lens of the organization's vision.

4c. Gain feedback as often as possible

Communication is paramount when developing new leaders. Even if you execute your leadership plan to perfection and your managers are steadily improving, ask for their input. To raise leaders, we must first be leaders and do leadership. Identify improvements faster, adjust your plan with flexibility, and build rapport among your team.

Download the Leadership Development Plan Checklist


Continue to Recruit

The introduction of new employees to a company brings fresh ideas, perspectives, and diversity into the workplace. Organizations that can adapt and support the cultural needs of new employees will find a happy and engaged workforce.

Identify New Challenges

A steady flow of recruits is a useful litmus test for monitoring the state of your leadership development plan. With every new generation comes unforeseen communication and culture hurdles. What worked five years ago won't necessarily work today. Because change is the only constant, leadership development plans should be reviewed frequently and evolve in stride with your organization.


Topics: Leadership Development

John Schiavone

Written by John Schiavone

John C. Schiavone is a writer and technology professional specializing in leadership development.

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