How To Create A Strategic Leadership Development Plan: The Process & Template for Leaders, Teams, Companies & Individuals
Today's business leaders are under immense pressure to deliver results but most of the time lack the leadership skills and the organizational support to achieve those results.
Leadership development isn't just a way to improve business outcomes - it's essential for business survival such as adapting to new challenges, retaining critical talent, and optimizing long-term business growth.
Aligning employee skills across the organization with company objectives at multiple levels ensures that organizations are able to achieve their goals and remain competitive in an ever-evolving landscape, and leadership development plans are step one in the process.
Failing to invest the time, strategic insight, and resources in developing a leadership development plan can dampen a company's ability to ensure its people are aligned, motivated, and prepared to succeed.
What is a Leadership Development Plan?
In its most simple form, a leadership development plan is an individualized plan outlining leadership development objectives:
- Metrics if applicable
- People involvedrsonnel
- Resources required to achieve the development goals
Ideally - yet uncommon - a leadership development plan should represent a layered and scalable process for developing current leaders, teams, and future leaders, and reflect each level's specific needs, be it an individual, team, or division/department.
Let's say that again:
Companies Need to Develop Leadership Skills At Every Level of Their Organization
From senior leaders to mid-level leaders, to individual leaders and high potentials, developing leadership skills at each specific level is critical.
The goal of leadership development plans vary based on their use case:
- For Individuals
- For Teams
- For Companies
Each leadership development plan should take an agile approach and reflect the unique needs and goals of each of its specific audiences' technical skills and leadership abilities, whether for a singular leader or a department.
Leadership development training at the individual level is essential for the personal and professional growth of individual employees.
Providing individuals with the opportunity to nurture leadership skills can help them take on more responsibility within the organization and advance in their careers, and can also improve job satisfaction and overall well-being, creating a positive work environment that fosters not only professional but personal growth.
For current and future individual leaders a leadership development plan typically has goals focused around cultivating the skills, competencies, and knowledge to take their careers to the next level. Leadership competencies like:
- Active Listening Skills
- Strategic Thinking
- Time Management
- Developing Self-awareness
How to Create a Leadership Development Plan for Individuals
Individual leadership plans should be tailored uniquely to the individual and should reflect their role, leadership development goals, how role success is measured, current leadership skill highlights, leadership skill gaps, and how the leader will be able to develop new skills.
Creating an individual leadership plan is a personalized process that should involve the leader and manager discussing the leader's goals, longer-term aspirations, and resources available to support these goals. Specific leadership qualities should be identified. How those will be developed and a timeline outlined.
Every leader has their own unique set of needs and ambitions so the most effective leadership development programs balance the individual's needs and goals and those of the company and provide a variety of learning experiences and opportunities for practice and feedback.
Leadership development plans at the team level are crucial for building cohesive and effective units.
By providing coaching and training specifically tailored to the needs of the team, organizations can help team members learn how to work together effectively and help achieve shared goals with training on team-focused issues like
- Communication Skills
- Conflict Resolution
Leadership development plans for teams empower teams to create a unified vision, enabling managers to build stronger relationships with their peers while cultivating the potential of each individual.
How to Create a Leadership Development Plan for Teams
Team plans should be tailored uniquely to the teams and reflect their role, leadership goals, what success is, how role success if measured, current leadership skill highlights, leadership skill gaps, and how the leader will be able to develop new skills.
Start by looking at team objectives. Then consider the skills and traits of each team member. Identify team dynamics and how the team collaborates and gets work goals achieved. Work with the team to confirm common objectives and identify opportunities to improve alignment and collaboration. Create a plan with the team that identifies team goals, resources to support the team's development, and future state for what the team will look like once the goals are met.
Investing in team development by bringing the team together for a concentrated amount of time to better understand each other as individuals and how to align individual traits and skills to team and business objectives can be a powerful leadership team development activity.
At the company level, a leadership development plan can help to align the organization's goals and objectives with those of its leaders.
This is especially important for large organizations that may have multiple departments and teams working towards different goals.
By providing coaching and training opportunities like training programs, mentorship programs, or job shadowing that provide one-on-one guidance, feedback, and support, companies can ensure their leaders have the skills and knowledge needed to support the organization's overall mission and vision with skills like:
- Building succession plans
- Build a strong leadership pipeline
- Aligning coaching & training with organizational goals
- Promoting Diversity and Inclusion
How to Create a Leadership Development Plan for Companies
Creating a company-wide leadership development plan requires stepping back and looking at your company's 1-5 year goals and strategy. Looking at your goals and strategy, identify the key goals of each division. Within your divisions consider the key roles and what support those roles will need to be successful.
Identify the budget that you will have available to invest in your employees. Based on your budget you will then be able to identify the options available to support the leadership development needs of your people. You will want to consider what development opportunities you can create and deliver utilizing existing resources as well as outside expertise you should bring in to help your people.
Company-level plans should break down development needs per each division, team, and individual. Any significant leadership delta and plan to address the leadership opportunities at each level
Review and update your company-level leadership development plan every quarter. Your plan should be a living document that is regularly evolving and changing as goals are met.
What are Good Leadership Development Goals?
The primary goals to create leadership development plans include:
Improve the Skills and Abilities of Current Leaders
By honing the skills of current leaders, teams can benefit from superior leadership capabilities and increased productivity – both crucial for driving long-term growth and success at every level.
Align Leadership with Business Goals
Leadership development creates harmony between the needs of businesses - objectives, priorities, company goals, etc - and personnel. Aligning personnel and personnel abilities with company goals and priorities creates faith in the capabilities of leaders and ensures progress toward desired outcomes.
Developing a Strong Leadership Pipeline
Proactively recognizing & developing high-potential employees and potential leaders for leadership roles through strategic plans ensures that organizations have access to a steady supply of qualified and capable leaders ensuring maintain their competitive edge.
Enhancing Team Performance and Productivity
By providing teams with the necessary tools and resources for success, organizations can unlock their teams' full potential, elevating overall team performance and productivity levels and moving the organization closer to excellence.
How to Create Your Leadership Development Plan
What should a leadership development plan Include? The essential five components of a leadership development plan whether for an individual, team or company are:
- Create an Inventory of Your Leadership Roster
- Identify Gaps
- Take Action
Read on to learn more.
1) Create an Inventory of Your Leadership Roster
Taking inventory of your leadership roster is the first step in creating an effective leadership development plan. Creating a comprehensive matrix of information outlining the leadership landscape within your organization will help you:
- Understand the Current Strengths & Weaknesses of Your Leadership Team
- Evaluate Performance
- Identify Gaps in Skills and Knowledge
- Understanding Leadership Style and Approach
- Identify Areas Where You May Need to Focus Efforts in Order to Improve Leadership Capabilities
In the comprehensive matrix make sure to outline:
Roles are an important factor to consider when evaluating leadership within an organization because they define the responsibilities and expectations for each leader:
- Do We Have the Right Roles?
- Is the Right Person in the Right Role?
- Does the Leader Have the Appropriate Skillset for their Role?
Tenure is an essential component of gauging organizational leadership capabilities, but it should not be the solitary metric by which you judge.
A more robust evaluation involves considering multiple factors like skill set, expertise, and achievement to gain a holistic view of their aptitude for leading.
By reviewing the performance of each leader, you can identify any areas where there may be a need for improvement, develop a detailed plan to address those areas, and provide any additional training, support, or coaching to help leaders develop the skills and knowledge they need to improve their performance in their roles.
2) Identify Gaps
After identifying and analyzing roles, tenure a performance - where are the gaps?
Identify Existing Programs in Place That Can be Leveraged
Are there existing programs within your organization that can be leveraged to upskill current leadership?
Or are you going to have to search for external solutions?
Identify the Resources Required to Fill Gaps & Accelerate Success
If it is determined there are not the required capabilities in-house then you may have to rely on 3rd party solutions to upskill your leadership team's capabilities.
3) Take Action
After crafting a professional development plan, to ensure the success of the initiative the appropriate assistance and resources should be presented to all involved parties.
It is critical to put this into practice by initiating tactics that empower leaders and optimize their performance.
The first step in turning the plan into action is to identify potential training opportunities for existing leaders and high
In order to maximize outcomes, it is important to identify and focus on the most pressing gaps. Keep these few key points in mind when deciding where best to invest resources:
Consider the potential impact of the outcome of outcome that addressing a particular gap in leadership could have on the organization.
Consider how urgent it is to address a particular gap in leadership.
Consider the feasibility of addressing a particular gap. This may include factors such as:
- The availability of resources and support
- The amount of time & effort required
- Any other constraints or challenges that may need to be taken into account
Alignment with Organizational Goals
Consider how addressing a particular gap in leadership aligns with the overall goals and objectives of the organization.
prioritize the Focus on areas that will have the greatest impact and value for the organization.
Now that you have an exhaustive understanding of where the leadership team in your organization is at, get actionable. Implement your leadership development plan with hard start dates, progress check dates, and end dates to see desired outcomes in a timely manner.
What Are the Resources Available to Develop Leaders?
Mentoring, Coaching, and Leadership development programs are three different approaches to developing leaders.
While Mentoring can be an effective tool for developing leaders, there are some potential drawbacks that should be considered.
Firstly, mentoring requires a significant investment of time and resources from both the mentor and mentee. During the mentorship process, the mentor must dedicate their time and energy to providing guidance. It can be difficult to expect that dedication from an unpaid mentor.
Coaching is a more personalized and interactive approach involving working one-on-one with a coach to identify areas for improvement and develop specific strategies for addressing those areas.
Coaching allows for personalized plans tailored to the individual's strengths and weaknesses, helping leaders gain clarity about their goals, develop new skills and strategies, explore their own potential and capabilities, and build on the strengths of their teams.
A Leadership development program is a more structured and systematic approach to improve leadership skills, while leadership coaching is a more personalized and interactive way to address specific leadership challenges and improve performance.
A leadership development program provides an effective, structured solution that helps organizations:
- Identify areas for improvement
- Set SMART goals
- Measure the effectiveness of the program over time
- Evaluate the return on investment in terms of improved skills performance
- Evaluate the return on investment in terms of improved team performance
- Support ongoing development efforts
While all approaches can be effective in helping develop leadership competencies, there are key differences between them.
Measurement and ROI
Measuring the success and ROI of leadership development can be a challenging but important task.
Assessing programs' impact is crucial to ensure ROI, to ensure organizational leaders possess essential soft skills, and to ensure the programs are an effective system that boosts abilities and enables companies to maximize their potential.
Some methods for measurement include:
Participants can complete a self-assessment before and after training to assess the improvement in their soft skills.
Participants can receive constructive feedback from their colleagues, supervisors, and subordinates on their leadership skills.
Surveys can be conducted to gather feedback on the effectiveness of the leadership training and the impact it has had on the participants.
Improvement in business outcomes such as increased productivity, customer satisfaction, or profitability, can be used as a measure of the success of the training.
Leadership training and development is an essential aspect of an organization's success but companies need to do more than focus on a few leaders at the top.
It's essential to foster a company culture of growth and develop high potentials at every level of the organization for maximum efficiency, taking into account the individual, team, and company-level perspectives, allowing leaders to craft comprehensive strategies that identify current skill sets, address developmental needs and incorporate actionable steps for achieving success.
Having detailed plans that outline leadership strategy, process, and goals at each of these levels builds champions out of current employees & gives companies an advantage over competitors when it comes to recruiting & retaining the best talent in their industry.
With the right scope of knowledge, resources, training opportunities, and guidance, your team can use these steps and templates to create a successful leadership development plan that will take your organization forward now, and into the future, and achieve massive success.