Steps to create a Leadership Development Plan

Steps to create a Leadership Development Plan

These days, a lot of businesses are putting an emphasis on developing their executives. A survey conducted in 2019 by the worldwide research and advisory organization Gartner found that developing the existing and future leadership pipeline of the company should be one of the highest priorities. The focus here is on delegating more decision-making and planning responsibilities to lower levels within their companies.


In addition, research conducted by the World Economic Forum indicates that leadership and the ability to influence others will be among the most in-demand professional abilities until the year 2022. This is connected to an increasing trend among workers to become learners for the rest of their lives in order to fill in emerging skill shortages.

Dedicated professionals who want to advance their careers and stay up with the demands of the job market must realize the importance of formulating a leadership development plan for themselves. Ethan Bernstein, a professor at the Harvard Business School, thinks that the road to becoming a successful leader is currently more unpredictable than it was in the past.


What is leadership development?

What is leadership development? The answer to this question depends on who you ask. For some, leadership development is a series of tailored workshops that help people improve their leadership skills. For others, it's a multi-level system that teaches people how to lead others. Leadership development is the process of enhancing an individual's capacity to lead. It can involve various activities, from offering a role in a project to developing a new skill or competency. It can also improve a current leadership style or help someone become a more effective leader in a specific context. Leadership development is often a long-term process involving a series of actions over months or even years.


Leadership development is creating, enhancing, and refining a leader's skills, capabilities, and behaviours so they can build high-performing teams and deliver results. It's the process of developing leaders rather than finding them. It's the process of building leaders from the inside out. Leadership development is the process of enhancing the innate qualities that make someone a great leader — qualities like empathy, self-awareness, and adaptability — and the skills and behaviours that leaders need to be effective.


Leadership development is the process of improving people's leadership skills and helping them to become better leaders. It's about giving people the opportunity to develop their leadership potential and strengthen their leadership abilities. Leadership development aims to help people develop their leadership skills, sometimes in a particular direction, such as becoming more strategic or becoming better coaches. It often involves structured training and development, such as a leadership course, but it can also simply consist of more informal coaching, mentoring, and feedback.


Related: Approaches To Leadership Development

Why create a leadership development plan?


The continuation of a firm is dependent on having leadership development plans in place, especially in times of crisis and in highly competitive markets. A strategy of this kind can keep your most critical workers engaged with the firm and prevent them from seeking work with one of your competitors. In addition to this, the strength of your company's leadership directly correlates to how likely it is for your business to differentiate itself and continue to be competitive in a market that is always shifting.


Before the year 2020, it was difficult to keep up with the rate of advancement, but the COVID-19 pandemic sped up the rate of change to a degree that very few people could have expected. This highlighted the need for leaders to be able to manage more aggressive crises, negotiate more uncertainty, and ensure business continuity through the digitalization of processes, among other things.


Steps to creating a leadership development plan

1. Assess and identify talent

Some businesses have formal leadership development programs and talent pools from which they choose individuals for particular leadership development plans. Other businesses don't have established leadership development programs or talent pools. On the other side, many businesses do not utilize comprehensive procedures for talent discovery and evaluation.


A simple 9 Box Grid is recommended for those organizations. A 9 Box Grid compares performance to potential (future performance capability) (present performance). High Potentials, Stars, and High Performers are the best candidates for a leadership development plan.




2. Obtain buy-in from key stakeholders



To be successful, a strategy for leadership development has to have the support of senior leadership, the manager or supervisor of the individual or employees being developed, and the employees themselves.


A higher commitment on the side of the individual is typically required for a leadership development strategy to be successful. This often means setting aside a certain amount of money to guarantee its success. The top leadership must provide their approval of the budget before moving further. Before approving the budget, Senior Leadership may consider the extent to which the plan is compatible with the organization's long-term goals. Senior Leadership may wish to serve as the plan's ultimate approver when it comes to who is selected for the leadership development program.


The manager or supervisor is required to participate in this strategy as well. The reason for this is that the individual whose attention is being focused may be expected to take on more obligations or attend training, both of which will draw their focus away from their job responsibilities. They could also be temporarily transferred to a different team so that they can acquire new talents. If the manager or supervisor is not on board with this plan, it is highly unlikely that it will be successful since the employee will be pulled in different directions by these opposing requirements.


The employee(s) for whom this strategy is intended must also have a desire to take part. Even though this may appear to be a fantastic opportunity, there may be one or two employees who choose not to participate or who choose to delay their involvement until a later point. This may be the result of the employee being disinterested in their work or having other personal duties to attend to. Even if they can lead, not every worker desires to be in a position of authority within the company.


For a leadership development plan to be successful, senior leadership, the manager or supervisor, and the employee must reach a consensus on the plan's goals, how those goals will be realized, when they will be fulfilled, and who will participate in the plan.


3. Identify the leadership style

Aspiring leaders in the organization could be asked to model their leadership after one of the established organizational models. This may be decided based on the company's commercial needs as well as its culture. According to American Express Business Trends and Insights, seven distinct management approaches may be utilized by executives.


Transformational leadership, the eighth type, is gaining popularity.




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A corporation may prefer one, two, or all of these types. However, given the present state of unpredictability and volatility in the business world, leaders need to be able to effectively function in a range of contexts.


It's possible that you don't have this type of agility by nature, but it's a skill you need to learn. According to American Express Business Trends & Insights, "an agile leadership style may be the ultimate leadership style necessary for leading today's people." 


4. Determine the key leadership competencies

To have a successful strategy for leadership development, it is necessary to define the key leadership abilities that are necessary for the performance of the organization both now and in the future. These abilities serve as the foundation around which the development plan is created. To develop them, it is necessary to make sure that the next generation of leaders is ready to deal with both the problems that are currently occurring and any future catastrophes that may occur.


According to the findings of a survey conducted by Gartner, "just 21 percent of HR directors now believe peers share responsibilities or work with HR to predict potential skill shortages."


SHRM divides leadership skills into three categories:

  1. Competencies for Organizational Leadership
  2. Capabilities in leading people
  3. Competencies for self-leadership


In addition, there are three additional skills to highlight:

  1. Cultural Intelligence (CQ) - This evaluates a leader's ability to connect with people of diverse cultural backgrounds and work together with them. It is about the ambition and competence of a leader, as well as the strategy and actions they take, to understand and engage with people from other cultures to achieve the goals of the corporation. Leaders need to have cultural competence since both their organizations and the stakeholders in those organizations are becoming more diverse. To foster a setting that is diverse, egalitarian, and welcoming to all people, leaders need to exhibit cultural intelligence and competency.
  2. Digital Intelligence (DQ) - is "the total of social, emotional, and cognitive talents that enable individuals to handle the obstacles and adapt to the demands of digital life," according to the DQ Institute. Another DQ aim is to "Understand clients and how they use your website, mobile site, or mobile app, then use that data to improve their experience no matter when, where, or how they interact with you. Digital intelligence is the ability to translate digital data into real-time, actionable, customer-centric insights in today's mobile, multi-device, and multi-channel environment."
  3. Agility – "Good leaders endure the shock waves and anxiety in situations of significant change," according to the book "Imagine It Forward" (Comstock, Raz 2018). Good leaders may take advantage of these moments of tremendous upheaval to move their companies ahead. The Forbes Coaches Council recognized numerous traits that define an Agile Leader, including resilience, cooperation, and curiosity.


5. Assess key leadership competencies

The organization must examine the selected employee(s) against the critical leadership abilities outlined to determine what the leadership development plan will include. This examination will show where the employee's competency gaps are. Then, to close the gaps, find and build the most appropriate developmental opportunities for the employee.


The following are some leadership assessment tools to consider:

  • LeadIN Leadership Assessment Suite by APTMetrics
  • CCLs Executive Benchmark
  • DDI Leadership Mirror


Related: Q and A on Leadership Development with Marianne Roux

6. Design the leadership development plan

To establish relevant learning opportunities for your staff, consult your organization's Learning and Development subject matter experts. To establish a rich learning environment for the employee, incorporate as many of the learning solutions described below as possible:

  1. Microlearning on a self-paced basis - similar to LinkedIn Learning and Google Grow.
  2. Complementary leadership mentorship - This style of mentoring matches aspiring leaders with leaders who excel at the skills they lack.
  3. Job shadowing - enables an employee to have a realistic understanding of how a job operates. It also provides an opportunity to meet key stakeholders and learn about employment issues.
  4. Job rotation - An employee temporarily takes on new responsibilities for three to six months.
  5. Professional development courses are often 2-3-day offsite training sessions for a certain skill or aptitude.
  6. Professional certificates - To perform in specific roles and be considered credible by their peers, employees may need to obtain professional certifications.


Of course, this isn't an exhaustive list. You should integrate the learning tactics so that your staff can achieve their objectives.


"Organizations should embrace a dynamic approach to reskilling and redeploying personnel in which all impacted stakeholders work together to sense altering skill needs and create solutions to improve capabilities at the time of need," according to Gartner research. Employees utilize 75% of the new skills they learn with the dynamic approach to reskilling (much more than with previous approaches), and learning begins sooner as requirements are detected earlier."


7. Conduct continuous 360-degree leadership assessment

You want to know if your leadership development program accomplishes its objectives. That's why you'll need to devise a system for tracking an employee's growth while and after a leadership development plan is completed.


A 360-degree leadership assessment from key stakeholders is one method. Employee and plan success is ensured by continuous feedback and involvement. Engagement during the process allows for real-time tweaking of the plan objectives to reflect organizational changes. Finally, the employee develops into the leader that the organization requires.


Related: 360-degree Assessments

The difficulties in developing a leadership development plan

Executing a leadership development strategy successfully may cause problems. For instance:

  1. Limited resources, such as set money and time allotted.
  2. Leadership, management and the organization as a whole are not committed to fostering a learning culture.
  3. Inability to quickly build skills development solutions to suit changing skill requirements.
  4. Ineffective succession planning programs and initiatives that fail to generate the proper leaders.


Knowing the hurdles, on the other hand, allows leaders to take proactive measures to eliminate any roadblocks to the plan's successful implementation.


Benjamin Sombi is a Data Scientist, Entrepreneur, & Business Analytics Manager at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm.

Benjamin Sombi
This article was written by Benjamin a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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