This article first appeared on Acorn Labs in July 2023.
A leadership development plan is a strategic framework used by organizations to outline the steps, activities, and resources that are needed to gain and develop leadership capabilities within a business. It should be a personalized, structured, and long-term roadmap to be used by individuals to bridge the gap between their current and required leadership capabilities.
The importance of leadership development plans
Leadership development plans are crucial for unlocking individuals’ leadership potential and paving the way for business success.
Perhaps most importantly, a leadership development plan drives successful succession planning. An effective plan builds a proactive talent pipeline that creates a smooth transition into leadership roles and mitigates the risk of employee turnover. When this happens, you get:
- Improved job satisfaction due to investing in individuals’ learning and development
- Increased performance and productivity
- Better decision-making from leaders
- Strong leadership influence in organizational culture.
The components of a leadership development plan
Leadership development plans should be tailored to your business demands and goals, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any general components that you should include.
You can download a Leadership Development Plan Template here.
Determine key leadership capabilities
When determining your organization’s key leadership capabilities, there’s a three-step process of discovery:
- Determine the wider business context that the capabilities exist within, such as business values, mission, and goals. Understand the role leadership plays in that context.
- Define the purpose of the capabilities, from what they will do to meet business goals, to whether there is demand for them in the market.
- Define the desired outcomes of your capabilities. “Openness to criticism” is just as much a key leadership capability as a desired outcome for potential leaders.
Assess capability needs
Perform a capability assessment to determine where your current leadership capabilities are and how they compare to the leadership capabilities you will need in the future. Leadership development exists in the “gap” between where those capabilities lie, and should work to close that gap.
For the most objective view of your leadership capabilities, look at performing self-assessments (where employees assess themselves), manager assessments (where managers assess employees), and subject matter expert assessments (which are carried out by—you guessed it—subject matter experts to assess specialty leadership capabilities) in tandem. They evaluate capabilities in terms of how competent an individual is in performing the capability. So, the scale might look like:
- Beginner, where the capability still needs development
- Intermediate, where the capability is performed to an expected standard
- Advanced, where capability performance exceeds expectations.
Set goals and objectives
Goals and objectives are necessary to chart a course to the finish line, as well as provide a scale to measure your progress against. Your leadership goals will be derived from your key leadership capabilities and the areas your assessments identified as “needing development”. So, if capability assessments flagged communication skills as needing development, then a leadership goal may be to improve communication between leaders and team members.
Remember that leadership goals need to be realistic, measurable, and actionable, which you can ensure with goal-setting methods like SMART goals. This is the only way you can track your progress and prove ROI after development initiatives are complete.
Design training methods
The wrong approach to training can hinder knowledge retention and learning transfer among employees, so you need to make sure you’re using the best approach. A training needs analysis can help you here—not only can it assist in finding your training needs (that is, the areas for improvement) but it can also identify the best learning approach to close capability gaps.
Those approaches might include:
- Delivering online training through a knowledge management system like a performance learning management system (PLMS)
- Providing offsite experiential learning, particularly to build collaboration and communication skills, or build team culture and relationships
- Having instructors present formal training seminars or internal courses to disseminate strategies and techniques to large groups.
Review and evaluate
Track the impact of leadership development training by measuring the ROI of training. This includes all business impacts, from monetary value generated to behavioral changes over time that improve performance.
The most important thing to remember is to make leadership development an ongoing investment to ensure continuous improvement. You can monitor and review your leadership development plan to adjust and improve identified inefficiencies in your current plan and improve your leadership development plan for use with future leaders.
About the Creator
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Acorn PLMS (performance learning management system) is a dynamic AI-powered platform for learning experiences synchronized to business performance at every step. Corporate learning is broken. Acorn is the antidote.