5 strategies for an effective leadership development plan
Effective leadership development comes in many forms. Larger companies often have structured programs, but that’s not always the case with smaller businesses.
Whether you had a formal program at one time or you’re starting from scratch, developing your company’s future leaders doesn’t have to be complicated or cost prohibitive. In fact, investing in and cultivating in-house talent will likely be less expensive and time-consuming than hiring and training new recruits.
Additionally, when you develop current employees, you’re showing that you value them. That’s a win for everybody, and it builds loyalty.
What is a leadership development plan?
A leadership development plan highlights the skills needed for an individual to become a better leader. The plan includes efforts to increase leadership competencies and prepare a person for a management role.
How do you write a leadership development plan?
So, where do you start? Here are five practical strategies to help you develop an effective leadership team. 1. Understand leadership development vs. training opportunities 2. Identify skill gaps and future needs 3. Determine who’s best suited for future leadership 4. Deliver the necessary leadership training 5. Adopt a continuous leadership development mindset.
1. Understand leadership development vs. training opportunities
Technical skills often come to mind first when business leaders think about training. And while those are undeniably important for any role, leadership development goes beyond job-specific training.
What is leadership development?
Developing leaders involves a series of activities intended to improve a person’s abilities, skills and knowledge.
For example, your project manager may need to take an Excel course to become more adept with spreadsheets. But to truly reach the next level — as your future director of operations who leads a team of project managers — they’ll need a leadership development plan that encompasses both immediate needs and future goals. Think ongoing versus one-and-done.
Leadership Development Areas
Successful and effective leaders have strong soft skills, in addition to technical skills. At a minimum, you’ll want to develop your leadership team in these important areas:
- Team building
- Coaching and visioning
- Conflict resolution
Hands-on experience is one of the best ways to develop these effective leadership skills – especially when combined with mentoring, role-playing, reading and supplemental classroom training.
2. Identify skill gaps and future needs
What skills are in short supply in your company? What areas need to be further developed to strengthen your team and organization now and in the future? These are the kinds of questions you’ll need to answer before you can implement any type of effective leadership development program.
For instance, maybe your sales team needs to get better at presenting proposals or negotiating contracts. Or perhaps you’ve got a marketing manager who’s a brilliant communicator but needs help connecting the dots to become more strategic.
Your training for them should reflect that. Aligning individual development plans with organizational goals is key to the success of your business, as well as its current and future leaders.
3. Determine who’s best suited for future leadership
Now that you’ve got some perspective on where the knowledge gaps exist, you’ll want to consider which employees and managers to groom to fill those leadership gaps.
First, speak with team members already in leadership positions. Take time to learn about their career aspirations. What skills and experience will they need to perform at their best now and down the road?
Next, talk to more junior employees who demonstrate leadership potential. That will provide you with an understanding of both groups’ interest and development opportunities. Then, you’ll be better equipped to determine what leadership training and on-the-job learning they’ll need.
4. Deliver the necessary leadership training
The formal, rigid approach to effective leadership development common among large companies isn’t always a good fit for leaner organizations. It’s not practical for most small businesses to have managers out of the office to attend training for days or weeks at a time.
How to Develop Leaders
Equally compelling, neuroscience suggests that people retain more of what they learn when it’s delivered in more frequent, shorter chunks. That means six one-hour sessions will likely work better than a single six-hour training.
And by all means, think beyond the classroom. Formal coursework is just one of many methods for developing leaders. One-to-one mentoring, experiential learning, on-the-job training, online workshops and stretch projects with coaching can also be ways for effective leadership development among the conceptual, people-focused skills needed in leaders.
5. Adopt a continuous leadership development mindset
The most effective leadership development strategy will work toward cultivating a culture of continuous improvement over a formal program. This empowers your people to take the initiative with self-directed learning and an understanding that their training and goals should align with the company’s needs.
Technology has evolved to provide infinite paths for self-directed learning, and sharing knowledge is easier than ever before with cloud-based apps like Microsoft Teams and SharePoint. Whatever strategy you put in place, frame leadership development in the context of a marathon – not a sprint.
FAQ about Leadership Development Plans
What makes a successful leadership development program?
A successful leadership development program is built around a continuous improvement mindset. This will allow future leaders to adapt to changing circumstances and challenges at work while making progress in leadership development.