What Is a Leadership Development Plan?

A leadership development plan is a detailed document that helps the company to achieve its career goal statement towards progressive leadership roles and senior management positions. It serves as a valuable tool that guarantees the development of strong and reliable future leaders for the organization. Through a leadership development plan, employees can achieve greater overall career satisfaction, acquire better career opportunities, and attain an impactful career. This type of career development plan is a long-term, structured, and personalized document that caters to the unique needs of an employee and the company. It details possible career objectives and development activities an individual engages in to reach their career goals. A leadership development plan also encourages employees to develop their leadership skills and styles. The document must address the necessities of leaders and employees within all levels of the organization for the current leaders and future employees to occupy leadership positions.

According to an article published on May 2021 by Kevin Wayne Johnson on LinkedIn, companies in the United States spend over 160 billion US dollars on employee training and development. However, despite the amount companies spend on training and development, 58 percent of managers say they do not have managerial training, and 77 percent of organizations report they are experiencing leadership gaps.

Components of a Leadership Development Plan

Leadership development plans contain the long-term goals of an employee, including the leadership goals they need to acquire and improve. Some managers create personal leadership development plans to make them more achievable. These plans are in the style or format that an individual feels most comfortable in using, in the form of either charts or graphs. When utilizing a personal development plan, below are the necessary elements that must be present in the document.

Skills to master: Being a leader comes with various responsibilities that are specific to the role they serve in a company. For example, supervisors must have planning skills to conduct meetings, interpersonal skills to relay positive feedback, share information with fellow supervisors and employees, and make personnel decisions. It is essential to indicate the skills that align with work responsibilities and leadership development goals that are non-existent with the current job. If there are co-workers who manifest these skills at work, it is advantageous to ask them for advice and practice with them as necessary. If not, find external sources to help gain them.Gap experiences to close: Aside from writing down the tactical skills, there are strategic responsibilities that a leader must take notice of and develop. These duties can range from starting new business projects and action plans, leading a project from lapses and other problems, managing larger and more complex projects, and crisis management scenarios. Similar to developing the necessary skills, make sure to indicate the tasks that align with personal goals through a gap analysis and devise a plan to gain the needed experiences.New relationships to build: As a leader, individuals interact with various people and institutions regularly, including different stakeholders. Most of the interactions managers experience within the organization are with department heads, employees, and fellow managers that are from different departments with varying skill sets. Other interactions include external communications with customers, business partners, suppliers, and other organizations in the industry. In building a leadership development plan, indicate a list of stakeholders that helps with the job and create a stronger and more mutual relationship.Specific tasks to delegate: An effective leader knows how to keep a balance between daily activities and long-term duties. As such, they often prioritize tasks closely assigned to them, performing them with a certain degree of expertise while entrusting others with other organizational responsibilities that guarantee no delay in the completion of projects while keeping employees engaged in their work. Indicate all the necessary activities that are crucial to professional development for the leadership role and the tasks that employees can do without direct supervision.Essential action plan to accomplish: Every leadership development plan must consist of the strengths and potential areas of improvement of managerial positions. In each area where managers can see room for advancement, indicate an action plan, a comprehensive timeframe of events for task completion, and possible costs. The items include meeting with mentors or supervisors, review of leadership literature, leadership assessments, and completing training and other educational opportunities.Critical success indicators: When it comes to assessing leadership success, team success is another factor to consider. In a personal leadership development plan, there must be a list of possible success indicators for a leader and team members to guarantee they are achieving success in their field, including quality of work improvements, teamwork and work morale improvement, an increased delegation of work responsibilities, strategic plans and preparations, continuous learning plans for the entire team, and recognition of team contributions and accomplishments.

How To Create a Leadership Development Plan

Developing vital leadership competencies and constructing diverse leadership channels are the critical objectives a leadership development plan must accomplish. A leadership development plan also aids with employee engagement, providing them with continuous learning opportunities during its implementation. To help you get started, the section below is a helpful guide to creating a comprehensive leadership development plan.

  • 1. Assess and Identify Current and Potential Talent

    Several industries and companies offer employees formal leadership development training programs and talent pools where they can select their choice for a leadership development plan. However, not all organizations have training programs for their workers, and others lack formal talent identification and assessment procedures. For those companies without a talent pool and leadership development for their employees, management can utilize the nine-box grid system. This strategy measures employee capabilities through visualizing potential talents or future performance and current performance abilities. Through the nine-box grid, the company can select employees as high potentials, stars, and high performers and shape the leadership development plan accordingly.

  • 2. Obtain Buy-ins From Company Stakeholders

    A leadership development plan works when there are buy-ins from upper management and senior leadership, managers and supervisors of the target employees, and the employees themselves. The focus of the leadership development plan is to improve employee skills by requiring more significant investment, including training and development budgets to aid in succession planning. The budget plan must go through senior leadership approval before implementation, with the conditions of upholding organizational strategic objectives. The planning process also includes the involvement of management and supervisors, as the targeted employee needs to shoulder additional activities and attend training sessions that can divide employee focus from present work commitments. Employees must also willingly participate in the leadership development program, as there are factors that may hinder them from doing so in the first place. Not all employees want to be in a leadership position, despite having the capabilities for one. There must be a transparent agreement between senior leadership, manager, and employee to make a successful leadership development program.

  • 3. Identify Leadership Styles

    There is a possibility that there is an overarching leadership style in the organization that potential leaders need to function effectively. The leadership style stems from the business needs and culture of an institution. Different leadership styles are present in different industries and organizations, including autocratic, democratic, coaching, laissez-faire, authoritarian, pacesetting, affiliative, and transformational. Businesses can prefer one over the other or utilize more than one style in the organization. Leaders must learn to use a certain style or a combination depending on the situation.

  • 4. Identify and Assess Key Leadership Competencies

    It is also necessary to identify the leadership competencies that are essential to the current and future success of the organization. The competencies serve as the foundation of the development plan and ensure the successive leaders are ready for present challenges and unforeseeable events that can occur. There are three main groups for leadership competencies: namely, leading the organization, leading the others, and leading the self. Aside from identifying leadership competencies, the company must assess the targeted employees accordingly. The results following the assessment highlight possible competency gaps of the individual. From there, the organization utilizes the gaps to identify and design the most effective and suitable development opportunities to address the gaps.

  • 5. Design the Leadership Development Plan

    In designing the leadership development plan, it is best to consult with the learning and development team to construct appropriate learning opportunities for employees. Ideally, incorporate as many learning solutions as possible to provide individuals with the best learning experience and environment. Introduce self-pace learning using various channels, and incorporate complementary leadership mentoring that enables a coaching relationship between an employee and a strong leader. The organization can also introduce job shadowing that provides an employee a realistic view of a job, and job rotation opportunities where employees assume a different role for a temporary period. The company can also utilize professional development and certification courses for employees.

  • 6. Conduct Continuous Leadership Assessments

    Lastly, an organization needs to know whether or not the leadership development program is effective and serves its purpose of reaching its goals. As such, there must be a structure that allows the company to monitor employee progress during the leadership development process and determine their readiness to fulfill responsibilities after the plan. One way to do this is to use the 360-degree leadership assessment from stakeholders. The process ensures continuous feedback and engagement with employees to guarantee success. Company engagement enables an opportunity to improve the plan’s objectives to satisfy organizational changes that leads to an employee becoming the leader that an organization needs.


What are some examples of leadership goals?

Leadership goals vary differently from one individual to another, depending on the company culture and organizational objectives. Examples of leadership goals include becoming more adaptable to change, improving listening skills, learning from constructive criticism, practicing confidence, and building emotional intelligence.

What are the contents of a development plan?

A development plan must consist of personal and career development goals, work development needs, a comprehensive action plan, developmental changes, and revision plans.

What are the methods of implementing leadership development?

There are various methods that organizations can use to incorporate leadership development in their programs. These methods include formal instructions, developmental job assignments, 360-degree feedback, executive coaching, and self-direct learning.

Whether or not employees want to develop their leadership skills to assume managerial positions in the future, it is advantageous to set up a leadership development plan to ensure the growth and success of a company. Leadership development not only increases the success of the company but also allows employees to improve and develop their skills for career growth and opportunities. Start devising a leadership development plan for your company and employees today by downloading the samples available from the article.