Business Leadership Today

How To Create a Leadership Development Framework


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

Effective leaders are the driving force behind successful teams, projects, and organizations. They inspire, motivate, and guide others towards achieving common goals, fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation. 

However, the absence of effective leadership can have detrimental effects, as illustrated by the story of Henry Ford’s Model T.

Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, revolutionized the automobile industry with his assembly line production method and the Model T car. However, despite his initial success, Ford’s leadership style led to a significant failure. 

As the automobile industry evolved, competitors began offering cars in different models and colors. Ford, however, stuck to his famous quote, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” This inflexibility and inability to adapt to market changes, hallmarks of Ford’s autocratic leadership style, led to a decline in sales and allowed competitors like General Motors to take the lead.

This story underscores the costly consequences of poor leadership and highlights the need for effective leadership development. Developing such leaders is not a spontaneous process, but a strategic one that requires a structured approach. This is where a tailored leadership development framework comes into play.

Creating a leadership development framework is a strategic process that involves the following:

  • Identifying key leadership competencies
  • Assessing current leadership
  • Defining leadership levels
  • Designing development programs
  • Implementing the framework
  • Continuously evaluating and refining it 

In this article, I will delve deeper into how to create such a tailored leadership development framework. I’ll also discuss my simple, four-step process for developing leaders who can effectively manage the employee experience and drive high levels of employee engagement. 

What Is a Leadership Development Framework?

A leadership development framework is a structured plan that outlines the key competencies, behaviors, and skills required for effective leadership within an organization. It serves as a roadmap for identifying, developing, and nurturing leaders at all levels of the organization. 

A sound leadership development framework helps organizations pave the way for effective leadership through a process that involves identifying key leadership competencies, assessing current leadership, defining leadership levels, designing development programs, implementing the framework, and continually evaluating and refining it. 

Identifying Leadership Competencies

Leadership competencies are the skills, behaviors, and attitudes that contribute to superior performance in a leadership role. These competencies form the foundation of effective leadership and can include a wide range of abilities such as strategic thinking, effective communication, decision-making, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, and the ability to inspire and motivate others.

Identifying these competencies involves a deep understanding of your organization and its needs. It starts with a clear vision of what effective leadership looks like in the context of your organization. This can be done by observing successful leaders within your organization, seeking input from a variety of stakeholders, and considering the specific challenges and opportunities your organization faces.

It’s also crucial to align these competencies with your organizational goals and values. The leadership competencies you identify should support the achievement of your organization’s strategic objectives and reflect its core values. 

For instance, if innovation is a key value in your organization, then one of the leadership competencies might be the ability to foster a culture of creativity and innovation.

Identifying leadership competencies is the first and one of the most critical steps in creating a leadership development framework. It sets the direction for the development of leaders and provides a benchmark against which their progress can be measured. 

It’s a step that requires thoughtful consideration and a strategic approach, but the payoff is well worth the effort. It paves the way for the development of effective leaders who are well-equipped to guide your organization toward its goals.

Assessing Current Leadership

Understanding the current state of leadership within your organization is a crucial step in creating a leadership development framework. It provides a baseline from which to measure growth and progress, and it helps identify the specific areas where development is needed.

There are several methods for assessing current leaders. One common method is performance reviews, which provide a structured way to evaluate a leader’s effectiveness in their role. These reviews typically look at a leader’s achievements against their objectives, their demonstration of the identified leadership competencies, and their overall contribution to the organization.

Another powerful tool for assessment is 360-degree feedback. This involves gathering feedback about a leader from their superiors, peers, and subordinates. It provides a holistic view of a leader’s effectiveness and can uncover blind spots that might be missed in a traditional performance review.

Once you have assessed your current leaders, you can use this information to inform your leadership development framework. 

For instance, if your assessments reveal that many of your leaders struggle with strategic thinking, you might decide to emphasize this competency in your framework. Or, if a particular leader excels in communication, you might use them as a mentor or coach for others.

Assessing current leadership is a vital step in creating a leadership development framework. It ensures that your framework is grounded in the realities of your organization and tailored to address its specific needs. By understanding where your leaders are today, you can better guide them toward where you want them to be tomorrow.

Defining Leadership Levels

Leadership within an organization is not a one-size-fits-all role, rather, it exists on various levels. These levels can range from team leaders who oversee small groups, to department heads who manage larger teams, and executives who guide the entire organization. Each of these leadership levels has its unique responsibilities and challenges, and therefore, requires a distinct set of competencies.

Defining these leadership levels involves identifying the different roles within your organization and understanding the specific competencies needed at each level. For instance, a team leader might need strong interpersonal skills to manage their team effectively, while an executive might require strategic thinking to guide the organization’s direction. 

To define the competencies needed at each level, you can start by mapping out the roles and responsibilities associated with each leadership position. Then, consider the skills, knowledge, and behaviors necessary to fulfill these responsibilities effectively. This could involve consulting job descriptions, performance expectations, or even seeking input from those currently in these roles.

Clear definitions of leadership levels and the associated competencies are crucial for development purposes. They provide a clear path for aspiring leaders, helping them understand what skills and behaviors they need to cultivate to progress in their leadership journey. 

Moreover, these definitions can guide the design of development programs, ensuring that they are targeted and relevant for each leadership level.

Defining leadership levels is a critical step in creating a leadership development framework. It ensures that the framework is relevant and effective across all levels of leadership, fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth within the organization.

Creating Development Programs

Leadership development is a continuous journey that requires ongoing learning and growth. To support this journey, organizations can create a variety of development programs tailored to the needs of their leaders. 

These programs can take many forms, including training sessions, workshops, mentoring programs, and more. Training sessions and workshops can be designed to address the specific competencies identified in your leadership development framework. 

For instance, if strategic thinking is a key competency, you might offer a workshop on strategic planning or decision-making. These sessions can be facilitated by internal experts, external consultants, or even peers who excel in these areas.

Mentoring programs, on the other hand, provide a more personalized approach to leadership development. They pair less experienced leaders with more seasoned ones, allowing for knowledge transfer and one-on-one coaching. This can be particularly effective for developing soft skills like emotional intelligence or conflict resolution.

However, while these formal programs are important, it’s crucial not to overlook the value of practical, on-the-job training. Leaders often learn best by doing, and real-world experiences can provide valuable opportunities for growth. This could involve job rotation, leading a project, or taking on new responsibilities.

In designing these programs, it’s important to keep in mind the competencies you’ve identified and the levels of leadership in your organization. The programs should be targeted and relevant, providing leaders with the skills they need to succeed in their roles.

Creating development programs is a key component of a leadership development framework. These programs provide the tools and opportunities leaders need to develop their competencies and grow in their roles. By investing in these programs, organizations can cultivate a strong pipeline of effective leaders, ready to guide the organization towards its goals.

Implementing the Framework

Once you have created your leadership development framework, the next step is to implement it within your organization. This involves introducing the framework to the organization, training managers to use it, and integrating it into existing processes.

Introducing the framework to the organization can be done in several ways. You might hold a company-wide meeting to present the framework, send out an email or memo explaining it, or even create a video or interactive presentation. The key is to communicate the purpose of the framework, how it was developed, and how it will be used.

Training managers to use the framework is another crucial step. This could involve workshops or training sessions where managers learn about the framework and how to apply it in their roles. They should understand how to assess their team members using the framework, how to identify development opportunities, and how to support their team members in their leadership journey.

Finally, integrating the framework into existing processes ensures that it becomes a part of the organization’s culture. This could involve incorporating the framework into performance reviews, using it to guide hiring and promotion decisions, or even tying it to compensation and rewards. 

The goal is to make the framework a living, breathing part of the organization that guides leadership development at all levels.

Implementing the leadership development framework is a process that requires careful planning and execution. But with clear communication, thorough training, and thoughtful integration, the framework can become a powerful tool for developing effective leaders and driving organizational success.

Evaluating and Refining the Framework

The process of creating a leadership development framework doesn’t end with its implementation. It’s equally important to continuously evaluate its effectiveness and make refinements as necessary. This ensures that the framework remains relevant and continues to drive leadership development in the organization.

Ongoing evaluation is crucial because it allows you to track the progress of your leaders, measure the impact of your development programs, and identify areas for improvement. It provides valuable insights that can inform future decisions and strategies related to leadership development.

There are several methods for evaluating the framework. One effective method is to gather feedback from the leaders who are using it. This could be done through surveys, interviews, or informal conversations. Leaders can provide firsthand insights into what’s working, what’s not, and what could be improved.

Another method is to track the progress of your leaders over time. This could involve monitoring their performance, observing their behavior, or assessing their demonstration of the identified leadership competencies. Progress indicators might include improved performance ratings, increased team productivity, or positive feedback from team members.

Based on the feedback and progress indicators, you can refine the framework. This might involve adding new competencies, adjusting the development programs, or redefining the leadership levels. The goal is to ensure that the framework continues to support the development of effective leaders who can drive the success of your organization.

Evaluating and refining the leadership development framework is an ongoing process that ensures its continued effectiveness. By staying responsive to the needs of your leaders and your organization, you can create a dynamic framework that fosters leadership excellence and contributes to organizational success.

A Simple Process for Developing Leaders AND Boosting Employee Engagement

Leadership development is a critical aspect of any organization’s success. It involves preparing leaders who not only understand the technical aspects of their roles but also comprehend the impact of culture and the needs of a rapidly shifting workforce. This understanding is crucial in today’s dynamic work environment, where change is the only constant.

A key part of this leadership development is fostering a positive employee experience. This involves creating an environment where employees feel valued, heard, and engaged. 

When employees are engaged, they are more likely to be productive, committed to their work, and contribute positively to the organization’s culture. This, in turn, leads to a positive work environment where employees can thrive, further enhancing their engagement and performance.

My team and I developed a groundbreaking approach to employee engagement, retention, and high performance that can help leaders cultivate habits that support a positive employee experience. This approach can be a much more useful tool for gauging leadership competencies than performance reviews and is more effective than those huge annual surveys that are often used to measure employee engagement. 

This process involves four simple steps:

  1. Inspire Engagement: The first step emphasizes the role of leaders in inspiring engagement. Leaders are reminded that their primary job is to inspire greatness in their team members. This involves prioritizing activities that drive engagement and removing obstacles that can hurt engagement.
  2. Identify Universal Needs: The second step involves identifying the universal needs that people have for thriving at work. These needs are strongly correlated with employee engagement and retention.
  3. Regular Feedback: The third step involves getting regular feedback on how well direct supervisors are meeting these universal needs. This can be done through pulse surveys focused on meeting just one element of the 14 universal needs.
  4. Synchronize Training: Supervisors quickly respond to feedback by synchronizing it with pre-prepared, bite-size training so that they are taking action within three to five business days of a feedback survey’s closing. This fosters a virtuous cycle of feedback and action, leading to improved employee engagement and trust in leadership.

This process helps leaders cultivate habits that support a positive employee experience and equips them with the tools they need to effectively lead their teams. By focusing on these areas, leaders can hone their leadership skills while simultaneously driving high levels of employee engagement.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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