Business Leadership Today

Crafting a Comprehensive Leadership Development Plan


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

A study by McKinsey found that companies with successful leadership-development programs were more likely to require participants to apply their learnings in new settings over an extended period and to practice them in their jobs. 

This emphasizes the importance of real-world application in leadership development. 

An example of this is a global organization struggling with the changes brought about by digitization and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), which invested heavily in a leadership development program. 

The program was designed to help leaders navigate these technological shifts and was contextualized based on the organization’s position and strategy. It included experienced instructors, diverse learning methods, and a strong emphasis on the application of learning in new settings. 

The program also provided continuous support in the form of senior leaders acting as project sponsors, mentors, and coaches. The results were significant, with the organization seeing a marked improvement in its leadership capabilities, which in turn led to enhanced business performance. 

This highlights the transformative power of a well-designed leadership development program and demonstrates that it is essential to an effective leadership development plan. 

A leadership development plan should include SMART goals, a system of measurement to ensure goals are being met, a system of feedback to course-correct as needed, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Participation in a leadership development program or leadership training should be included in the plan. 

In the following sections, we will dive deeper into what a leadership development plan should consist of and how participating in a leadership development program can make your leadership development plan more successful.

Understanding Leadership Development Plans and Programs

To really understand the transformative power of leadership development plans and leadership development programs, we have to understand the difference between the two. 

Leadership Development Plan

A leadership development plan is a customized approach that can assist a leader or a group of leaders in attaining their desired results and aims. It is an individualized roadmap that details the objectives, actions, and methods of evaluation for a single leader or a group of leaders. 

Depending on the individual’s strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, and career goals, as well as the results of various components of a leadership development program, a leadership development plan may be created.

Leadership Development Program

A leadership development program is a broader and more general approach that can benefit many leaders at different levels and stages of their careers. It ensures current and future leaders have the necessary skills to meet current and future business needs. 

A leadership development program can include various elements, such as training courses, mentoring, coaching, feedback, assessments, and assignments.

Both tools are important for enhancing the leadership capabilities of an organization. However, they differ in their scope, focus, and implementation. 

What Should a Leadership Development Plan Include?

A strong leadership development plan is a strategic and thoughtful combination of goal-setting, measurement, feedback, and a commitment to continuous improvement. 

It provides leaders with the tools and resources they need to grow and succeed in their roles. It also contributes to the overall success and effectiveness of the organization.


These goals provide a clear and concise path for leaders to follow as they improve their skills. 

SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound: 

  • Specific: Goals should be well-defined and clear about what is to be achieved.
  • Measurable: Goals should have criteria for tracking progress and determining when the goal has been met.
  • Achievable: Goals should be realistic and attainable, not impossible.
  • Relevant: Goals should align with the leader’s role and the organization’s objectives.
  • Time-bound: Goals should have a clearly defined timeline, including a start and end date.

These goals can keep you on target and make progress easier to track. 

Measurement System

This is a method to track and assess the progress of the SMART goals. It could involve regular check-ins, progress reports, or performance metrics. The system should be objective, consistent, and transparent to ensure fairness and accuracy.

Feedback System

This involves regular communication about the leader’s performance. Feedback should be constructive, specific, and timely. It allows leaders to understand their strengths and areas for improvement. 

It could involve one-on-one meetings, performance reviews, or 360-degree feedback from peers, subordinates, and superiors.

Commitment to Continuous Improvement

This is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes over time. Leaders should be open to learning and development opportunities, seek feedback, and show a willingness to adapt and grow. 

This commitment promotes a culture of continuous learning and improvement within the organization.

Participation in a leadership development program or leadership training should be included in the plan as part of the process of continuous improvement. More on this in the next section. 

What Should a Leadership Development Program Include?

A comprehensive leadership development program should be a strategic blend of various elements that contribute to the overall growth and success of potential leaders.

Its key components are quite similar to a leadership development plan and include alignment with organizational goals, a system of measurement to track progress, regular feedback, and ongoing support to ensure it is a continuous process. 

Alignment with Organizational Objectives

The goals of the leadership development program should be in sync with the organization’s objectives. This alignment ensures that the leaders developed through the program will be equipped to drive the organization toward its strategic goals.

Measurement System

A robust system of measurement is crucial to ensuring that the goals of the leadership development program are being met. This could include regular performance reviews, 360-degree feedback, or key performance indicators (KPIs) specific to leadership roles.

Feedback Mechanism

A system of feedback is essential for course correction. Constructive feedback helps potential leaders understand and work on their areas of improvement. This could be through one-on-one coaching sessions, peer feedback, or even self-reflection exercises.

Ongoing Support

Leadership development is not a one-time event but a continuous process. Ongoing support in the form of mentoring, coaching, and continuous learning opportunities is crucial for the sustained development of leaders.

Incorporating these elements into a leadership development program can help create effective leaders who are aligned with the organization’s objectives and capable of driving the organization toward its strategic goals.

Benefits of Leadership Development Programs

Leadership development can be a game-changer for both employees and employers, and leadership development programs offer a multitude of benefits that extend beyond the individual participants to the organization as a whole. Here are some key benefits:

Succession Planning

One of the primary benefits of leadership development programs is establishing a robust succession plan. These programs identify and nurture future leaders, ensuring a smooth transition and continuity when key leaders leave or retire.

Increased Employee Engagement

Leadership development programs often lead to increased employee engagement. When employees see a clear pathway to leadership roles, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to the organization.

Improved Decision-Making

These programs equip leaders with the necessary skills and knowledge to make informed decisions, leading to improved business outcomes.

Positive Company Culture

Effective leaders contribute to a positive company culture by fostering an environment of trust, collaboration, and open communication.

Increased Productivity

Effective leadership can lead to increased productivity. Leaders who are skilled at motivating and guiding their teams can significantly improve team performance.

Better Retention

Organizations investing in leadership development programs will likely have better retention rates. When employees see opportunities for growth and development, they are less likely to leave the organization.

These programs are not just beneficial but essential in today’s dynamic business environment. They prepare individuals to navigate complex business landscapes, drive growth, and ensure the long-term success of the organization and its team members.

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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