Leadership Development Plan

Turning yourself into an effective and inspiring leader is not something that will happen overnight. It takes planning and dedication.

Written by Mind Tools for Business
Published 12 November 2021
Leadership Development Plan
The actual process will be highly individual, and will depend on your own experience and talents. This template will help you plan your leadership development in a methodical and structured way.

Using this template

1. Determine what a ‘great leader’ is in your organization

Define the skills and behaviors that you know are needed to be a great leader. These will vary depending on your organization’s values, goals and objectives. Conduct appropriate research to find out this information. A good starting point is to think of the leaders in your company who inspire you. What particular skills and behaviors do they exhibit? Alternatively, you might talk to someone in your HR or learning and development department, or look for information on leadership programs or workshops on your intranet.

Some key skills and attributes common to most organizations include:
  • The ability to develop a clear vision (for your organization, department or team)
  • Strategic thinking
  • Motivating and inspiring staff
  • Creative thinking
  • Talent management
  • Leading and managing change.

Detail each of the skills and behaviours you think are important to be an effective leader in your organization in the first column of the template.

2. Identify your development needs in relation to each of the skills and behaviours

You’ll need to be extremely honest with yourself and really question your current competency in each of the areas you have identified in Step 1. Consider getting input from colleagues, managers and even clients, perhaps via a 360 feedback questionnaire. They may highlight development needs that you haven’t thought of, or are avoiding.

For instance, you might consider yourself to be a great motivator, but do others see you in the same light? Do you actively manage talent, or are you paying lip service to it? Take a broad approach to determining your development areas. For example, if you have detailed ‘creative thinking’ as a skill or behavior, don’t limit your ideas to just your immediate skills in this area.

Great leaders think holistically, so apply this level of thought to your own development plan. Do you encourage a culture of creativity in your organization? If you don’t, then it’s a good idea to work on that. Detail each of these development needs in the relevant column, alongside the appropriate skill or attribute.

3. Determine what actions and activities you are going to put in place to meet these development areas

Next, consider how you are going to meet these development needs by identifying appropriate activities. To help you with this, you could get information from your organization’s learning and development department, or ask a mentor (if applicable) for their advice.

To be a great strategic thinker, for example, you need to really understand who your competitors are and what they are doing. If you’re not sure who they are, you’ll need to do some kind of competitor analysis exercise, such as benchmarking. Detail your proposed actions in the Activity column. (You might want to add a Target Date column, if fixed deadlines will help you to focus.)

4. Decide what success looks like

For each of your activities, detail a specific and measurable success statement. This should be a clear outline that you can use to determine if your activity was successful. ‘Learn more about John Kotter’s Eight-Step Change Model’ isn’t precise enough. ‘Use John Kotter’s Eight-Step Change Model to successfully implement the departmental restructure by Quarter Four’ is far more detailed, and provides you with a good measure by which to determine future success. Note your success statements down in the appropriate column.

5. Determine lessons learned and follow-up action points

Finally, it’s vital to take the time to review how your development is going. Your success statements will be crucial here. Vigorously question if your development needs have been met.

For example:
  • Has the intended behavior change taken place? (You may not be best placed to answer this question. Again, you might want to ask for feedback from colleagues and managers.)
  • Was a particular project implemented successfully and in line with your development aims?
  • Have particular tools or techniques helped you to develop appropriate skills and behaviors – e.g. perhaps using brainstorming or mind mapping has helped you to develop your creativity skills? Might you be able to use these techniques to help you develop your skills in other areas? If the tools or techniques you tried were not particularly helpful, what alternatives might you try in future?

By reflecting on these activities, you will doubtless uncover further development opportunities, which you can then add to this development plan. For instance, while you may have written a clear vision statement with a defined purpose, you may decide that you could have used this to motivate staff more effectively. Perhaps your oral communication style requires some practice.

Document reflections like this in the Follow-Up Actions column. You should prioritize these, and then add them to your development plan.

6. Remember – development isn’t a one-off activity

You should revisit this plan on a regular basis. Development is a continual process, and it’s particularly important to embrace this concept when you are in the pivotal position of leader. Making regular use of this template will encourage you to seek out new skills and attributes that will help you to become the best leader you can be.

Download your Leadership Development Plan here and help to think about your leadership in a more methodical and structured way.

About the author

Mind Tools for Business

Mind Tools for Business

Mind Tools for Business brings accessible, on-demand performance tools and resources that empower colleagues to perform in today’s progressive workplaces. Helping them build happy and successful careers and to contribute positively to the success of organizations, the world over. At Mind Tools for Business, empowering people to thrive at work has been our passion for 25 years.

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