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How to develop a Leadership Development programme

How to develop a Leadership Development programme

Our previous article looked at how to get the most from Leadership Development. We covered the reasons for investing in leadership development, the scenarios where it’s needed and ultimately, how to make sure it works for both leaders and their organisations.

This month we are getting into the detail as we explore how to develop a leadership development programme itself. And, as is often the case, there’s a bigger picture to consider. You can’t develop leaders if you don’t have a vision for the organisation you are developing them for.

What kind of organisation do you want to be?

“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.” So said Lewis Carroll. Successful organisations don’t need ‘any leader’ but the right kind of leaders who will get them to where they want to be. So, before you develop a leadership development plan, consider the direction your organisation is heading, the culture you want to sustain and the skills and attributes your leaders will need to develop. Where you want to be in 5 years time influences the kind of leaders you’ll need in 5 years time.

Where are your leaders now?

Leadership development is linked to talent management. Just as you need to be sure of where the organisation is heading, you need to be aware of your current talent, the experience it has and where it has the potential to go. Organisations need to understand the kind of leaders they need and whether they are looking at developing people to be first-time leaders or whether they are strengthening their existing team leadership skills or engaging in leadership development for senior leaders. If you're developing a plan, you have to know who you're focusing it on and where their gaps are. Ideally you’ll develop talent from within, rather than risk bringing in external leaders who bring in their own playbook that doesn't always work.

It has to be focused on the individual

Good leaders need the confidence to be themselves - which is why their development as individuals matters. So, the more you know about who you are developing and why, the more you’ll be able to customise their development. Too many organisations create leadership development programmes that are far too generic, or too high level and more about ‘what’ than ‘how’. If you want to see people developing, it’s about how they actually use the skills and knowledge they learn. The more their development is focused on their specific needs, rather than being ‘off the shelf’, the more it’s likely to effect a change in behaviours. Their leadership development plan has to be a genuine plan for the individual, linked to the organisational needs.

It should have an element of coaching

Coaching helps leaders to become highly self-aware. Greater self awareness enables them to make the most of opportunities as well as address the unique issues that may be acting as blocks to their future success and effectiveness. They might find that they want to be more strategic in their thinking but are getting too bogged down in detail. Why is that? Are they feeling anxiety or experiencing imposter syndrome and what can they do to overcome that? A coach can help. Similarly, are they experiencing burnout and need to acknowledge it, and find a way towards recovery? A coach won’t stick to a rigid process, they will work with the coachee towards resolving the issues that risk getting in the way of development.

It has to be congruent with their values

Part of leadership development being focused on the individual is appreciating how that person's values and beliefs impact. It’s how we understand the real human being we are working with, and we all have our individual drivers. There’s no point for a person to be expected to do something when it's against their values, they're not going to do it. So you’d want to understand their personal values, empowering and disempowering beliefs as leaders, what they think, how they feel and what may be stopping them doing something as a result of these values.

Encouraging participation

Good leaders help others to become better leaders. Leadership development, like any initiative works best when senior leadership are seen to get behind it. And this is especially true when they too invest in their own development as leadership behaviours are often modelled within organisations. For learning to be requested, the culture of the organisation has to support it, and encourage curiosity and desire for knowledge as a key part of personal development. Many organisations also have good people and culture teams who support their current and future leaders by identifying development opportunities. They are on the ground and able to say why someone should do a certain programme, why it would be good for them and what they’ll learn.

Measuring the results

Leadership development can be seen as one of those intangible activities that’s hard to measure. Fortunately there are ways to gauge the impact and capture metrics. Surveys, such as 360 degree feedback, offer insight into how a team thinks their leader is performing and reveals team cohesion. Are there any major projects that have been delivered successfully or that had hurdles that were overcome - perhaps ahead of time or under budget? We believe that successful leadership development also impacts on the health and wellbeing of the team. For example, was the team itself healthy throughout, with low or no incidences of stress or burnout? Lower than industry average attrition rates suggest higher levels of employee engagement and trust in leadership.

In conclusion

The most powerful business case for getting leadership development right is that your people won’t reach their full potential if your leaders haven’t reached theirs. But developing leaders isn’t a standardised tick box process, it requires a tailored approach as individual as the leader themselves. Investing in a leadership development programme is part of building the skills and behaviours needed to create long lasting and sustainable businesses. This in turn requires a vision of what kind of organisation you want to be.

Are you looking for help with a leadership development programme?

Much of our work involves developing leaders with the resilience, self-awareness and strategic thinking needed to develop both the organisation and its people.

For more details about our programmes, please visit:

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