A leadership development plan is an invaluable tool to strategically guide you throughout your career, leading to greater overall career satisfaction, more interesting opportunities and challenges - and ultimately a more impactful career.
Here are some thoughts on creating your personal leadership development plan from IMD, one of the top business schools in the world– including the critical role a leadership development program can play in developing such plans.
Leadership Development Plan: what is it?
A leadership development plan is a detailed plan that helps you set your career on a strategic leadership track. You can start with a generic leadership development plan template or sample, but make sure your personal leadership development plan includes:
- Defining a vision for your career
- Setting specific leadership development goals with a clear timeline
- Committing to specific action steps for achieving them
- Re-evaluating your action plan at regular intervals
Your overall vision will set the tone for the rest of the leadership development plan. It’s time to get serious and look deep inside yourself. You need to ask yourself: what do I want out of my career? My life? What impact do I want to make for my organization and beyond? And then be honest with yourself, asking: what are my strengths as a leader? What are my weaknesses? Tough, but absolutely necessary to your development plan for leadership!
Next you need to set realistic goals for achieving this vision - and a specific action plan with steps to achieve these goals. Be sure to also identify resources (including people) and think about potential obstacles.
Finally, you need to regularly reassess your leadership development plan to keep it relevant. For one thing, plans can – and do - change. There also are times when an event or change means you should rethink. Maybe you’ve had a sudden crisis in your professional or personal life. Maybe you’re unexpectedly faced with an offer you can’t refuse. Maybe you’ve even had a Eureka moment.
Don’t be afraid to alter your leadership development plan as necessary – and don’t just push back goals you haven’t met, also reconsider if the goal was realistic!
Your development plan can be especially valuable when you want or need to completely change direction. It will help you understand what you want to change, why you want to change it and what actions to take in order to get there.
The role of leadership programs in your leadership development plan
Leadership development programs are a critical element of a comprehensive leadership development plan. By integrating leadership development training into your plan, you’ll be ready to make the most out of opportunities for consistent career progress and be confident as you step into new roles or face new challenges. The trick, of course, is to pick the right leadership development program for the right moment.
For example, young managers with around 8 years of experience should be looking to advance in their roles – which should be reflected in their leadership development plan as the time to become a more impactful leader. Such managers can develop their leadership skills through management training courses focusing on developing personal leadership styles. This could include better self-awareness, understanding the dynamics of human behavior in different situations, and practicing leadership with small and large teams. Integrated leadership coaching can also be helpful.
By including a quality leadership development program in their leadership development plan, young managers can master the mobilizing of people towards business goals - improving their current performance and demonstrating they are ready for the next career step.
Here are other examples of when a leadership development program could be included in your leadership development plan:
- Early career: Young, ambitious managers with 5 to 10 years of business experience can prepare for greater responsibility and accelerate their careers with business management training.
- Mid-career: An executive development program can provide mid-career managers with the skills to create higher value for their organizations and drive performance in a fast-changing global environment. Such programs will also improve your networks at this important time. This is also the time to consider business management degrees.
- When facing specific challenges: Leaders facing specific business challenges – business development strategy, finance, sustainability, operations – can benefit from business management programs that focus on sharpening analytical and strategic leadership skills.
- Top level: As a senior executive or CEO, you need to ensure you continue to identify the right business opportunities, drive innovation and lead with conviction. This is not the moment to sit back on your laurels! An executive leadership development program specifically designed for top managers, as well as board member training, will help you stay cutting-edge - and ultimately reach the highest pinnacle of your leadership development plan.