Top 5 tips on how to take charge of your future with a personal leadership development plan

A personal leadership development plan is one of your best tools to help define and direct your career goals. By taking charge of your professional future with a personal leadership development plan, you will be more aware and ready for stimulating opportunities and challenges. You'll better leverage your on-the-job learning and executive education to prepare for each stage of leadership. You'll get more in terms of personal career satisfaction and be better able to make a real impact.

Here are some top tips on how to take charge of your future with a personal leadership development plan.

1. Your personal leadership development plan starts with your career vision

Your personal leadership development plan starts with a question that only you can answer: what is my vision for my career? It may help to define your vision by combining several angles on the question:

  • What place does my career take in my life?
  • How does my career contribute to my life satisfaction and/or how do I want it to do so?
  • What impact do I want to make for my company and why?
  • What is my leadership style, my leadership skills?
  • How important is leadership development to me?

2. The SMART approach to leadership development plan goals

Your personal leadership development plan should not be vague in terms of goals and timelines. There are a number of approaches to breaking your leadership development journey into manageable, measurable goals, but one popular method is the SMART assessment: Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic/Results-oriented, Timeline. Measurable, realistic goals (interim and overall) are vital to ensuring your leadership development plan remains the useful tool it is meant to be. Moreover, you will be encouraged by the satisfaction of achieving each goal.

3. Set firm action steps in your personal leadership development plan

Goals without specific action steps are only wishes. Take each goal from your SMART assessment and write the necessary action to succeed into your personal leadership development plan. Ensure you also identify potential impediments as well as resources such as key people in your network or targeted leadership training programs that could help you. These action steps should fit the timeline for goals in your leadership development plan.

4. Integrate personal leadership skills development into your plan

Many of the goals in your personal leadership development plan mean taking on challenges or seniority postings that will be new to you. To ensure your success, integrate leadership skills development to prepare for each of these steps. For example, a few years into a general management career, you may aspire to a global-level position. An executive leadership program at a top international business school will help prepare your leadership skills and understanding of the global business environment. Leadership coaching (which may be given as part of a specific leadership program) would also be a boost at this time.

5. Assess, reassess and grow your personal leadership development plan alongside your career

Your leadership development plan is not a static document: it should change and grow to stay relevant. Reassessment gives you the chance to adjust if it seems a goal wasn't realistic after all. It also enables you to adapt to the unforeseen – say an unexpected opportunity not to be refused. Having a set leadership development plan will help you be clearer with yourself if this alternate direction could be right for you. This is true even – especially – when this opportunity differs from the goals listed on your personal leadership development plan.