Create a Leadership Development Program in 5 Steps

Author: Joseph "Bud" Haney | Source: HCI | Published: November 29, 2012

Many people try to define leadership in broad terms, but part of success is recognizing that every organization requires a different style of leadership. To jumpstart your own organization’s talent pipeline, it’s important to create an internal leadership development program.
 
No one knows your business better than you, and creating your own leadership development program allows you to sharpen skills that will have a direct impact on the effectiveness of your employees. When you are responsible for designing and implementing your own internal program, you can ensure that the organizational values and principles are considered, and inform the final product. Developing an effective leadership development program requires you to define what successful leadership looks like in your company, which is also an invaluable tool that can be used in the talent acquisition process.  Follow these five steps to get started:  
 
Define leadership in your company.
 
Take a hard look at the successful leaders in your organization, at all levels. The leadership effectiveness of your CEO is just as important as the effectiveness of the employees who manage hourly workers. Using assessments, performance reviews, interviews and observations, determine a list of traits that characterize successful leaders at your company. These could be words like “aggressive” or phrases like “ability to empathize with our high number of working mothers.” The key here is to stay away from universal definitions of leadership like “team-player” and “hard-worker,” and really dig into what leadership looks like in your organization.
 
Decide what changes you want to see in your organization.
 
Developing a successful leadership development program for the sake of putting it on your website is a waste of time and money. The goal is to equip your employees with leadership skills that they can practically apply. Align the changes you want to see with company culture to help employees see the value in these skills. Start with measureable and realistic goals. How will you gauge the impact of the program? 
 
Select employee participants.
 
Selecting who will participate in the program is just as critical as planning the details of the program. Depending on the scope of the program and its goals, you may select any employees that have the potential to be in leadership positions, or you may design the program specifically for your managers and executives. Whatever group(s) you decide should participate, it is important to specify their leadership development needs.
 
Plan the program.
 
Using all of the information you have gathered, it is now time to plan the program, and several factors should be considered:
 

  • Length. Weekend retreat or a weekly workshop? Consider the schedules of your employees and the ebb and flow of work responsibilities.
  • Materials. Will you rely primarily on speakers to communicate your points, or will you primarily communicate with written materials? What types of supplemental materials will you use? These can include schedules, PowerPoint presentations, surveys, lesson sheets, and tip sheets.
  • Activities. Creativity should be embraced. Many employees have been through training sessions and workshops before, and appreciate a new perspective and new delivery of information. Do not plan any activities that are misaligned with the company culture, but consider role-playing, group competitions, or holding sessions outdoors or in a new environment.

 
Evaluate the program.
 
An evaluation of the program should begin right after it concludes. Create surveys and allow the employees who participated to provide feedback about their experience. Then, check back in with the employees after six months, and use the pre-determined metrics to measure how effective the program has been.
 
Remember that leadership development is a process. An internal leadership development program is not a magic bullet, but it is a useful tool to provide employees with necessary leadership skills they can implement in their jobs.
 
Do you have tips for creating a leadership development program? Let us know in the comments section below!
 
Joseph “Bud” Haney is cofounder of Profiles International, and serves as its president and Chief Executive Officer. After his baseball career, he worked for an international human resources development company in several executive roles before becoming its president. In addition, he is a coauthor of the best-selling business guide 40 Strategies for Winning in Business and the book, Leadership Charisma, written to help people harness their personal and professional charisma to improve their business and careers.