Designing an Effective Leadership Development Programme

Leadership development is crucial to succession planning, allowing organisations to shape and design their preferred future. Organisations must align strategic goals, values, and employee satisfaction to create a successful leadership development program. This article explores a step-by-step guide to designing a program that drives organisational goals through nurturing and supporting future leaders.

Identify Strategic Organisational Goals

The foundation of any leadership development program lies in a clear understanding of the organisation’s strategic goals. These goals serve as a roadmap for leadership development, ensuring that the program addresses the organisation’s specific needs and challenges in the long term.

For instance, if a company aims to increase its headcount by 40% over the next five years and a core value of the organisation is ‘Empathy’, the leadership development program should focus on identifying and cultivating leaders who can strike a balance between supporting and nurturing employees while prioritising organisational objectives. 

Cross Reference Strategic Objectives with Company Values

To create a leadership development program that not only achieves organisational goals but also maintains the preferred culture, it is essential to cross-reference strategic objectives with company values. This ensures that leaders effectively achieve targets while also embodying the principles that define the organisational culture. We are all aware of a company’s culture’s impact on its strategy. A robust culture needs to be a core consideration when planning for the long term. Many resources are invested in compiling a company’s values to ensure a desired workplace, so they are the best benchmark for mapping the skills required when planning for maintaining a company’s future preferred culture.  

Using the example of empathy as a core value, your leadership development program should incorporate training that hones skills related to effective communication, conflict resolution, relationship management, and cross-cultural understanding. This drives the strategic goal of expanding the workforce while fostering a culture of empathy.

Create Role and Department Specific Skill Banks 

An effective way to identify the skills needed in future leaders is to analyse the profiles of current high performers in leadership roles in your organisation. Gain stakeholder contributions on what is required of individuals to succeed in these leadership roles. Then, reverse engineer by skills that contribute to their success in these roles and use this understanding to break down skillsets by position and department. 

Create role-specific and departmental skillsets and align them with the skillsets you identified through your previous culture mapping. 

For example, a high-performing financial leader likely exhibits excellent attention to detail and the ability to think strategically for the overall financial health of your organisation; in this circumstance, analytical skills will take precedence. Another paramount contributor to your company’s overall financial health is your sales leaders. However, their relationship skills are what contribute most to their success. 

Now, you want to collate these skills by department and role to create your skills banks, which will frame your programme. 

Utilise your organisation’s resources and design your learning

Once the necessary leadership skills are identified and your role and departmental-specific ‘skills banks’ are compiled, the next step is to cross-reference them against accessible learning content: most organisations use learning management or experience systems and have subscriptions to services such as LinkedIn Learning or other learning options. Compile learning content in line with your ‘skills banks’ as the development that will be applied to participants in line with their developmental path in your program. This forms the basis for the development program’s content and is a valuable resource for facilitators and participants. 

Support Participants in Identifying Skills Gaps

To foster accountability, your future leaders should be given some autonomy in the process of identifying their skills gaps. Attain uses a leadership trait assessment designed using the factor model of personality, the reason being that it is the most widely researched theory of personality and has been shown to align in research with various skills and capabilities coveted by organisations, which means that this theory traits can easily be mapped against the skills you now have in your organised banks. Once participants receive their assessment report, it not only serves as indicative support for personal development but also serves to support individuals in recognising where they align with the role or departmental-specific skills banks or where they may need to develop. It is always positive to have assigned individual coaches who can support this part of the process. Individual skills gaps can then be used to tailor the learning journey, ensuring that participants focus on areas where improvement is needed. This personalised approach enhances the program’s impact by addressing specific developmental needs.

Schedule Consistent Interactive Learning Sessions

Given the assumption that participants may be working remotely or across regions, scheduling regular interactive learning sessions is crucial. These sessions can be weekly, fortnightly, or monthly meetings where participants engage in discussions, case studies, and collaborative activities. Interactive sessions foster a sense of collaboration among participants and provide an opportunity for real-time feedback and discussion. This approach ensures the leadership development program remains dynamic and responsive to participants’ evolving needs.

Design Questionnaires for Continuous Feedback

Regular feedback is essential to gauge the effectiveness of your leadership development program. Designing questionnaires aligned with the program’s objectives allows continuous assessment and improvement.

Create weekly, fortnightly, or monthly questionnaires to gather insights into participants’ learning experiences, challenges faced, and progress made. Compiling and analysing these results provides valuable data to fine-tune the program and maintain a record of training effectiveness. Individual (possibly anonymised) feedback is where you will gain the most accurate insight into how your participants are feeling but also the predictive effectiveness of your programme. 

In conclusion, designing an effective leadership development program requires a strategic and comprehensive approach. By aligning organisational goals, values, and high-performer profiles, organisations can create a program that addresses current challenges and prepares leaders for the future. Utilising accessible learning resources, supporting participants in identifying skills gaps, and incorporating interactive learning sessions ensure success even with limited resources. Continuous feedback and evaluation contribute to the program’s evolution, fostering a culture that instils your values and prioritises retention and a sustainable future for your organisation.


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