Building a Leadership Development Program, Part 1

This is the first component discussing the seven “factors for success” or key programmatic elements for a successful leadership development program.  The first two elements include defining outcomes and a holistic structure.

Element 1: Clearly Defined Outcomes

No program or initiative can be successful without defining its desired outcomes.  In the simplest sense, the absence of defined outcomes parallels getting in a car and simply driving in a random fashion with the hope of reaching home with no idea what home looks like.  Successful leadership development programs clearly define the measurable organizational changes that should result from the program.  Typically, successful programs link their desired outcomes with successful leaders in their or other organizations to determine the profile of a successful leader or what their ideal leader “looks like.”  

Element 2: Holistic structure

Training or providing basic instruction is a small portion of developing successful leaders.  Among organizations that stand out for their quality of leadership, training serves as a basic first step.  The real value arises from the development that occurs after the training in the form of coaching, mentoring, and sharing.  Consequently, a successful leadership program needs to combine four key, structural elements on a continuous basis in a comprehensive or holistic fashion (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Leadership Development Structure

Successful organizations continuously work to identify, encourage, and develop future leaders in their organization.  They build interest in becoming a leader by providing clear as well as accessible information on a regular basis regarding the importance of leadership, the organization’s commitment to developing leaders, and the importance of reaching the organization’s desired goals and outcomes. We all practice leadership at least over ourselves, thus we all can gain by learning more about leadership.  Furthermore, successful organizations possess the assessment tools necessary to determine the level of leadership ability and potential of each team member.  Every team member should know: the value of leadership, his or her current strengths and weaknesses, best methods for improve, and the organization’s path for development.  Once an employee expresses an interest or desire to develop more leadership capability, engagement in the development process should occur.  The team member should be made to feel that he or she is part of something important and be recognized for each milestone attained. Engagement begins the transfer of foundational knowledge customized for each level of leadership and utilizes tools to keep motivation high.  After engagement, team members should continue to develop.  This portion of the structure incorporates coaching, mentoring, networking, refreshing, and real world experience.  A key element of the development phase includes assessing progress and making adjustments.  New tools, ideas, and experiences need to be analyzed to determine their relative value, degree of utilization in the workplace, and impact on broader outcomes.  If progress is not occurring, adjustments should be made.  As outcomes surpass desired goals, a team member enters into the re-investment phase where they work with others pursuing the same path and prepare for the next level of leadership capability. 

Element 3: Targeted Learning Methodology

Leadership development programs consisting solely of an instructor-led training typically fail in realizing its full potential. Successful programs assemble a collection of targeted and experiential tools including developmental assignments, 360-degree assessments, interaction with peers, case analysis, and a wide variety of e-learning tools. People learn to lead by doing, so the best leadership development programs focus heavily on experiential learning supplemented by learning tools that match the situational context. 


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