Guide: How to Create a Leadership Development Program

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 19, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Effective leaders contribute significantly to driving an organization toward success, making them vital for every business. Supporting leadership development within an organization is often more cost-effective and sustainable than hiring new employees to occupy managerial positions. Understanding the nature and benefits of leadership development programs can help you customize them to suit the needs of your team. In this article, we explain what these programs are, examine how to create a leadership development program, and highlight their benefits.

What is a leadership development program?

A leadership development program is a strategy companies can use to prepare existing team members for leadership roles. These programs focus on succession and allow existing talent to develop their skills and prepare for future managerial roles. A leadership development program can take different forms within a team as it aims to meet its specific needs. For instance, when introducing this program, you can adopt formal mentorship systems, collaboration with the management team, and interactive learning groups. Leadership development programs can help team members develop relevant skills for future roles while accomplishing their present tasks.

How to create a leadership development program

Follow these steps to learn how to create a leadership development program:

1. Define the team's needs

Although leadership development programs take similar forms across teams and organizations, it's necessary to streamline your programs to your needs. It's vital to consider a team's structure, relevant industry skills, leadership gaps, and existing qualifications. With these considerations in mind, you can determine the features of a program to suit your needs. You can also consider your short- and long-term objectives at this stage. A clear understanding of the team's goals can help determine the focus of your leadership development program and allocate adequate resources.

2. Avoid possible hindrances

After defining your needs and determining how they inform your program's scope and focus, it's helpful to prepare to avoid hindrances to help improve your program's effectiveness and resolve issues on time. Some limitations that leadership development programs can encounter concern the availability of resources, internal experience, and organizational commitment. You can anticipate resource availability through estimates of program costs. With a figure in mind, you can determine how to structure a program with the available resources and consider seeking additional funding or support as necessary. You can also make presentations to stakeholders to secure organizational commitment.

3. Delegate program roles

The structure and size of an organization determines how to delegate roles in a leadership development program. Larger organizations usually establish elaborate systems and hire experts for development programs. In contrast, smaller organizations typically rely on their existing network of professionals. For instance, you can delegate strategy development and implementation roles to professionals in the human resources department. You can also interact with team leaders or managerial staff in other departments to introduce the program organically. This approach is also effective where programs emphasize mentorship.

Related: How to Delegate Tasks at Work (With Tips and Definition)

4. Identity candidates for leadership positions

Effective leadership development programs aim to improve the skills and capabilities of team members. This makes it important to identify the ideal candidates to benefit from the program. An ideal candidate may have various traits depending on the industry and their level within the team. When selecting candidates, it's helpful to emphasize potential rather than existing skills. This allows you to identify strong candidates regardless of their current position or role. After identifying these candidates, you can interact with their supervisors and colleagues to better assess their potential.

Related: 14 Recruiting Strategies to Find the Best Candidates

5. Assign organizational levels to development techniques

Employees at different organizational levels may benefit from the structure of a leadership development program, with the difference in employees' roles and responsibilities leading to different needs. For instance, operational and executive-level staff have different needs and can benefit from these programs differently. These differences make it helpful to match organizational levels to the most fitting development techniques. For instance, after identifying an ideal candidate, you can determine if they're prepared for the managerial or executive level. You can then apply development tactics, such as volunteering, mentoring, and joining a professional network.

6. Monitor the program's performance

It's important to monitor performance after matching development techniques to organizational levels to help determine the efficiency of the leadership development program. You may also adjust your development techniques as you monitor performance. For instance, you can change a team's mentorship approach to a group project to encourage collaboration, repeating this step at different stages of the program's lifecycle. This may help determine how the program aligns with your long-term objectives. To secure stakeholder support, you can also develop a return on investment, promotion rate, and completion rate report from your observations.

Importance of leadership development programs

Here are some benefits the team or company may gain from implementing leadership development programs:

Provides succession plans

Strong leaders are able to motivate team members, support innovation, and remain positive. Rather than seeking to employ such individuals, it's more effective to establish systems to train existing employees for more advanced roles. This is because developing leaders from the existing workforce ensures that people in leadership positions understand the company's values and organizational culture. Leadership development programs allow companies to achieve this by preparing team members to occupy leadership roles when existing leaders leave their positions.

Improves adaptability

Investing in leadership development programs is a great way to prepare for the dynamic changes that businesses experience. Leaders who respond quickly to challenges and limitations may prove vital to a company's resilience. It's also helpful to equip various team members with the skills to respond to changes. Leadership skills across domains provide a pool of professionals who can respond to day-to-day and critical changes.

Related: Adaptability and Flexibility: Definition, Tips, and Types

Promotes career growth

Leadership development programs are significant opportunities for employees and team members to achieve professional growth. The focus of these programs usually extends across various aspects of leadership capabilities. One of the areas of focus is skills development, which can improve employees' productivity in their current positions. Developing programs for employees also helps them establish career goals and increases their ambition for higher roles. Leadership development programs also encourage a positive attitude among team members, as they know the company values their contribution to collective goals.

Increases talent retention

Team members are more likely to remain in organizations where opportunities for more engaging roles or higher-level positions are available. This makes leadership development programs important in setting new goals for employees, outlining a path to more senior roles, and retaining existing employees. Effective programs can also attract new talent when they recognize an opportunity for growth within the company. Clear opportunities for career advancement, raises, and other attractive employment benefits may increase employee retention.

Read more: Understanding Why Employees Leave and Ways to Retain Them

Improves business results and performance

Investing in leadership development programs might improve employee productivity and contribute to greater business performance. With these programs, employees may improve their skill sets, performing their roles and responsibilities well. Leadership programs can also improve corporate culture and employee satisfaction. Employee satisfaction contributes to a positive opinion of the work environment, improving employees' attitudes and commitment to tasks. Employees may be more likely to align with the team's missions, objectives, and values in positive work environments.

Fosters strategy execution

Effective leadership development programs allow reliance on team members to engage with team goals and objectives. The increase in engagement improves company culture, which helps team members align with the collective goals. In aligning with shared goals and values, team members recognize the value of their contributions and are confident in their ability to meet or exceed expectations. Communicating directly with top-level executives and managerial staff in mentorship programs also gives team members a broader perspective on organizational structure. This perspective may help them in their roles and improve the quality of their recommendations for improving processes.

Improves the bottom line

Effective leadership programs improve your team's bottom line by reducing costs and providing a significant return on investment. For instance, preparing team members for managerial opportunities and cultivating their skills can help reduce hiring costs. The company can also improve its bottom line by reducing turnover, onboarding, separation, and replacement costs. You can then reallocate the resources from these areas to improve the leadership development program for future team members.

Encourages diversity

Recognizing and developing the leadership potential of team members can help encourage diversity and provide inclusive opportunities. Such opportunities allow team members to emerge and develop their skills. This provides a pool of diverse team members to assume future leadership and managerial roles. With greater diversity in leadership positions, you can make the company more inclusive.

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