Graphic reading "How to Develop a Successful Leadership Development Strategy". Photo shows a wood silhouette cut out of a man stepping up higher with a hand holding the next step.

Investing in a leadership development strategy can result in major positive impacts on your organization’s bottom line. While larger companies may have entire teams within their structure dedicated to leadership development, smaller companies still can have and put effective programs to work.

By setting leadership development as an overall company goal, you are preparing in advance for change and building strong leaders for tomorrow. Here are 5 ways to create a successful leadership development plan within your business.

1) Understand Your Business’ Needs

You cannot fix a problem if you have not fully identified the issue. Even if you are aware that you need a leadership development plan, the full picture of opportunity may not be clear. The Harvard Business Review reported one of the main reasons leadership training fails is due to a misalignment of goals and misunderstanding employee needs.

By speaking with or conducting anonymous surveys of employees, you can better understand what the needs are for your business. Asking questions about what is and is not working will provide a clear picture of leadership development needs. 

You also should identify which roles within your organization need successors ready to go. These roles are not only for the C-level but also are for leaders at every level whose roles are essential to keeping the organization running and performing well.

2) Determine Who is Best Fit for Leadership

Now that you have a better understanding of company needs, it’s time to evaluate employees and managers to determine the best fit.

One of the best ways to establish goals for your key employees is to have one-on-one discussions. Are they interested in a leadership role within your organization? What is their confidence level? What skills do they possess and where do they need more support?

Speaking with managers and project leaders also will provide insight into employee potential. Do they naturally take on leadership roles during important projects? What are their leadership skills?

3) Create Individual and Company Goals

With the employees best suited for leadership in mind, you now are ready to create goals for the individual that complement your company goals. Setting clear milestones for future leaders keeps everyone on track and helps you measure success.

Be mindful when setting goals. If they are too big of a stretch, no one will be motivated to work toward them, thinking that they are unachievable. If you make them too easy, no one will feel challenged.

Work with future leaders to establish their goals. Understanding the approach needed to create attainable goals is a strong leadership trait. This can be one of the first lessons in leadership development training.

4) Implement Sustainable Programing

Once you have goals in place, it’s time to select the most effective type of training for the individual. Multiple types of training can and should be used to develop leaders. Having a wide range of knowledge from many sources can set future leadership up for success.

Options for programming include:


Match future leaders with your key people filling the role currently.  Your future leaders will learn from their mentors and receive advice and feedback to support their leadership development growth.

Servant Leadership

This type of leadership is based on serving the organization by doing many different roles and tasks within the company.  The hands-on experience then will establish their authority within the organization before they take on a leadership role. Future leaders can practice this type of leadership by working at all levels of the organization from customer-facing roles to back-office support functions.

Servant Leadership

Working alongside leaders from different areas of the organization can show those in training a more well-rounded view of leadership. Seeing how other departments handle problems and opportunities provides valuable insight.

Off the Shelf Programs

These programs are created by other organizations to develop leadership capabilities. They sometimes are conducted as a retreat over 3 days or as a digital course. While these programs can be valuable to learn foundational skill sets as well as new perspectives, they can be too generic to use by themselves.

Professional Certifications

Working toward a professional certification allows future leaders to ask questions and develop their skill sets at the same time. These certifications can be as small as a LinkedIn Learning course or as intensive as a course from a leading business school. By earning these certifications and speaking with mentors on how to install them into your organization, students are planning for the future

Programs to implement in leadership development are seemingly endless and what works for one person and one company may not have the same effect on another person or business. The Center for Creative Leadership offers a detailed list of options in their White Papers

5) Provide Regular Assessments 

Once you set a goal, it is essential that you revisit it and evaluate your progress toward that goal. Individual self-assessments, mentor assessments, and manager assessments are all important tools to understanding the success of your training. 

If you conduct an assessment and find that a goal is not being met or worked toward, you can shift the programming focus. If a goal was achieved quickly, you can assess for and create new goals, finding areas for improvement based on feedback. 

It’s important to remember that leadership development strategy is a continuous process and not something that can be achieved in a single quarter. Consistently evaluating your future leaders in their training and their development sets you up for success.

Establishing an effective leadership training program within your organization can be a challenge.  Working alongside a leadership development expert will make this process easier and often more effective. 
Set up a call with Double Iron Consulting today, to learn how we can help create the best leadership development strategy for your company.