Your Leadership Development Plan: 9 Actionable Ways To Shape Your Career

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A leadership development plan is an action plan designed to help leaders grow and develop their skills. Without a plan like this, you may find yourself challenged like this startup leader:

My client Jake works at a fast-growing tech startup. While his name is changed for this article, I am glad he has allowed me to share his experience with you: Jake had always been a high achiever and was quickly promoted to a leadership position within his company.

As his responsibilities grew, Jake realized that he didn’t have a clear plan for developing his leadership skills. He was so focused on meeting the demands of his new role that he neglected to invest in his own growth and development. As a result, he struggled to manage his team effectively. He found himself micromanaging, lacking delegation skills, and struggling to motivate his team. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t seem to get his team to work together effectively.

Jake’s experience highlights the importance of creating a personal leadership development plan. Without a clear plan for growth and development, even the most talented and ambitious business leaders can struggle to succeed in their roles. By identifying their strengths and weaknesses and setting clear goals for improvement, emerging leaders can become more effective in their leadership roles.

You can take charge of your career trajectory as a leader by creating your personal leadership development plan.

Defining a Personal Leadership Development Plan:

A leadership development plan is an action plan designed to help leaders grow and develop their skills. It involves assessing current abilities, setting objectives, and establishing a timeline for achieving them, along with the necessary resources needed to reach the desired outcomes. It also includes actionable steps that outline the day-to-day activities required to work towards these goals.

Leadership development plans are implemented in many organizations as they provide leaders with an opportunity to identify areas of improvement and create a roadmap for personal and professional growth.

Why Is a Leadership Development Plan Important?

It Focuses on Building Critical Skills & Competencies

Leadership skill sets are more than just technical knowledge; they include the soft skills needed to understand, predict and influence people’s behaviors. Leadership development plans aim to develop the leadership qualities to build strong networks, inspire peers, collaborate effectively, and lead a team to success when faced with challenges.

A good leadership development plan allows you to push yourself out of your comfort zone and take ownership of projects that require innovative thinking, strategic planning, and creative problem-solving. A great plan will challenge you to grow your leadership competencies, expand your technical skills, equip you for future leadership roles, and enable you to achieve a tangible, positive impact on your organization.

It Helps Identifying Strengths & Weaknesses

By creating a leadership development plan, you improve specific qualities, such as communication skills and the ability to network with your peers. It helps future leaders to become better problem solvers and motivators of their teams, building mutually beneficial relationships and inspiring their colleagues with enthusiasm. It helps you to recognize areas for professional development.

A well-crafted leadership development plan is the cornerstone of any successful leadership strategy, allowing you to focus on your long-term growth.

It Provides a Roadmap

A leadership development plan provides a roadmap of personal development opportunities to help you reach your potential and advance in your career. A good plan should focus on personal strengths, goals, the current market environment, as well as industry trends.

Establish timelines and identify resources you need to achieve goals. This makes it easier to stay organized and motivated. A plan like this gives you a clear direction by creating an ideal vision for your future – one that can be easily achieved via your roadmap. It gives you agency over your destiny. 

It Helps to Develop Strategies to Overcome Obstacles

Your plan ensures that you have the knowledge and skills to recognize potential challenges and develop strategies for overcoming them. With a specific development plan, you can identify skill gaps and develop innovative strategies for meeting demanding objectives.

Leadership development plans give you the guidance you need to navigate daily challenges. They also provide the resources necessary to execute long-term growth initiatives throughout the organization. A thorough plan will equip you to handle obstacles and succeed despite the challenges you’ll undoubtedly face.

Designing a Personal Leadership Development Plan in 9 Easy Steps:

1: Define What Generally Makes a Great Leader

Great leadership is a combination of many things, with the most important being a strong understanding of vision and goal setting, adaptability to change and challenging circumstances, excellent communication skills, compassion and humility, and inspiring motivation.

In order to be an effective leader you must able to clearly define your goals, have passion and enthusiasm for their success, be able to empathize with others while also understanding the necessary boundaries to remain impartial, possess the short-term focus needed to provide tangible results combined with the long-term vision needed to ensure those results are sustainable.

Developing meaningful relationships with all stakeholders is essential as it allows for greater collaboration amongst teams and allows for an environment of trust where everyone knows that they are working together towards a common purpose.

A well-crafted leadership development plan will take these foundational qualities into account to provide a framework as the basis for successful leadership as your reference point.

2: Take a Self-Assessment

Self-assessments allow you to identify what you bring to the table as a leader and help you to design areas that need growth and improvement. As you reflect on your traits, strengths, and approaches, together with your strengths and challenges, you’ll gain greater clarity on how they affect your leadership style.

After processing the feedback from others or assessing yourself objectively, define actionable steps that will help to prepare you for taking on additional responsibilities or achieving higher levels of success that come with learning how to lead.

3: Identify Your Core Values

Identifying your core values is a critical part of designing a successful leadership development plan. Your core values inform your decisions and actions, so they “steer the ship” from behind the scenes. 

Evaluating your set of values helps you determine how closely they align with the goals and objectives you want to achieve through your plan. Awareness of your core values helps you to make confident and expedient decisions that reflect your highest standards – even when you’re under pressure.

4: Write a Personal Vision Statement

A vision statement sets your focus on a meaningful long-term goal and helps you to articulate your goal as you cultivate support around achieving your vision. When you write your vision statement, try to consider the core values that define your leadership style and strengths. 

For example, a leader might write a vision statement such as: “to help create an innovative and safe working environment which reinforces the value of collaboration, allows individuals to share their unique perspectives, and encourages its workers to pursue their passions.” 

5: Assess How Others Perceive You

Constructive feedback is an essential part of developing a successful leadership development plan. “Perception is their reality.” No matter how we see ourselves, others only get to see the impression we leave, which is their perception. It may differ from ours and when it does, it is valuable to gather this information, assess it and create a plan of action to close any gaps or distortions in the way you are perceived to how you would like to be perceived. 

Constructive feedback may come from a variety of sources such as colleagues, mentors, or current employees. You can obtain these insights by asking directly for feedback, or by using tools like a 360 assessment. The results may help you to tap into ideas that you may not have considered.

6: Identify Leadership Skill Gaps

To create an effective leadership development plan, there are three specific skill groups that need to be taken into account: interpersonal, group, and technical.

Interpersonal skills focus on communication and behavior when interacting with others, both internally and externally. Group skills are critical for success in team settings. They indicate your ability to work with a range of personalities toward achieving common goals. Technical skills refer to the knowledge needed to perform certain tasks. A proficient understanding of technology and industry-related know-how can help to advance your career as a leader.

Recognizing your current level of ability in each of these areas will allow you to close identified gaps and create an ambitious but achievable leadership development plan.

7: Set Goals

Clearly defined leadership development goals are a vital part of any successful endeavor, so it’s important to make sure that your goals meet the SMART specification. Setting Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound goals can help you plan actions and strategies to reach your desired result. Take into account obstacles that may arise to better anticipate difficulties along the way and make adjustments accordingly. This will give you a clear understanding of what it takes to reach success and how long it could potentially take depending on the nature of your goal.

8: Write an Action Plan

Crafting an Action Plan is the next important step in crafting a development plan. Action steps involve breaking each goal down into a series of activities or tasks with defined timelines, outcomes, and metrics to measure progress along the way.

Action plans should also include a process for troubleshooting issues that arise throughout the journey to reaching your objective. It’s important to remember that lack of time and resources don’t have to be roadblocks. Put solutions in place such as outsourcing or delegating responsibilities and reallocating resources or even re-evaluating your priorities to help achieve your goals efficiently and effectively.

9: Engage in Leadership Training

There are various leadership development programs that will help equip you alongside your personal development plan. To make the most of these leadership training opportunities, it’s important to be clear about what you want to get out of the training and to adjust your mindset for this so that you can get the most out of your training. Think about what leadership skills you would like to improve upon, be willing to listen, ask questions, and learn from others. How you show up will largely define your experience. 

Leverage leadership programs to develop new perspectives and strategies that can help take your leadership abilities to the next level. To determine the best program for you, write down the key skills or gaps you would like to close from your eight steps above. Your employer may have a company-specific program you can participate in, but you can also ask for support for a program that suits your specific needs.

Closing Thoughts

Leadership development plans are powerful in helping you as an emerging leader to build leadership competencies and take charge of your career. By taking the time to identify your development needs, you can create a long-term plan that helps you bridge skill gaps while making some changes to meet immediate needs for improvement. 

As you iterate and refine your plan, it will allow you to assess and grow your leadership capabilities for years to come. Ultimately, a personal leadership development plan empowers you to take ownership of your growth and career development while contributing to organizational success. 

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