Create a Leadership development plan
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How to Create a Personal Leadership Development Plan
Successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes. No two workplaces,
situations, crises, or scenarios are the same, and no two leaders are
the same. And while it’s fine to say that servant leadership is the most effective type of management style (Links to an external site.), that doesn’t explain how a manager can become an effective manager. That’s where the personal leadership development plan comes into play.
The idea of developing a personal leadership development plan might
seem a bit wonky, especially if you’re already in a leadership position.
But having a plan — more specifically, a written list of leadership
development activities — is important.
On the most basic level, you want your personal leadership
development plans to be readily accessible as both reminders and
guidelines for the goals you’ve set for yourself. We’ve all made mental
to-do lists — and promptly forgotten everything on them. Same goes with a
Not sure where to start? Follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll have a leadership development plan in no time.
Step 1: Define What Generally Makes a Great Leader
The best way to make a leadership development plan is to draw
inspiration from today’s great leaders. To start, make a leadership
skills list of qualities that you think make up the traits,
competencies, abilities, and experience of a good leader.
Three samples (Links to an external site.) of skills you might put on your list:
- Honest, ethical behavior
- Being able to clearly and succinctly communicate a vision
- Using creativity and intuition to navigate difficult and unpredictable situations
Step 2: Take a Self-Assessment
Next you want to identify your core characteristics. These are
personality traits like “adventurous,” “observant,” and “impulsive.” To
do this, take a test like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (Links to an external site.) or StrengthsFinder (Links to an external site.).
Or, rally a group of friends, peers, colleagues, and family to write
down words they’d use to describe you. The course provides others –
capture all these results.
By breaking down your personality traits and strengths, you’ll have
more insight into your personal style and be able to better answer the
“Who am I?” piece of the personal leadership development process, which
we’ll get to later.
Step 3: Identify Your Core Values
Now that you’ve identified your core characteristics, it’s time to
get into the nitty gritty details and identify your core values.
Core values are the principles you use to make decisions and define
integrity and ethics. They are the things that help you weigh choices in
life, and are typically unwavering.
To help you identify what your core values might be, we’ve listed a
few below. Choose 8–12 of the following values that are most important
to you: (there are other lists within the course)
From your selections, identify 3–5 as your main core values.
Step 4: Write a Personal Vision Statement
A personal vision statement (Links to an external site.) reflects your personal traits and core values. It seeks to answer the question, “Who am I and what is my higher calling?”
To narrow this broad objective, focus on the following things:
- What you want to be (in terms of character traits – refer to your self-assessment!)
- What you want to achieve or contribute
- The principles/values you use to make decisions, big and small
The personal vision statement will become your personal constitution —
a physical reminder for you to see where you’ve been, where you are,
and where you want to go. By outlining your vision, you will have
something to look back on when it comes time to develop your goals and
write an action plan.
To give you an example of what this could look like, here is dailyworth.com founder Amanda Steinberg’s (Links to an external site.) personal mission statement:
“To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to
cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world.”
After you’ve written your personal statement, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this represent the integrity I stand for?
- Are direction, purpose, and motivation signaled in this statement?
- Is this an accurate portrait of who I want to be?
- Does this inspire me?
Remember: nothing is set in stone. Your personal statement will — and
should — evolve over time. It should reflect where you are now and
where you hope to go.
Step 5: Analyze What Others Think of You
You’ve done a lot of soul searching up to this point. However, being a
great leader isn’t just about what you think makes an effective leader.
Other people — your industry, peers, and those you lead — need to also
think you’re effective.
To check if the personality traits, core values, and personal mission
statement you settled on align with what others currently think of both
you and leaders in general, answer the following questions:
- What do you want your employees and coworkers to say about you when you are not in the room?
- Now, what do they actually say? (You might realistically know the answer to this already. If not, ask a trusted peer.)
- More generally, how do others currently perceive you?
- Do you care about others’ perceptions of you?
- What are the expectations for professionalism and leadership in your field?
- If your personal assessment doesn’t align with the answers to these
questions, are you capable of changing your image and are the benefits
worth the costs (cognitive, psychological, emotional, physical effort)
to change? Do you even want to change?
The answers to these questions should serve as a checks and balance
to all the work you did prior to this step. By identifying holes in what
you want to be vs. what people already think you are, you’ll be able to
pinpoint exactly where you need to improve, which will help with the
Step 6: Identify Current and Lacking Leadership Skills
You now have in writing leadership qualities every leader should
possess; your own personality traits, core values, and personal vision;
and a list of what other people think of you. All this reflection allows
you to accomplish this next step: Expanding on and further defining the
skills needed to become your definition of an ideal leader.
- First, identify the skills you already have. Skills are different
than traits: Skills can be taught (e.g. Excel, communication,
delegating, etc.). Traits are natural abilities that last a lifetime
(e.g. thoughtful, risk-adverse, introverted, etc.).
- Writing a resume can help identify these skills. Or, draw inspiration from these types of skills:
- Personal skills: Developing self-awareness, managing personal stress, solving problems
- Interpersonal skills: Coaching and counseling, other supportive communication, influencing and motivating others, managing conflict
- Group skills: Empowering and delegating, building effective teams and teamwork, managing change
- Technical skills: Making presentations, making policies, personnel management, budgeting, project management
- Once you’ve made your list, mark each item with an “S” if it is one
of your strengths or a “D” if it’s something that needs development. If
you’re unsure, ask a mentor, friends, and/or colleagues to offer their
- Lastly, cross reference the skills you identified with the lists you
made of “skills all great leaders have” and “the skills others think I
have (or lack).” Ask yourself, “Are there gaps in which I need to
Remember, you do not need to embody every trait a great leader may
have. You also don’t need to improve on every single skill others think
you need. Narrow down which ones you should focus on by
cross-referencing them with your core values and personal mission
statement. If the skills don’t align with these, deprioritize or bag
Once you have a list of skills prioritized in descending order by
“need development” and strengths, it’s time to make some goals.
Step 7: Set Goals
Here’s where all this prior self-analysis and research come into
play. Using the prioritized personal leadership skills list you
developed in step six, write 2–3 stretch leadership development goals
(goals that are challenging) and 1–2 manageable goals (goals that are
“SMART”) that will help you achieve each of your reach goals.
A good example of a leader who used this model is Jorgen Vig Knudstorp (Links to an external site.),
who took over as the CEO of LEGO in 2004. The family-owned business was
not in good shape, but over the next five years, Knudstorp turned the
company around. His stretch goal: To improve the company in every area.
The SMART steps he took to get there: building better relationships with
employees and customers, empowering employees to make decisions at all
levels of the hierarchy, and introducing tight fiscal controls.
SMART goals are:
- Specific: Ask who, what, where, when, why, and which
Measurable: Establish concrete criteria for measuring
progress; ask “How much?”, “How many?”, and, “How will I know when it is
Attainable: Just about any goal can be attained when
you plan steps wisely and establish a realistic time frame; ask yourself
what conditions would have to exist to accomplish the goal
Realistic: Goals should be things you are willing and
able to work toward — things you believe can be accomplished and that
you actually want to accomplish
- Timely: Goals should be grounded within a specific time frame
Step 8: Write an Action Plan
You have your goals, now it’s time to make an action plan for achieving them.
The action plan lays out the specific steps you’ll take, resources
you’ll use, and the support system you’ll build to reach your stretch
and SMART goals. If paper isn’t your thing, tools such as Trello (Links to an external site.) are available to help you keep track of everything.
Stretch goals are just that – goals that will require you to do more,
maybe utilize existing skills in a different way or create a new
network or use your existing network and skills in a new market or a new
way. Stretch is just that – causing you to grow and develop.
Don’t forget to learn new skills – reading, training programs
(including Youtube video and TED talks), and podcasts (look at success
magazine podcasts) all will help you acquire new skills.
Include conferences and meetings in your development plan and action
them. Remember the details to getting to the conference or meeting (
e.g. being prepared, preparing presentations, etc.). Each component is
part of the action planning process.
Organize your stretch and SMART goals in the following format:
- GOAL #1: (Enter goal here)
- SPECIFIC ACTIONS TO TAKE: (Pro tip: Start with a verb to incite action!)
- RESOURCES TO ASSIST DEVELOPMENT: (Including any training you may need)
Then, put them in order of importance and/or the time it will take to
achieve said goals. You now have a roadmap for achieving your goals and
becoming the leader you want to be! Remember: your finished personal
development leadership plan represents where you are now and where you
hope to go. Revisit your plan often, updating it and tweaking it as
needed, so that it reflects where you are on the road to becoming a
Create the TAP Plan to go with the Goals
Tactical Action Plans include the details: 1) what needs to be done
(list the things – not projects) and 2) breaking things down into the
individual actions will help you move forward. Often we put projects on
our to-do list and that project is made up of actions – failure to list
equals procrastination at it’s finest.
After identifying what needs to be done, identify when it
needs to be done. Some things can be done independently of others and
some are dependent – identify these items. How long will it take to
complete each task? Think about uninterrupted time – this will help with
calendaring the task. Do you need anyone’s support/assistance/actions?
If so, who and by when will you contact them? How will you contact them
and how will you follow up (creating this plan is key to monitoring and
Do any of the actions have a cost other than
time? If so, identify that cost. Do you need to buy software or other
tools? Do you need to organize a meeting – will there be food or room
cost or technology costs or is it within the existing budget? When you
add up the budget and compare to your goal/outcome – ask yourself – is
it worth it (cost) for this outcome (benefit)?
Calendar the Items
It is a good idea to discuss your development plan with all those you
would like to invite to be part of your development team – your
manager, your co-workers, other executives inside and outside your
Development plans for your Leadership Growth are different than your
performance plans for your job – think of them as a subset however the
most important part of your leadership growth will help you move your
career forward faster than anything else – remember, performance is
expected. Adding value to your performance is about Leadership!
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