Designing And Implementing A Leadership Development Program For Business

Developing leader programs succeed when the skills and behaviors fostered are aligned with the real business needs and values of the organization and not just time management.

Whether you are an internal consultant or a hired gun, there are three simple steps to ensure any leadership development program is designed well and implemented successfully.

What you need to understand first-off is that leadership development is not about teaching time or project management skills nor it is about learning how to budget and track expenditures. Leadership development is about helping people become visionaries, showing them ways to think and be strategic, and creating the internal motivation for each person to become the most distinct and unique leader she or he can be.

Leaders are strategic thinkers, focused on moving the organization to new places. Managers keep the course as charted. When companies start development programs they usually have combinations of leadership and management skills training and that is usually the key problem. Management skills can be taught by traditional class room exercises. When you start to provide the skills and knowledge needed by someone to determine which budget items should be funded compared with 40 other equally important programs and projects, then are you talking about leadership training. Leaders need to make the right decisions. Leaders need to work in the present but create the future.

The three simple steps include a series of questions to which you need to find the accurate or consistent answers. The first questions or Step 1 is: Who is my champion for leadership development? And what support will he or she provide?

You're looking for who holds the purse strings. You need to have that person fully onboard. You might have to tailor the program to ensure this check-signer is satisfied. Also, you need to know up front how much budget you have to spend on the program. The dollars are a large factor is determining what you can or cannot do. You also need to the implicit and explicit support of senior leaders for any program you deliver. They need to understand why their manager isn't going to be in a weekly staff meeting and instead will be in a class room for 4 to 8 hours each week or working on a cross-functional project for another VP.

Step 2: You must determine what is not happening in the organization: What are signs that there is a lack of leadership?

Some responses are: (a) We aren't making our numbers. (b) Our employees are unhappy. (c) My people don't have the skills. (d) We have to hire from outside for senior manager and above positions.

As you can see, some of the responses are legitimate. What you are looking for this answer is the needs assessment of what is now happening. You need to compare what is now happening to figure out what is working well and what needs help. You keep the "stuff" that's working well and discard the "stuff" that needs help.

You can ask this question in group meetings or focus groups. You can interview your senior leaders to gain their support for the program (during Step 1) and start to figure out the gap assessment. The gap is the space between what leadership behaviors are currently being exhibited and what behaviors need to be demonstrated to show leadership success. A sample of leadership skills include, but is not limited to: communication, integrity, strategic thinking, motivation and decision making.

Also embedded in this question is an understanding of key organizational values and goals. A leader must live to the organizational culture. When developing any type of program or intervention, you must do so using the language and style of the organizational group. As an internal person, this may come easier for you when compared to the external consultant who needs to be like a sponge in all meetings and interactions with employees to identify the key goals of the group and the unsaid but lived values.

Step 3: The third and final question is easy if the first two are answered in full: What curriculum and/or interventions must be created to close the leadership gaps?

The unique needs of the individuals or company determine what types of developmental activities are needed. Many programs begin with a behavior or personality styles inventory. This gives all participants a common language from which to discuss effective and ineffective behaviors. Leadership development programs cannot rely solely on class room learning, which is antithesis to the idea that leadership cannot be taught but must be experienced. You can teach the values of strong leadership and share examples of successful leaders and their actions. The individual developing leader needs to be able to create his or her own plan to closing their unique gaps and growing their unique skills. Some of the methods are mentoring, job rotations, matrix assignments, or group projects. Often times, leadership programs fail because the participant is not encouraged to be a leader within a group. And if you think about it, you cannot be a leader unless there is someone to follow.

Remember that leadership development is not about teaching how to fill-in a daily task list nor it is about reconciling expenditures. Leadership development is about helping people become inspire teams and individuals to create the future while still completing the day-to-day activities of your business.

© High Speed Ventures 2011