Leadership Development

Some of the most successful companies around the world have been using leadership development for years. However, recently, it is becoming more popular than ever as the benefits are more evident.

Now, there are whole companies dedicated to teaching businesses how to develop leaders, and awards and recognition are given to those who have exemplary programs. The benefits of leadership development go well beyond winning accolades, though.

What is Leadership Development

Leadership development is when a company trains employees to move up into leadership roles. Organizations do this by strengthening workers to take on leadership duties. There are many qualities that you have to develop to become a strong leader, and the companies that are the best at leadership development focus on all of them.

It is one thing for an organization to say they develop leaders and another for them to follow through with it. Many small or less honest businesses misrepresent themselves because they know that employees are more likely to choose that employer if they know there is room for them to grow into a leading role.

However, companies that implement a training program and utilize it to develop talent reap the benefits that go along with adopting a leadership mindset. Businesses that develop leaders are less likely to hire outside individuals to perform in these roles unless the position calls for very specialized knowledge or education the current staff members do not possess.

That means, most of the companies developing their leaders promote employees from within. These workers then take on more advanced roles and help to train others to do the same.

Developing Managers vs. Developing Leaders

Management differs from leadership in many ways. Managers and supervisors are put in place to look over employees and make essential decisions regarding the direction of the company and the way workers carry out job functions. Managers rarely take the opinions of lower-level employees into account when they make crucial decisions.

In companies with managers in place, there is usually less room for lower-level employees to move up in the organization. The inability to grow into a more significant role means employees are less likely to take ownership of their position. They are merely coming to work to gather a paycheck, and they likely do not see their current role as a long-term career.

In contrast, employees at companies that emphasize developing teams and strengthening the skills of the entire staff feel more responsible for the direction of the company and themselves. They know that if they follow the program set forth for them at some point, they will have the ability to advance their careers.

In leadership-driven organizations, the opinions of employees are taken into account. The upper-level leaders also pay more attention to the environment they create in the workplace, which creates a more beneficial company culture.

How to Implement a Leadership Development Program

Implementing a leadership development program is easier than you might think. It does take time and effort to set up correctly, but the benefits are lasting, and a leadership program will help your business grow in positive ways.

Set a Clear Mission Statement and Organizational Goals

The first step if you have not done so already is to create a mission statement and clear goals for your organization. These goals will serve as a guide for employees at all levels, and they will help the leaders know where they need to focus. The mission statement should be easy to understand and something the entire staff can easily remember or summarize.

The goals should include specific and desired goals and give a general idea of where the company is heading. It is a good idea to set timelines. For example, if your organization wants to add five new products in the next year, include that information. You can also create more long-term goals in terms of production, customer retention, new hires, additional leadership roles, and more.

However, keep in mind that goals should be attainable. You do not have to reach every goal in the exact timeline specified, but setting unrealistic expectations for growth can make employees feel discouraged or inadequate, which does not support a leadership mindset.

Evaluate Your Company for Necessary Leadership Roles

Next, you want to evaluate your company needs in terms of leadership roles. You will want to make a shift from traditional management roles, but it is also a good idea to identify any leaders you lack in your organization.

For example, a large company might have departments that they break up into teams that are each responsible for a particular function. Each team needs a leader who helps to develop critical skills in other employees.

When you start a program, you do not necessarily need to hire outside help. It is better to select leaders amongst the staff members who already work for your company since this is what you will do in the future.

Talk About the Changes You Are Making

You need to let everyone in the organization know about coming changes and that the business is making changes to implement a leadership development program. Pass out the mission statement and the business goals and let them know you will be working with them to develop them into leaders.

Most employees will be excited about the positive changes you are making. However, effective leadership requires open communication on all levels, so it is a good idea to start this practice from the start. It is an excellent way to give employees a glimpse of the changes that are coming.

Assess Employees for Leadership Skills

After you determine what leaders you need, you need to find the employees who have the best skills for the task. Leadership assessment is a great way to do that. There are many tools you can use to assess the employees in your organization. You can utilize questionnaires, quizzes, or talk to each person individually.

Develop Leadership Skills

Once you have a clear understanding of the skills your staff is working with, you can develop those skills to make them useful in their new roles. There are many skills you will need to focus on in your leaders. However, some of the most important are:

  • Effective communication
  • Active listening
  • Team building
  • Goal setting
  • Constructive criticism
  • Conflict resolution

Develop a Leadership Mindset

Developing a leadership mindset is an integral part of creating a program that works. Everyone needs to be on board for you to get the best results. Empowering others, taking accountability, showing appreciation, and constant learning are critical aspects you need to create a culture in your company that supports a leadership mindset.

Set Measures for Accountability

If your leadership development us going to be successful, it is vital to establish measures and hold employees at all levels accountable for their actions and for taking part in the program. You can do this by offering courses that help develop critical skills and requiring employees to sign up and complete them when they have downtime on the job.

However, it is vital to employee morale that you ensure each person has the same opportunity to participate. Therefore, if employees are not completing the necessary training to advance their position in the company, the employee and team leader should be held accountable. By doing this, you encourage leaders to take an active role in developing their team.

Be Consistent and Follow Through

If you say you are going to be developing leaders in your organization, do it. One of the worst mistakes a company can make is leading its valuable employees by making them think they have an opportunity for growth when the prospect does not legitimately exist.

Additionally, you should set clear timelines for how long an employee can expect to be in their current role before they can move into a more significant position within your organization. If an employee does everything you require of them, they should not have to wait for years. So, be very clear about what leadership roles are necessary.

Hold Company-Wide, Team, and Individual Meetings

Many of the businesses that are the best at developing leaders hold annual conferences where everyone in the organization can come together and get on the same page. These meetings give essential updates about what direction a company is heading and what goals they have accomplished since the last gathering.

Many larger businesses also take this opportunity to introduce new products, services, and processes they are implementing in the future. It is a fantastic opportunity to give valuable information to everyone at the same time, and it helps to bring everyone together for a common purpose.

Team meetings should be held more regularly. These allow each employee to discuss things that are important to them or areas they think they can improve. These sessions are often set up in an open forum giving everyone a chance to share their opinions.

During team meetings, leaders should actively take notes to document the opinions of their team members. The information gathered gives excellent insight that helps leaders make necessary changes or better support their team as a whole.

In addition to company-wide and team meetings, leaders should take time to meet with each employee individually to talk about concerns they are not comfortable sharing with the whole team. Doing this allows leaders to learn about each team member and how they can help develop each person.

When leaders meet with employees one on one they can express appreciation for the job that an employee is doing, identify areas in which they need to improve, and set goals the employee needs to work towards before they meet again.

Cross-Train Employees

Training employees to take on additional roles in the company is extremely helpful when you make the switch to leadership development. It gives people the ability to learn new skills and tasks. Therefore, they are better equipped when you promote leaders to step into new roles.

Doing this also helps employees realize they are not stuck in the position they currently hold. It might take time to promote leaders within your company, but that does not mean you cannot train employees while to succeed in other positions on their team in the meantime.

Furthermore, cross-training employees helps to build accountability for the team as a whole. It is not uncommon during busy times for one employee to become overwhelmed in their position while others are left waiting for the work to reach them. If everyone can help out in each function, you can move people around to get the job done more effectively.

Employees also feel more comfortable taking time off for vacation or sick days when they know their work or team will not suffer because they are not at the office. Everyone needs to have the ability to enjoy a vacation with their family from time to time without worrying that everything is falling apart in their absence.

Qualities to Develop in Leaders

Effective leaders are dynamic and skilled in many things. Furthermore, every level of leadership benefits from consistently developing qualities that make them more qualified. To develop specialized skills in top-level leaders, you need to be vigilant, and you might need to enlist the help of outside organizations to assist.

Excellent Communication

Leaders need to be excellent communicators. That means they need to speak to their team regularly to let them know where they stand concerning meeting goals and deadlines. They also need to have the ability to motivate team members by talking to them about the critical aspects of everyday work life.

Through communication, employees feel more confident, and they are better able to focus on the tasks they need to complete. Without these skills, teams fall apart when times are tough. So, developing excellent communication in leaders is extremely important.

The Ability to Give Effective Feedback

Constructive criticism is essential, but it needs to come across as sincere. So, it is essential to help leaders become effective at giving feedback. Each employee should know if they need to make improvements in an area.

Giving feedback when an employee is doing a less than adequate job might be difficult for some individuals at first. They do not want to come across as being critical. However, if you do not let people know when they need to work on something, they are unable to make changes to become better in the future.

You can help leaders develop this skill by giving them insight into areas they need improvement in a constructive way. No matter what position someone holds within your organization, they always have room for improvement. So, constructive criticism should be given to employees at every level, so the entire organization is becoming the best at what they do.

Active Listening

Active listening is an important skill because leaders can use it when they are communicating with team members or customers. When a leader actively listens, the entire company will see the benefits. When developing this skill, it is vital to educate on how to be an attentive listener.

It involves far more than just listening to someone or even giving them your undivided attention. You have to pay careful attention to the person’s body language and put yourself in their position to better understand where they stand on the subject.

When you are practicing attentive listening, it is crucial to let the person finish their thoughts and then ask questions to be sure you know what they meant. If there is a misunderstanding, you must give the other person the opportunity to explain what they mean.

Active listening is one of the more difficult skills you can teach managers, but it is worthwhile. Leaders who utilize this type of communication are better able to gather data, and they come across as being sincere and relatable.

Team Building

Team building is an effective skill that high-level leaders have to develop for an organization to be successful. There is much more to building a team than hiring qualified individuals. You have to support the team you put together and build them up as a whole, which often requires cross-training, actively listening, giving useful feedback, and consistent communication so everyone is on the same page.

Analyzation and Adaptation

The ability to analyze a situation is vital when you are guiding a group of employees. Leaders cannot only set goals and assign tasks. They have to be able to analyze where their team needs improvement and ways they can better assist customers.

Analyzing situations is a skill that takes time to develop. It often requires a leader to take a step back and look at things from an outside viewpoint.


Accountability is a quality that is important, no matter what position an employee holds. However, it starts with management. You are probably familiar with the term, “the buck stops here.” That is the attitude effective leaders have. Instead of passing off complaints or shortcomings, they take responsibility and solve the problem, whether that requires them to do the job themself or enlist the help of someone else and then followup.

You cannot expect employees to take accountability if the people who oversee them are not doing the same. So, when it comes to taking responsibility, you must lead by example. Accountability is one of the easiest skills to teach. However, it is essential to allow people to fix their mistakes after they take credit for them.

Everyone messes up at some point in their career, so allowing employees the opportunity to make things right is a good idea, and it helps people feel more comfortable owning their mistakes.

Sets Realistic Expectations

Setting realistic expectations is an outstanding leadership quality. If managers always put pressure on their team to produce results that are impossible to achieve, they will eventually stop trying. They feel as though they can not succeed anyway, so why push themselves.

It is also discouraging when you try your hardest to accomplish something, and you fall short. So, when leaders set unreachable goals, it is incredibly upsetting to the people who want to do well.

Furthermore, a leader should communicate with their team when they do set an unattainable goal. Taking accountability in this situation helps leaders be more relatable. Most leaders will set optimistically set a goal that is challenging at some point. So, letting staff members know that you appreciate the efforts they made instead of focusing on them not completing a challenging task is a better approach.


Having relatable leaders is beneficial because it makes staff members more comfortable communicating with them. Being relatable in the workplace is not always easy because everyone wants to come across as being professional.

However, you can be relatable and professional at the same time. It is okay to share your personality or be humorous as long as you are not offensive. You can also share some details about your personal life that others will identify within their lives.

Actively listening and taking accountability are also ways to be more relatable to others without sharing too much about yourself. Through active listening, you are showing that you care about other’s feelings, and you are willing to take time to get to know them. You can also ask employees about what they enjoy in their time off and about things they would like to do in the future.

When you take accountability for your mistakes, you seem more human. Everyone relates to making a mistake from time to time. So, showing others that you are not always perfect makes them feel comfortable to do the same.

Benefits of Leadership Development

The benefits of leadership development reach all levels in a company, and even the community and clients reap the benefits. Many organizations give this opportunity to their team members, and the impact is far-reaching.

For example, a lower-level employee at Walmart can move up the ranks from a cart pusher to a high-level division supervisor because Walmart develops leaders and promotes from within. That means his family is able to live a better life, and he can give back to his community in ways he would otherwise not be able.

A Beneficial Culture

Culture is becoming one of the most important elements potential employees consider when they decide to go to work for an organization. The culture in a company benefits when people are happy to come to work and when the business supports them in building essential skills and furthering their career.

Higher Employee Morale

Employee morale improves when your team is confident that they are going places. They feel more secure in their future, so they are more likely to stay committed to the company where they work. When a business invests in its employees, they are willing to go the extra mile for each other as well.

Leadership development gives everyone a clear path and the ability to improve their situation both at work and at home. They know it might be necessary to do grunt work for the time being, but in the future, they can make their career goals a reality by staying the course.

Better Employee Retention

Employee retention is vital for a business that wants to use its resources wisely. Training new team members requires the use of valuable time and assets. Having a high turnover rate is also bad for business.

Through leadership development, you can increase employee retention. The people who work for you know they mean something to the organization, and they have a future there. Unless another company offers them a significantly better position or higher pay, they are unlikely to leave.

Improved Client Relations

Customers enjoy getting to know the people they deal with regularly. When they have to work with someone new every time they do business with you, they are less likely to use your companies products and services in the future. Additionally, it does not look good when clients are continually told that an employee decided to go work for another company. It often makes them question whether they, too, should consider one of your competitors.

When a customer calls in to speak to an employee they know, and they are told that the person has moved up in the organization, it makes them happy. People are generally pleased to hear that people they like are doing well, and it makes them pleased to do business with a company that helps their staff reach a new level in their career.

Final Thoughts On Leadership Development

With so many benefits, it is clear why businesses are putting more of a focus on leadership development. It is one of the best ways to grow an organization and help each person become the best they can be.

The positive impact has the potential to help not only the people you employ but also society as a whole because you are allowing people to improve their lives. When you develop leaders, you boost self-esteem and create a sense of accountability not only in the workplace but also in the everyday lives of your team members.

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