Creating an Effective Leadership Development Strategy

Creating an Effective Leadership Development Strategy


Creating an Effective Leadership Development Strategy 
Why do organizations need to develop a leadership strategy?

The ability of an organization to achieve success is through its leadership capabilities. An organization’s culture is defined by the collective actions of formal and informal leadership acting together to achieve the organization vision, mission and goals.

Success cannot be accomplished by the will or power of a single leader or group of leaders within the chain of command.  Great leadership relies on the ability of leaders to be interdependent, transparent, collaborative, influential, and communicative across the organization.

Creating a leadership strategy requires a systems approach to identify the qualifications and quantity of leaders needed across the organization.  In addition, the strategy will include a thorough review of the leadership competencies needed to support the organization’s culture, strategy, and desired leadership style.

A review is conducted of the “leader’s bench strength” (experience, competencies, knowledge) to determine what is needed to meet the current and future strategic direction of the organization.

This also includes clarity around what qualities are needed to support the culture and the team leadership skills need to collaborative effectively to implement strategies, solve problems, make sustainable decisions, adapt to change, and address threats and opportunities.

What is required to create a leadership strategy

Creating a leadership strategy requires an Organization Development approach—this is similar to creating a business strategy.  Alignment is key!  Each component of a Leadership Strategy is aligned to the business strategy and tied to measurable outcomes.

The first step is to create a vision and mission for the leadership strategy linked to the organization vision and mission.  The next step is to collect data to analyze the current situation and needs for the future.  Once the gaps are identified, an action plan is created to implement the leadership strategy.  The plan must be aligned with Talent Management strategies and other organization systems.   The key to success in sustaining the leadership strategy is gaining commitment, involvement, and accountability from all stakeholders including the senior leadership team.

Here are the steps to creating a leadership strategy:

1.       Meet with the senior leaders to gain agreement and identify the key business drivers that will determine the leadership strategy.  Gain commitment and involvement from the senior leader team.  Help them plan how they will implement the leadership strategy into the culture.
2.      Review and update the strategic plan to identify new leadership requirements for the future.  This includes doing an environmental scan to determine best practices and competitive advantages.
3.      Define the key drivers for success and how the outcomes will be measured.  Key drivers support business outcomes.
4.      Conduct an analysis of current leadership systems to identify gaps between current and future needs.
5.      Create an implementation plan and identify what resources, budget, support, time, priorities and systems are needed to support the leadership strategy.
6.      Identify the leadership development processes needed to support the leadership strategy.

a.      Hiring and Selection
b.      Onboarding
c.       Career Development
d.      Succession Planning
e.      Training
f.        Competencies and assessments
g.      Performance and Development
h.      Work Related Activities
i.        Development Activities
j.        Coaching and Mentoring
k.       Career Paths
l.        Talent Pipeline
m.    Rewards
n.      Internal Promotions

Leadership development strategies should support the leadership strategy.  Most leadership development programs are customized to meet the needs of the organization.  Many organizations fail to see the link between business strategy, leadership strategy, and leadership development strategy, and thereby, fall short in successful leadership development.

To get started on developing a sustainable leadership strategy, recognize how to implement change using an Organization Development Approach – Action Research Model.  This model will show both external and internal consultants how to help senior leaders implement successful change in creating a leadership development strategy.  You will be on your way to having a Leadership Development Program that meets the business needs of your organization.
Author: Written by Nancy Zentis, PhD. CEO and Founder, Institute of Organization Development. You can reach Nancy at


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