How to Create a Successful Leadership Development Program

Group of people at a board room table against a pink background How to Create a Successful Leadership Development Program


A leadership development program (LDP) helps individuals grow and advance their leadership skills. It can be an essential part of organizations who want to help cultivate high potential leaders to take the company to the next level.

Leaders are essential for any organization, and without them, there is no clear path or vision. To create a successful leadership development program, it is crucial to understand what makes a great leader.

Let’s review the steps to create and implement your corporate leadership development program encompassing everything from training and coaching to mentorship programs and online resources.

What is a leadership development program?

It’s a structured process that helps develop employees’ leadership skills. It’s a framework to help organizations identify and grow their future leader and typically includes a variety of components like skills assessment, trainings, and experiential learning elements.

What are the benefits of a leadership development program?

There are many, but let’s start with just a few:

Improved organizational performance

These programs can help improve the organizational performance as it develops leaders at all company levels. This, in turn, creates better training and effective workforce able to achieve common goals and objectives.

Increased employee engagement

Employees are often more engaged when they feel that their leaders are invested in their future. In addition, a leadership development program sends a clear message to employees that the organization values them and wants to help them grow professionally.

Better succession planning

When leaders know that an established system is in place, they are more likely to plan for their next step in the organization—rather than leaving it to level up. A well-run LDP will help ensure that there is a pipeline of qualified leaders ready to take on senior roles within the company as they come up.

Improved decision-making

Leaders are better equipped to navigate difficult situations and make informed choices when they have access to training resources and mentors that help them grow as professionals.

Increased motivation

People who have participated in a leadership development program may be more likely to be motivated and inspired. They’ve learned new skills and gained valuable insights that help them achieve their professional goals.

Improved communication and teamwork

As they learn how to communicate effectively and work together with their teams, leaders can help to create a positive and productive work environment. They can also help train and develop their direct reports using their newfound expertise.

Increased innovation

People who have participated in a leadership development program may be more innovative. Leaders who are constantly learning and expanding their skillset can learn to think outside the box and come up with new ideas.

Leadership Development Program High Five between colleagues man and a woman

What are some things to consider when creating a company leadership program?

Ready to create your leadership development program? Here are few things to keep in mind:

Choose the right format

The format of your LDP will depend on the needs of your organization, so it’s essential to choose a structure and format that will best meet the program’s goals. It is also necessary to keep in mind the participants’ time commitment.

Create goals and objectives

It is important to set clear and attainable goals for participants. This will help you measure the program’s success and make necessary adjustments along the way. Without measurable goals, it will be difficult to determine if the program is meeting its objectives or the needs of your people.

Some examples of measurable goals for an LDP might be:

  • Reduce management turnover by #%
  • Reduce time to fill vacant management roles by # days
  • Increase employee satisfaction by #%
  • Improve customer satisfaction scores by #%

Design comprehensive curriculum

Your program should cover all aspects of leadership, from communication and decision making to conflict resolution and team building exercises. The curriculum should be designed to meet the specific needs of your organization. Leverage the expertise of your internal leaders to build out the programming to meet the needs of the up-and-coming staffers.

Make sure the content is engaging

The content of your leadership development program should be interesting for participants—they should feel like what they learn is actionable and will help them be better at their current jobs and be ready for the next step. If it’s not, they may lose interest quickly or feel like their time isn’t well spent.

Include a variety of training methods

A successful leadership development program includes a variety of training methods, such as expert-led lectures, case studies, role-playing exercises, and simulations. Remember there are different learning styles in the room—and a mix of personality types. Variety can help participants connect with and increase their understanding of the material.

Provide adequate support and resources

Leadership development programs can be expensive and time-consuming to implement. Be sure you have adequate resources to support the program or seek out experts who can help you create one. This includes financial resources, as well as human ones.

Evaluate the program often

It is crucial to evaluate a leadership development program on a regular basis. This will help you determine if it’s meeting its goals and objectives—and make necessary adjustments. Without evaluation, it will be challenging to prove the program’s effectiveness or spot issues you need to address.


Leadership Development Program Engage Your Leaders four people at a meeting with one looking at this watch

What are some common mistakes organizations make when implementing an LDP?

Let’s take a look at a few things that could hinder the success of your program:

Failing to get buy-in from senior leaders

One common mistake is failing to get buy-in from senior leaders. It is crucial to involve them in the planning process and get their input on the program’s goals. When the senior leaders are on board, they can help champion the program to emerging leaders and help ensure success.

Not targeting the right employees

It’s also important to target the right people for the leadership development program. Your program should be designed to meet the organization’s specific needs, so developing it around the correct teams is essential. Targeting the wrong people can be a waste of time and resources.

Not providing enough support

The program should be given the necessary resources to be successful including funding, staff, and facilities. Without proper support, the program will struggle to meet its goals.

Not having a clear purpose

The program needs to have specific goals and objectives that are aligned with the company’s strategy. Without this focus, the program will lack direction and will not be able to achieve its potential.

Not being able to measure success

Organizations should establish metrics upfront and track progress over time. It is also important to get feedback from participants to see what they are getting out of the program—or what they would change.

Failing to develop a pipeline of leaders

Leadership development programs are created to develop current leaders and groom future business leaders. This way, the organization will have a pipeline of leaders ready to take on senior roles when needed. This requires a long-term commitment from the organization and investment in talent management and training initiatives.

Underestimating the time and effort required to implement an LDP

Another blunder organizations make is underestimating the time and effort required to implement leadership programs. It takes significant planning and resources to launch a successful program. Trying to do it on the cheap or on the fly is likely to result in failure.

Not having a plan for sustainability

A leadership development program should be designed to be self-sustaining with funding and resources allocated for long-term investment. This way, the program will continue to benefit the company even long after the initial investment has been made.

Not providing adequate time and support for users

Be sure to give sufficient time and assistance to program participants to step away from their regular duties and benefit from the training experience. If they cannot put down their work to truly engage in the training experience, they may be too distracted to really benefit from it.

Not having a team to manage the LDP

Resources may be tight right now, but ideally, organizations will have someone dedicated to owning their leadership program. A designated team can help to ensure that the program runs smoothly and meets its objectives.

Not involving stakeholders in the process

Stakeholders should be consulted on all aspects of the program, from its design to how it will be rolled out and measured. Organizations that fail to involve stakeholders in the early stages of the process can run into problems down the road.

Expecting employees to learn everything on their own

The program should be designed to support employees as they learn and grow in their roles. It should provide opportunities for them to practice what they have learned and receive feedback along the way.

Expecting immediate results from the LDP

LDPs take time to implement and yield results. It takes time for employees to learn and develop skills and behaviors and put them into practice. The program should be designed with this in mind, with milestones and benchmarks that can be used to measure progress over time. It’s essential to be patient and give the program a chance to work before judging its effectiveness.

Failing to follow up

Companies should continue to develop their leaders even after the program has ended. It’s also important to stay in touch with participants and help them implement what they have learned.


Leadership Development Program Women Leaders standing in front of a white board

Why do you need a leadership development program?

Leadership development programs are essential for organizations because they help to ensure that the organization has a pipeline of qualified leaders who can take on key roles as the organization grows and changes. Leaders who have gone through a leadership development program are also more likely to be successful in their positions, leading to better outcomes for the organization.

Leadership development programs can help leaders grow and learn new skills

An LDP can help leaders to grow and learn new skills. By attending workshops, participating in group activities, and receiving coaching or mentorship from more experienced leaders, participants in an LDP can develop the skills they need to be successful in their roles. Additionally, leadership development programs can provide opportunities for leaders to network with other leaders and build relationships that can help them in their careers.

A well-run leadership development program can improve organizational performance

When leaders are better equipped to handle their responsibilities, it can lead to improved organizational performance. This can be seen in terms of increased productivity, profitability, and employee satisfaction. Additionally, a leadership development program can help build a positive culture within the organization, further improving performance.

Leaders who participate in leadership development programs are more likely to stay with their organizations

Leaders who have participated in leadership development programs are more likely to stay with their organizations. This is because they have gained the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in their roles. And they have developed relationships with other leaders within the organization. Additionally, a leadership development program can help build a culture of continuous learning within an organization, keeping leaders engaged and motivated.

Leadership development programs teach leaders how to be effective and efficient

One of the key benefits of leadership development programs is that they teach leaders how to be effective and efficient. Leaders who have gone through an LDP learn how to set goals, manage their time, and make decisions effectively. This can lead to better outcomes for the organization.

Leadership development programs provide a forum for leaders to share their experiences and learn from one another

Leadership development programs provide a forum for leaders to share their experiences and learn from one another. This is a valuable opportunity for leaders to learn from each other and gain new perspectives. Additionally, sharing experiences can help to build relationships between leaders. And when leaders are more connected to one another, they are more likely to work together collaboratively.

Leadership development programs are beneficial for both the individual leader and the organization as a whole

Leadership development programs are beneficial for both the individual leader and the organization as a whole. Leaders who participate in LDPs can develop the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in their roles. And organizations can benefit from having a pipeline of qualified leaders who are prepared to take on key roles as the organization grows and changes.


How to build a leadership development program at your company

Organizations should start by assessing their needs and then designing a program that meets them. It’s important to involve leaders at all levels in the program’s design so that it is tailored to the organization. Once the program is designed, it should be implemented with care and attention paid to ensuring that participants are engaged and supported throughout the process.

When creating a leadership development program, there are a few key considerations:

♦ First, decide what goals you want the program to achieve. Is it designed to develop future leaders of the organization? To help current leaders improve their performance? Or to build relationships between different levels of management? Once you have clarity on the goals, you can start to design specific activities and modules that will help achieve them.

♦ Second, assess the needs of your organization. What gaps does the organization have in terms of leadership development? What skills and competencies are required for leaders at all levels? The program should be tailored to meet these specific needs.

♦ It is essential to involve leaders at all levels in the program’s design. This will ensure that it is relevant and applicable within the organization’s context. Leaders who participate in designing the program are also more likely to champion it once it’s launched.

♦ Ensure that participants are engaged and supported throughout the process. And once it is up and running, there should be regular check-ins to ensure that participants are making progress and that the program is meeting their needs and the organization’s.


How to measure results of your leadership development program

When designing a leadership development program, it is essential to think about how you will measure success.

  • First, you can assess participant satisfaction. This can be done through surveys or interviews with program participants.
  • Second, you can look at changes in the behavior or performance of participants. This may require tracking data over time or conducting post-program evaluations.
  • Finally, you can also look at the program’s impact on the organization as a whole. This could involve assessing organizational outcomes such as employee retention or customer satisfaction levels.

No matter what, it’s essential to set up a system for measuring results so that you can track progress and ensure that the program is having the desired impact.

Leadership development program examples

There’s no set pattern to follow when creating your own programs since the requirements and challenges of each company are different. But remember that course material and structure are key—and should be infused with relevant topics.

Here are some examples of types leadership development programs:

Mentorship programs

These typically pair a more experienced leader with a less experienced one to provide guidance, support, and advice. The mentor can help nurture the protégé’s skills and abilities while also teaching them about the company culture and expectations.

Mentorship programs have been shown to be successful in developing leaders since they offer both practical experience and knowledge transfer from the mentor. These are versatile and can be tailored to meet the company’s specific needs.

Leadership academies

Leadership academies are more intensive training programs that focus on giving participants theoretical knowledge as well as experiential learning opportunities. They often last for several weeks or months and cover topics such as leadership theory, team dynamics, change management, communication, etc. Leadership academies can be beneficial as participants learn about different aspects of leadership, which can then be put into practice.

Many organizations put together leadership academies to function as schools for leaders. They provide training on essential skills such as communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Attendees can be from all levels of an organization, not just those in senior positions.

Coaching Program

Coaching programs help leaders to focus on personal development and growth. Coaching programs pair a leader with a coach who helps them identify and achieve their goals. The coach provides support and advice while also holding the leader accountable for their progress.

Coaches are often hired from outside of the company and they work with the leader on a one-to-one basis to help set goals and develop a plan to achieve them. They also provide support and advice along the way.

Rotational assignments

This approach involves giving employees different assignments in parts of the business so that they can gain experience in an array of areas. In addition, it allows them to develop a network of contacts and learn about the company culture.

Rotational assignments are beneficial since they give employees a chance to try out different roles and gain a broad range of experience. They can also help leaders to identify potential successors for key positions.

Educational degrees (Certifications or MBAs)

An MBA or specialized certification can be beneficial for those looking to move into a leadership role. The coursework often covers a range of topics such as strategy, finance, and marketing. Many programs combine both classroom learning with real-world experiences.


Each of these leadership development program examples has its own benefits that can be tailored to your organization’s needs. It is important to remember that no two organizations are the same, so what works for one company may not work for another.

When designing your own leadership development program, consider what will best fit the culture and values of your organization. With careful planning and execution, you can create a successful leadership development program that will help. The bottom line is that leadership development programs are essential for organizations. They help ensure that the company has a pipeline of qualified leaders who can take on critical roles as your teams change and grow.


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