10 Steps To Create an Effective Leadership Development Plan

By Leadership Circle | May 2023

Have you ever wondered how your colleagues confidently give a presentation or lead an important meeting? Do your future career goals include managing a team? Have you ever felt stuck, comfortable doing your job but unsure how to push yourself to do more? If you want to take your leadership skills to the next level, creating a leadership development plan is a good place to start.

What Is a Leadership Development Plan?

A leadership development plan is a systematic and structured framework for improving your leadership skills and competencies. Our leadership development action plan provides a roadmap to help you benchmark your current leadership abilities, identify opportunities for growth, and adopt behaviours that will boost your effectiveness as a leader. 

Leadership development is an ongoing process that begins with self-awareness. Once you take a hard look at your leadership skills and understand where you struggle or have room to improve, you can actively address the areas that need the most work. An effective plan will enable you to create tangible leadership goals and outline the action steps necessary to achieve them. 

Think of your leadership like a muscle. The best way to keep any muscle strong and limber is to stretch it, warm it up, and use it regularly. Just like an exercise plan will help you reach your health goals, a structured and personalised leadership development plan will set you on the right path to achieve your leadership goals.

Who Is This Leadership Development Plan For?

Ideal for individuals seeking a self-directed approach to leadership development who exhibit the following characteristics:  

  • Self-starter
  • Independent learner
  • Intrinsically motivated
  • Goal-oriented

Our leadership development plan is for anyone looking to take the reins of their personal and professional development. Use our self-guided approach to assess your leadership skills, identify your core strengths and areas for growth, and build custom action steps to increase your leadership effectiveness. While Leadership Circle can offer more extensive support through certified coaching and consulting, this plan provides a framework to help you navigate your personal growth as a leader with autonomy.

The 10-Step Leadership Development Checklist

To get started, download our free leadership development plan PDF template. Then, acquaint yourself with the 10-Step Leadership Development Checklist below which will guide you toward personalising the leadership development plan based on your goals and current leadership abilities. 

1. Take Our Free Leadership Self-Assessment

Benchmark your current leadership effectiveness by taking our research-driven, free leadership self-assessment. Our assessment measures key leadership competencies and will help you gain awareness of how your patterns of thought affect your behavior and performance.

2. Uncover Leadership Development Opportunities

Use our Self-Assessment Interpretation Guide to dive beneath the surface of your assessment results and discover which of your leadership competencies need the most attention.

3. Define Your “One Big Thing”

Based on your self-assessment results, define your “One Big Thing.” This is a goal statement about your leadership that, if it were true, would profoundly impact your effectiveness as a leader. Be sure to use the present tense when crafting your “One Big Thing” statement to ensure a sense of ownership and commitment to the goal. 

Goal Prompts: 

      • What leadership behaviour or skill would make the most difference in my leadership effectiveness if strengthened?
      • What leadership qualities do I admire in others? 

Goal Examples: 

      • I am an effective decision-maker.
      • I view things from an integrated perspective.
      • I lead in a manner that is consistent with my values.
      • I value and utilise input from the team.
      • I develop others to be leaders in their own right.

4. Identify Your “One Big Liability”

Just as important as identifying your primary leadership development goal is recognising a significant behaviour that may hinder your leadership effectiveness (your “One Big Liability”). This is the area of your leadership that offers the largest opportunity for growth and improvement.

Liability Prompts:

      • What pattern of thought or behaviour do I exhibit that, if let go, would free energy and resources to take my leadership to a new level? 
      • How does this tendency limit my effectiveness as a leader?

Liability Example:

      • I tend to micromanage projects or tasks, which results in limiting my team members’ autonomy and stifling creativity.

5. Create Your Vision for the Future

Wouldn’t it be great if you could exercise just one time as a teenager and guarantee that your muscles would be healthy, flexible, and strong the rest of your life? Unfortunately, the body doesn’t work that way—and neither does leadership. Your leadership development journey should be guided by an overarching, multiyear vision of who you want to become and what you want to achieve as a leader.

Vision Statement Prompts:

      • What would I do or create if I knew I would not fail?
      • Where will I be, who will I become, and what will I have accomplished in five years?

Vision Statement Example:

      • I am a strategic leader who excels at navigating complex challenges by fostering a culture of trust and open communication.

6. Define Your “Start” and “Stop” Behaviors

What action steps are you willing to take to make your vision a reality? Determine one new behaviour to start and another behaviour to stop in support of accomplishing your “One Big Thing.” If you’re stuck on which behaviours to select, reflect on your “One Big Liability” and consider behaviours that may mitigate that tendency.

Start Behavior Example:

      • I will take full accountability for my actions and the outcomes of my decision and treat each scenario as a growth opportunity.

Stop Behavior Example:

      • I will stop blaming others when things don’t go well.

7. Create an Accountability Circle

Leadership doesn’t exist in a bubble. You need feedback to make real progress on your leadership development journey. Select five to eight trusted individuals with whom you interact with on a regular basis. Close friends and current or former colleagues make great candidates. Share with them your “One Big Thing” and your “Start” and “Stop” behaviours, and ask them to provide frequent and candid feedback on your leadership development progress. 

8. Practice, Practice, Practice

Gaining significant ground toward your “One Big Thing” will take sustained effort and consistent practice. This requires being fully present and consciously focused on responding thoughtfully to situations, rather than reacting impulsively to them, and mindfully implementing your “Start” and “Stop” behaviours.

9. Reflect and Adjust

Part of being fully present in the midst of your leadership development journey is pausing periodically to reflect on your progress and being prepared to adjust your vision and goals to accommodate your growth and change. Research suggests that journaling can improve cognitive processing and self-awareness, making it a powerful strategy for reflecting on your leadership development.

Below is a sample journaling schedule with reflection prompts that will enable you to think critically about your leadership development, considering the gains you’ve made and the opportunities for improvement that remain.

Daily Reflection Prompts:

      • What challenges did I face today and how did I handle them? 
      • What actions or decisions am I proud of today? 
      • What could I have done differently or better?

Weekly Reflection Prompts:

      • What were my most significant accomplishments as a leader this week? 
      • What was my biggest challenge and how did I respond?

Monthly Reflection Prompts:

      • How has my leadership evolved over the past month?
      • Did I exhibit the leadership behaviors I intended to?  
      • What areas do I still need to improve upon?

Quarterly Reflection Prompts:

      • What are the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about my leadership in the past quarter? 
      • How well did I align my intentions with my leadership vision and values this quarter? 
      • In what areas do I still need to grow as a leader and how can I address these gaps in the coming quarter?

Annual Reflection Prompts:

      • What leadership achievements or milestones did I accomplish this year? 
      • Are my future vision and “One Big Thing” still relevant or do they need to be adjusted? 
      • What leadership competency do I need to focus on the most to facilitate progress toward my current goals and vision?

10. Measure Your Progress

As you make headway on your leadership development journey, there are several ways to measure your progress, such as:

Peer Feedback: Rely on feedback from those within your Accountability Circle to gauge your leadership effectiveness.

Leadership Assessment Retake: Assuming you began this journey by taking the free leadership self-assessment, retaking this assessment once you’ve implemented your leadership development plan can provide valuable insight into how your effectiveness as a leader has evolved and what areas still need improvement.

Journal Review: During your leadership development journey, reviewing early journal entries can be a valuable way to gauge how your leadership skills have matured.

Next Steps

Once you’ve reviewed the checklist above, download our free leadership development plan PDF template to get started with personalising your own plan!

Remember, it’s the journey, not the destination. Leadership development is a process, and progress is incremental. With patience, dedication, and consistent practice, you will continually improve as a leader. 

Need expert assistance with your leadership development journey?

Enlist our certified coaches to guide you along the process. Leadership Circle offers leadership development coaching and consulting for individuals, teams, and organisations of all sizes.

Coaching Services

Increase your capability, adaptability, & confidence by working with our industry-leading coaches.

Learn More

Organisational Consulting

Make leadership effectiveness a competitive advantage within your team or organisation.

Learn More

Subscribe to Access our Free Leadership Development Plan PDF

Subscribe to receive the latest tips, resources, and insights on leadership development.