The 5 Essential Ingredients of Leadership Development

This one’s for all you leadership development professionals out there – a true “LD geek” riff and commentary –although I hope the leaders that read this column can take something away from it, too.

In working with companies in my consulting practice, I often get asked about the key ingredients for leadership development – the question is generally something like: “what do we have to have to make this work?” Here are the 5 things I think you must have to really make significant progress with a leadership development effort in your company, in no particular order…

  1. Senior executive commitment & support. You could see that one coming, right? This one needs no explanation, really. The top players have to be involved, have to be bought in, etc. Especially the CEO. In fact, leadership development works best when the CEO is intimately involved in designing the programs, tools and processes that make up the LD portfolio.
  2. Leadership competencies & values. You need a blueprint to work from – something everyone has agreed on as a baseline of “what it means to be a leader in this company.” Makes sense, yes? Yet you’d be surprised how many companies don’t have this foundation.
  3. Resources & budget. Yes, a lot of leadership development doesn’t have to cost a ton of money, but some of it does. You need the right level of budget to put against the flagship leadership development programs, and you need people to staff them. Do 1 and 2 well, and then not provide the resources? You’re not going anywhere with that scenario.
  4. Clear long-term purpose. This goes along with # 1, of course. You need to know where you’re going with all of this development. Is it to fill a pipeline? Add new capabilities to existing leaders? What are the goals, short term and long term… why are you doing all of this development? You should be able to answer the “why” question.
  5. An “anchor” department/facilitator. Personally, I believe broad based, company wide leadership development efforts will only succeed if there is someone in charge of the key elements. Someone in HR (or even working through the CEO’s office) needs to be accountable for all the levers – curriculum, programs, mentoring or coaching efforts, talent review & succession planning, even executive recruiting, perhaps. Get an experienced LD professional, and give them the reins (just make sure they work well across the organization).

If you have all five of these essential ingredients, chances are you’ll have a successful leadership development story to share with others. In my view, it takes all 5 working in concert to really make this work… hopefully, you have all 5, or are well on your way to making them happen. Good luck!