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Leadership Development: What It Is & How to Create an Effective Program

5 min read

In today’s constantly evolving business environment, leadership development is essential in order for businesses to thrive.

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What is Leadership Development?

Leadership development is the process of improving essential leadership qualities and competencies in current and future business leaders. When done well, it provides them with the skills and confidence needed to effectively lead including the ability to lead through change.

Leaders who are skilled at navigating organizational change help ensure key business objectives are achieved and that employees feel secure and satisfied. When not handled properly, organizational change typically results in resources becoming overstretched and priorities competing. In addition, team members often feel a mixture of fear, anxiety, or uncertainty, which distracts them from focusing on their work.

Why Invest in Leadership Development?

In addition to empowering business leaders to successfully respond to and navigate through organizational change, leadership development benefits companies in many other ways including:

  • Succession Planning: Leadership development prepares high-potentials, team members who are identified as future business leaders, to fill key leadership positions as they become available. If leadership skills are not developed in high-potentials prior to a key position becoming available, it will be too late to do so since fostering leadership development qualities can take months or even years.
  • Innovation: Innovation results in new discoveries and successes. Therefore, for businesses to have a competitive advantage, their leaders must be able to cultivate an environment that makes their team members feel empowered to innovate. This entails their being made to feel secure enough to risk failure while experimenting with new ideas. It’s very difficult for people to have new ideas if they are feeling anxious, not supported, or don’t like their corporate culture.
  • Corporate Culture: Approachable leaders who make team members feel heard and supported positively impact company culture in many ways. They increase employee engagement, create a better work environment and atmosphere, and empower team members to achieve the company mission in addition to realizing how important their contributions are.

When businesses invest in leadership development, the benefits are impressive. According to the Association for Talent Development doing so results in:

  • 114% higher sales
  • 71% higher customer satisfaction
  • 42% better operational efficiency
  • 48% more product and work quality
  • 300% additional business referrals
  • 233% extra cross-selling
  • 36% higher productivity
  • 90% lower absenteeism
  • 49% reduced overtime work (and overtime pay)
  • 105% fewer grievances
  • 11% less downtime
  • 90% less rework
  • 60% fewer workplace accidents
  • 77% lower turnover

What Are Leadership Development Programs?

Leadership development programs are designed to empower employees at all levels to be the most effective leaders they can be. They use a combination of coaching and individualized learning to help leaders identify their strengths, overcome any weaknesses, set and achieve goals, and make positive behavioral changes.

How to Create a Strategic Leadership Development Plan

A leadership development plan outlines specific approaches to achieving leadership development goals, including the use of select leadership development programs within predetermined time frames that will achieve key business objectives.

To learn how to design a strategic leadership development plan that will help your business achieve key goals, read Creating an Effective Leadership Development Plan.

What is Leadership?

Leaders at the highest levels set the direction of their companies by having and sharing a clear and inspiring vision. All leaders must be able to map out how to achieve key business objectives. To do so, they must utilize leadership skills that motivate and guide others in a supportive, yet efficient way. They must also ensure that team members have the necessary skills and abilities to do their jobs and be able to recognize leadership potential.

In a nutshell, the best leaders:

  • Inspire trust, which makes others want to follow them.
  • Outline a clear vision, which enables teams to know where they are going and how they will get there.
  • Achieve results themselves and through others.
  • Identify and cultivate potential in others, which leads to business growth.

The Leadership Skills High-Potential to Senior Leaders Need

The breadth of challenges businesses face in today’s globally competitive environment cannot be addressed solely by the most senior executives. For this reason, businesses must be acutely aware of their leadership’s skills across all levels and know how to fill any gaps. This requires meeting each existing or potential leader where they are and providing them with the training they need to develop crucial leadership capabilities including the ability to communicate as effectively and humanly as possible, to connect with the hearts and minds of others, and to help team members to develop.


High-potentials must be groomed to be able to effectively lead others in the future. Leadership development programs can teach them:

  • How to communicate effectively
  • Accountability, professionalism, and how to take ownership
  • Conflict resolution
  • Teamwork
  • How to motivate themselves and others
  • How to cope with change

Middle Management

Supervisors, managers, and directors must be able to effectively engage and influence their teams. Leadership development programs can empower them to:

  • Think and act systemically
  • Be resilient
  • Communicate well
  • Influence others
  • Mentor and guide others
  • Be agile learners
  • Be self-aware


Senior Executives

Today’s successful C-suite leaders do not keep themselves locked away in an office. Instead, they are forward-looking visionaries who meet business goals by guiding and inspiring others to achieve them. Leadership development programs can provide them with the skills to:

  • Improve how their organization responds to change
  • Strengthen their organizational leadership
  • Maximize talent
  • Drive innovation
  • Motivate and inspire others

Free Leadership Development Resources

There are a variety of free resources that provide helpful insight into how to develop leadership, including:

Rise Above Your Competition with Proven Leadership Development Strategies

Although you could share leadership tips you find online with team members or try to implement a leadership development program yourself, the most expedient way to get leaders at all levels of your company effectively leading is to partner with a third party that specializes in leadership training.

For over 25 years, Ariel has helped companies of all sizes empower their current and future leaders to motivate, inspire, and positively transform the way business is done. We do so via our experiential leadership development programs that deliver what today’s leaders actually need to succeed, including the ability to build and maintain good relationships in shifting environments and to get things done. Typically, we co-create strategic leadership development plans with our clients that meet their specific needs and can be easily implemented in-house.

If you’re ready to gain a competitive edge by developing your most important asset — your leaders — let’s talk. We look forward to discussing your leadership development goals.


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