Leadership Development Plan: The SMART Way

Leadership Development Plan: The SMART Way
Updated date:
Apr 21, 2022

Table of Contents

C-Suite leaders, junior executives, and regular employees must create a personal leadership development plan. That is if they aim to enhance their leadership capacity. It is the best tool to help define and direct career goals. 

Leadership takes courage. Words like wisdom, dedication, trust, and judgment apply to everyone we view as great leaders. Leaders play a crucial and critical role in every organization across industries. The success and failure of an organization hinge hugely on the quality of its leaders.

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Self-Assessment 

“Self-analysis requires reconsideration of who we think we are. Self-awareness requires us to reassess where we came from and where we are going.”

― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls.

Know yourself!

Building a personal leadership plan is a roadmap to success. 

Leadership strength is critical and central to improved productivity, delivery, quality, and ultimately the success of both the individual and his organization. 

Steps Towards Achieving Leadership Development Goals

For a successful leadership plan, a person must know how to:

1. Accept Failure Gracefully

A true leader aspires to perfection while realizing that it is an illusion that can never be achieved. As a result, they expect to fail at least as frequently as they succeed, and they mentally and emotionally account for the losses.

Great leaders don't attempt to hide or cover up their flaws and shortcomings. They don't give in to fury or play the blame game with others for their losses. They know this will only make them look dumb and also hinder them from learning.

Strong leaders aren't frightened of failing; instead, they evaluate the setbacks thoroughly, looking for lessons to be learned and making modifications and improvements for the future. 

Leaders refuse to overlook the value of their mistakes.

2. Practice Empathic and Active Listening

Effective leaders practice active listening to foster respect in those they lead because they know they also benefit from each person's insight.

When successful leaders practice active listening, they develop respect in those they lead and get insight from each individual.

That is why it is vital to include in your leadership plan regardless of status or title, to approach each individual with the curiosity of a beginner's mind, and treat people with respect.

3. Be Versatile

Having diverse areas of competence and expertise is a key to successful leadership.

When faced with challenging situations, versatility means leaders can dip into their diverse set of skills to solve issues. It also means leaders can better understand and relate to, and manage a broader range of workforce.

4. Be Resilient

You may view resilience as the polar opposite of powerlessness. Still, resilience is a combination of abilities and character traits that allow us to adapt to change, bend rather than break when faced with stresses and challenges, and endure and overcome life's unavoidable setbacks and disappointments.

Financially speaking, resilience can be built by creating a firm foundation in which one can handle money without yielding to temptation, being unduly swayed by passing trends, or behaving irresponsibly, allowing one to weather financial storms elegantly, and independently.

5. Acknowledge and Foster Leadership in Others

Followers are crucial. People who receive orders and oversee the day-to-day operations of complex procedures literally keep the business running.

The leaders' primary responsibility, on the other hand, is to coach, delegate, and direct others. They realize how critical it is to make themselves obsolete by developing new leaders who can ultimately take over their current position.

6. Understand the Power of Persuasion

Strong leaders must be able to understand the motivations and aspirations of others. They must know how to encourage people by building their confidence and bringing out the best version of themselves. This way, They can inspire people to help them in their cause.

To achieve this, strong leaders must essentially understand human behavior and learn how to give positive instructions to avoid antagonism, confusion, or doubt.

Leaders must learn to communicate using the emotional language that most people live in and think of effectively.

7. Manage Personal Resources

Leadership is an art. If people are dead serious with their leadership development goals, they must recognize their human constitution. Energy, emotions and thought processes are not limitless and need recharging regularly.

Thus, leaders must take good care of themselves mentally, emotionally, and physically to avoid burnout.

8. Take a look at the big picture.

Great leaders strive to think in terms of the big picture, preserving a bird's eye view of the day-to-day activities so as not to lose sight of the broader picture.

Regardless of where they are in life, this is a valuable endeavor. Clinical research has shown that looking at problems from a distance can help you solve them more effectively. They practice seeing through the fog of the impermanent and ever-shifting and keeping their gaze fixed on the way ahead at all times. 

In this way, a successful leader avoids being caught up in the stress or drama of current issues, missteps, or impediments and can deal with the unexpected effectively and calmly without getting thrown off track. 

RELATED READ - Remote Work, The Pandemic and What it Means To Have Great Leadership


Questions To Ask

To create an efficient and effective plan, these are helpful questions you may ask yourself to assist and guide you on your personal leadership development goals.

  • What place does my career take in my life?
  • What does my career mean to me?
  • What is the importance of my career to my life?
  • Will career advancement contribute to my overall life satisfaction?
  • Do I want to make an impact on my company? Why and how?
  • Do I have leadership skills?
  • What’s my leadership style?
  • How important is leadership development to me?

Your honest answers to these all-important questions will provide the list of what you feel are the essential characteristics of a leader.

Some of these skills must be specific to your current industry and your role in it, while others should apply to leadership in general. Having identified the qualities will help you assess your own skills.

Mapping Your Leadership Development Plan

Who and What do You Want to Be?

After identifying which traits are a strength for you and which traits will require some improvement, the next important step is to think and formulate your mission statement similar to that of a corporate statement. 

This will help you tie your personal development efforts with your long-term personal and professional goals. This will also certify that the steps you take to improve your leadership skills do not conflict with the type of work you want to do.

Use the SMART Approach

Your personal leadership development goals should not be vague regarding goals, timelines, and overall structure. The best way to make it clear is to use the SMART approach. The SMART system means:

Specific

An important key to success in attaining your main goal is the actual selection of that goal. List down your primary goal, then think of strategies and tactics you’ll use to reach that goal. Make your personal development plan clear and specific to be able to implement them efficiently and effectively. Careful not to make it broad that it can’t be actionable at all.

Measurable

To track progress:

  • Establish key performance indicators to track progress in the development program you created.
  • Enhance leadership competencies to achieve your desired goals.
  • Results must be quantifiable. Assessing progress helps you stay focused. Meet your deadlines, stay motivated and feel the excitement of getting closer to achieving your goal.

Acceptable

You can successfully implement the career development plan if you are willing to do it. But also, your leadership development goals must be acceptable and welcome to your business organization. Having support from the management of your organization can help you a lot in the implementation process.

When leadership development aligns with business strategy, organizations can link their investments to supporting potential leaders. Such alignment increases the possibility that your manager and other stakeholders within the organization will give your personal leadership plan the stamp of approval.

Realistic, Results-Oriented, and Relevant


While it is good to aim high, create achievable, realistic, and relevant plans for your leadership development goals. It must be results-oriented. Your personal growth should reflect your accomplishments and improvements after implementing the plans. 

  • The specifics of a leadership development plan should include strengths as well as potential areas of improvement.
  • For each area where you see potential to improve, include an action item. 
  • Each of your goals should align with your values and more extensive, long-term goals.
  • Ask yourself why the goal is essential to you.
  • When you set an achievable goal, you may be able to identify previously overlooked opportunities or resources that can bring you closer to it.

Setting an achievable goal helps you see previously overlooked opportunities or resources that can bring you closer to achieving said goals.

Time-Bound‍


The purpose is to create urgency, but it is equally important to give yourself a realistic time frame. Include not only the timeframe for every action and every result but the cost as well. Implementation of plans, as well as evaluation of results, must be time-bound.

Don’t overlook the smaller goals that are necessary to achieve your final objective.  Reward yourself as you reach the goals within the goal. This will give you confidence as you work your way to your ultimate goal. 

Final Note

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN is your best tool to help define and direct your career goals. The reality is that successful organizations depend on employees who demonstrate steady and strong leadership skills regardless of their job description or length of tenure.

Since leadership is often of abstract and complex definitions, the necessity for personal leadership development is more pronounced than ever. Enhance your leadership capacity and achieve personal and career satisfaction. Make an impact on your organization. The best strategy for this is to create a personal leadership development plan.

The pointers given above can help you achieve clarity and focus on evoking and unleashing the ideal leadership qualities within you. So let your journey begin!

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