Developing Leaders: 7 Pillars of a Successful Program

Developing leaders is becoming top-of-mind for all companies – whether they thrived during the 2020 Covid-19 emergency or they struggled through the pandemic storm. The business landscape has changed. The new organizational imperative is to redefine and regenerate.

To succeed in today’s knowledge economy, organizations are focused on closing the well-recognized skills gap. That gap, however, doesn’t just refer to technical skills. Leadership development training is in high demand. According to LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning report, Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers all rated “management and leadership” high on a list of upskilling priorities. This list included learning new software skills, engineering and coding, and creativity.


A solid program for developing leaders doesn’t just increase leadership competency. In addition, these programs also provide leaders with insights, skillful direction, and a new shared vocabulary that can reshape corporate cultures. But organizing a leadership retreat and bringing along a slide deck doesn’t cut it. Our experts agree that these seven essential pillars are required to create a strong, effective program.

1. Executive Support & Input for Developing Leaders

A program meant for developing leaders should be molded to conform to the executive team’s vision for the company. For example, the CEO and her team have an aspirational culture they are driving toward. This vision needs to be shared and understood by the team that’s producing the curriculum and program content. Along with this, the best scenario is when the CEO takes an active role. This could be through giving an introduction (in person, virtual, or recorded) or by visiting the program “graduates” at the conclusion.

2. Involvement/Support of Direct Supervisor

Programs are most likely to succeed when each participant’s manager understands program goals and curriculum. As the participant works to put new skills to use, the direct supervisor should be aware – and support – these efforts to change. Also, they need to recognize that new skills are acquired over time and through practice.  The direct supervisor can be an encouraging supporter who can speak to your talent’s strengths, potential, and recent wins. He or she can also help that employee forge connections within the organization. Likewise, supervisors play a role in improving company and industry knowledge.

3. Personality Assessment 

Self-awareness is powerful. For this reason, no successful leadership development program is void of data. Best-in-class leadership development training includes an assessment that builds the leaders’ emotional and social intelligence. When leaders can identify their own strengths and those of their team members, they’re in a better position to achieve the collective goals.  Typical assessments might include 360-degree feedback and or a personality assessment. For example, the Birkman, & Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI), Clifton Strengths, or DiSC are common options.

4. Coaching Quality

Successful programs for developing leaders include one-on-one coaching. For this reason, each participant should have an experienced leadership development coach. At IMPACT Group, we’ve seen how crucial high-quality coaching is in helping leaders reach their potential. A coach can act as a sounding board while reinforcing the program curriculum. The ability to discuss situations in confidence with someone you trust – an experienced coach – can be invaluable. Often an experienced leadership coach can help someone gain insights about themselves or translate what might be “happening in the room” while acting as the leader’s supportive champion.

5. Networking

Successful leaders tend to have deep and diverse networks. Another pillar of successful leadership development training is the availability of networking opportunities. If the program is delivered via a group, activities should help cohort members develop relationships. You want to coach leaders to build strong networks. Likewise, coaches should encourage your talent to go beyond superficial conversations, investing in their relationships and building alliances. These actions can help them build a reputation for getting results, collaborating, and being more reliable.

6. Stretch Assignment / Capstone Projects for Developing Leaders

A solid program for developing leaders will ensure participants take on assignments or capstone projects that are a bit out of their wheelhouse. As a result, they gain new skills, learn about other aspects of the company, gain more internal exposure, and develop strategic skills.

7. Diversity & Inclusion Focus

A final pillar of success for your leadership development training program is to make sure it’s inclusive. That’s because successful leaders understand and leverage differences. Moreover, studies confirm that diverse teams have a higher probability of success than non-diverse groups. Your leadership development programs are a means of shining the light on leaders from different genders, backgrounds, and all walks of life. This investment in developing leaders can go a long way in helping a diverse population feel a strong sense of belonging. Likewise, it increases the likelihood your star talent will stay, and even advance into higher levels of leadership.

Now’s the Time to Make Developing Leaders a Priority.

Today is a pivotal time for most organizations and their leaders. The “rob your neighbor” approach to obtaining top talent is running rampant.  However, the key to retaining your top talent is in your hands. Studies show that talent is most likely to stay when they are afforded opportunities to learn and acquire new skills. And leadership training is among the highest-rated training opportunity.

If your organization plans to introduce or expand a program for developing leaders, talk to IMPACT Group. We leverage our LD experience and talent pool – including 200+ leadership coaches worldwide – to help organizations design programs that align with the executive team’s vision.

Does leadership development training work? Find out how M.J. Electric’s program produced solid, well-documented results.  Read the case study.