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After reading this guide, you will understand how to improve leadership skills training in your organization, and get actionable tips for building a leadership development plan.

What is leadership development?

Why is leadership development important, leadership development goals.

  • Define what type of leaders do you need
  • Align an employees career vision with your business needs
  • Create a list of leadership development goals and skills
  • Identify which methods of development to use
  • Measure and analyze the program results

Leadership development is the process of improving leadership skills and competencies through various activities.

In leadership development, staff at all levels are taught the invaluable leadership skills that allow them to properly lead, inspire and guide their teams to success.

This type of development is important to properly cultivate a culture of leadership throughout an organization.

Leadership development training can take on many forms, both on-site, such as internal training and mentorship programs, and off-site, such as training seminars, conferences, online training, or graduate programs.

To effectively action leadership development, an organization should create a leadership development plan.

This plan will lay out the steps that the organization will take, what is expected of staff who undergo this development, and how the development will help both the organization and the staff.

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Leadership development benefits an organization in a multitude of ways.

1. It drives better business results

Including higher financial performance and more consistent achievement within departments guided by proficient leaders.

2. Skilled leaders are more agile

An organization with empowered leaders can navigate today’s complex business environment and solve problems quickly and effectively.

3. Good leadership drives innovation

A workforce with effective leaders will be inspired to believe in, and work for, a greater vision.

4. Skilled leaders attract and keep employees

Good leadership can inspire higher engagement from their staff and reduce turnover. A great leader will attract talented new employees and will be able to keep the ones that they have, which leads to better work satisfaction.

5. Improves employee engagement

More than half of American workers are disengaged at work. Effective leadership that knows how to increase engagement within teams using purpose and recognition has been shown to increase profitability within an organization.

6. Improves communication inside and outside the organization

Good communication can make or break a company. If the leaders within a company make effective communication a priority, it leads to increases in productivity, better speed of execution of tasks, and a more positive organizational culture.

7. Improves Customer retention

Customers will be more loyal when leaders are effective in engaging employees. Leading by example improves the customer experience.

8. Increases employee loyalty

Inhouse leadership development inspires loyalty from employees, as it shows that there are growth opportunities available for them. It is also cheaper, and requires less time, than finding, hiring and training leaders from outside.

9. Proper leadership development strategy fuels business strategy

A properly developed leadership development strategy is an invaluable tool for driving and achieving the organization’s business strategy. In taking the time to understand what your organization needs from its leaders, you will better understand the business strategy that will work best for you. These two strategies go hand-in-hand, developing one will help in achieving the other.

No matter the industry, every organization can benefit from developing leadership skills from within their organization and prioritizing leadership in their company culture.

For a leadership development program to be effective, there must be clear goals that are set at the beginning of the process. Some, or all, of the following goals can be used as a starting point.

1. Demonstrate personal responsibility

A true leader owns their actions and the consequences of them, whether good or bad.

They are able to look at the outcomes of their decisions, and appreciate the lessons that both success and failure teach.

Employees notice if a manager never takes responsibility for their actions, or worse, pushes the responsibility for their failures onto their subordinates.

2. Practice self-discipline

When making decisions, it can be tempting to make ones that benefit the individual, rather than the team or organization.

A good leader considers all options then chooses the one that is best for the company, rather than themselves. This practice involves shedding bias and developing integrity.

3. Develop active listening skills

Sometimes leading means listening, rather than speaking.

Every member of a team has some valuable input and experience that they can share, and a good leader takes the time to create a space for discussion and actively listen to each person.

4. Expand and diversify knowledge

Leaders need to be well-rounded, with a wide array of skills in different areas of competence.

In taking the time to study fields that may be outside of their direct role, a leader will be better able to handle issues as they arise in a creative and agile fashion.

5. Focus on time management

A leader is not going to be much use to anyone if they are consistently running behind on projects and don’t have enough time to actually lead.

In focusing on proper time management, a leader can make sure that they set a good example and are available for their team.

6. Creating a culture of mentorship

A key role of a leader is to foster leadership in others.

Being able to identify and develop those skills in team members is an important aspect of a leader’s job, and is essential in the development of a leadership culture within an organization.

This involves coaching, giving actionable and constructive feedback , and paying attention to how team members are approaching challenging projects.

7. Improve communication practices

A leader is only as effective as their communication.

Great ideas and active mentorship won’t go far if a leader’s communication style lets them down.

Developing communication skills takes time and effort and includes building rapport with team members, understanding how, and when, to use persuasion, and improving conflict management skills .

8. Practice big-picture thinking

Leaders shouldn’t think small. Problem-solving and effective team management are dependent on a leader who can make decisions that will benefit the team not just immediately, but down the road as well.

Using these goals as a starting point will help an organization dial in on what is important, what changes need to be prioritized, and what kind of training will be most effective in developing the leadership that they would like to see within their organization.

Leadership development plan template

So, how to improve leadership skills within your organization? You should start with a leadership development plan.

It is the roadmap of how your organization is going to nurture leadership skills in employees of all levels. It should cover goals that align with both strategic business needs and interpersonal, or more human, needs.

It should address the needs of leaders of all levels within the organization, both current leaders and those you wish to train for future leadership positions.

An example of a good leadership development plan is one that has followed the following steps:

1. Define what type of leaders do you need

First of all, you need to understand what type of leaders you need, what set of skills are most essential for your business, and will be valuable in the future.

To do so, it’s better to take a step back and review your key business objectives, if you don’t have a clear list, then it is time to make it.

  • Create a list of skills that you are expecting to see in a good leader that fits your company. It should be aligned with your business.
  • If you have a different department that requires improvements in leadership, create a separate profile for them.
  • Assess where your leadership is. Create a leadership assessment for your employees. Using a variety of methods, including anonymous, email, and face-to-face feedback, your organization can develop a clear idea of where the leadership currently is.
  • Also, it might be good to have a list of employees who demonstrate an interest in management roles and are talented enough to take leadership roles.
  • Maybe you need a leader with a specific Management style . In such cases would be good to check them and prepare some questions for an interview.

2. Align an employees career vision with your business needs

Talk to the employees who will participate in this leadership development and try to align their career vision and path with your ideas and business path.

Having the same direction in development will affect final results dramatically.

  • Of course, a culture of leadership is easier to develop with engaged employees who view the organization in a positive light. So, sometimes it will be better not to focus on people who are going to leave the company.
  • One-on-one meetings will be the most beneficial tool for discovering what your employee’s career vision is. Make the time to meet with employees on a regular basis to ensure that the two paths are in accordance.
  • Be willing to listen to your employee’s ideas about what is needed both in leadership development and business strategy. You might get unexpected insight into your organization and ideas for the future.

3. Create a list of leadership development goals and skills

As discussed above, leadership development goals are an important part of this strategy. Without clear goals, it will be hard to understand what to do and how effective your plan is.

The required qualities and skills of your organization’s leadership will determine the relevant leadership development goals.

  • These goals must be achievable, measurable, and should correlate with the key business objectives.
  • Take a look at leadership skills , it might help you.
  • Create a list of goals and skills required for each individual or role.
  • Rank their importance so people will focus on the most valuable or important goals for them.
  • Define a clear timeline for each goal, it will motivate people to act.
  • Be clear about what success for each goal looks like. The clearer this list is, the more successful employees will be in reaching their goals.
  • Look within your organization for examples of success. It is better to show, rather than tell.

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4. Identify which methods of development to use and create a development plan

There are many different methods that can be used for leadership development:

  • mentorship programs,
  • formal training,
  • volunteering,
  • task forces,
  • working groups and committees,
  • changing the way the responsibility is taken,
  • and others.

You can read more about ideas on how to develop leadership skills in this employee development article.

Some companies will develop these methods in house, while others bring in a third party company who specializes in this type of development, it’s up to you what to choose.

  • We recommend creating a separate leadership development plan for each role or individual. It will make it more personal and role oriented, and as a result, it will be much more engaging and relevant.
  • Focus on those methods that fit you, some of them are expensive, while others require experience.
  • Think about the realization stage .

5. Measure and analyze the program results

As mentioned the development plan must be measurable, otherwise, it will be impossible to quantify its success.

By using measurable goals, concrete criteria, feedback from employees, and data, your organization will be able to measure the success of the program and make adjustments where necessary. Get more ideas from the Reviewing & Monitoring Results chapter of this employee development article.

  • Set timeframes and review results frequently.
  • Communicate with employees, their feedback will be really important.
  • Come back to the plan and adjust it if necessary.

Using these steps, your organization can create a leadership development plan template to follow. In doing so, a culture of leadership and positive development will be established, and beneficial results will follow.

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Ivan Andreev

Demand Generation & Capture Strategist

Ivan is a dedicated and versatile professional with over 12 years of experience in online marketing and a proven track record of turning challenges into opportunities. Ivan works diligently to improve internal processes and explore new possibilities for the company.

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How to Create a Personal Leadership Development Plan

personal development plan example leadership

In every organization and in every industry, leaders play a critical role: managing teams, working together to make important (and sometimes difficult) decisions, and guiding an organization to move in the right direction. While you might think of a leader as an experienced executive with a corner office, the reality is that successful organizations rely on employees who demonstrate strong leadership skills regardless of their job title or length of tenure.

If you are looking to enhance your leadership capacity , one important strategy for guiding your growth is to create a personal leadership development plan. This type of plan can help you grow in your current role and also prepare you to take on additional leadership responsibilities in a new role.

Here’s a quick look at how to assess your leadership skills, develop your leadership capabilities, create a personalized plan, and build leadership development into your everyday roles and responsibilities.   

Learn More about Northeastern’s Bachelor of Science in Management Program

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Benefits of a Personal Leadership Development Plan

As the name implies, a leadership development plan outlines the steps that you intend to take in order to be a better leader. A plan should include skills you need to improve, responsibilities you want to take on, and tasks that you hope to complete to become the type of leader your organization needs.

Development plans are a critical tool for personal career growth since they serve as agreements between an employer and an employee. In these cases, the plan has benefits that extend beyond the individual. When leadership development is aligned with business strategy , organizations are able to link their investments in supporting potential leaders—such as internal training programs or tuition reimbursements—to broader goals and strategic plans. Such alignment increases the likelihood that your manager and other stakeholders within the organization will give your personal leadership plan the stamp of approval.

Of course, individuals can also create their own personal leadership development plans. This type of plan can be helpful if you hope to get a new job at a different company, apply your current skills to a new industry, or pursue educational opportunities, such as a degree completion program.

Personal leadership development plan benefits: Blueprint for transferring jobs; Apply skills to new industries; Pursue additional education

Before the Plan: Conducting a Self-Assessment

Prior to creating your personal leadership development plan, the American Management Association recommends that you make a list of what you feel are the 10 to 15 characteristics of an effective leader. Some of these traits should be specific to your current or desired industry or role, while others should apply to leadership in general.

Creating this list of leadership qualities will help you assess your own skills. Some of the characteristics on the list may require both professional and personal growth and are therefore worth including in your development plan. Other traits may be core strengths that are worth noting in your plan but will be a low priority for further development. Successful leaders tend to have many qualities in common , so it should be easy to identify which traits are a strength for you and which traits will require some improvement.

GovLeaders.org, a resource for managers and leaders in the public sector, suggests that you think about a “life mission statement.” Similar to a corporate mission statement, this is meant to link your leadership development efforts with your long-term personal and professional goals. This is an important step, as it ensures that the steps you take to improve your leadership skills do not conflict with the type of work that you want to do.  

Elements of a Personal Leadership Development Plan

After you have given some thought to your long-term leadership goals and the leadership qualities you’d like to improve, it’s time to map out your leadership ability by creating your personal leadership development plan.

Since the document is personal, it should take on the style and format that works best for the way that you take in information. Some people may use a spreadsheet; others may prefer a chart. No matter the format, there are several key things that every personal leadership development plan should include:

1. Core Skills to Master

Leaders have a number of job responsibilities that are specific to a role as a supervisor. These can include running meetings, providing feedback, sharing information in front of groups, and making personnel decisions. Identify the skills that align with your leadership development goals but are not part of your existing job responsibilities. If someone you currently work with has these skills, ask if you can shadow them or practice with them. If not, look for external resources that will help you build these skills.

2. Experience Gaps to Close.

In addition to tactical skills, there are a number of strategic responsibilities that a leader can expect to take on. These can include starting a new project, turning around a project that is not going well, managing larger and more mission-critical projects, and managing in a crisis. As with building skills, it’s important to identify these key tasks that align with your goals and develop a plan to gain the necessary experience.

3. New Relationships to Build

As a leader, you interact with a variety of stakeholders on a regular basis. Many are within your organization and include department heads, front-line employees, and managers with different skill sets but similar tenure. Others are outside your organization and range from customers and suppliers to board members and other members of the business community. As you build a leadership development plan , identify the stakeholders with whom you’d like to have a stronger, mutually beneficial relationship and reach out to start the conversation. Making these important connections is essential for effective leadership since they provide more development opportunities.

4. Specific Tasks to Delegate

Effective leaders strike a balance between day-to-day tasks and long-term responsibilities. They focus on the work that is most closely aligned with their expertise and trust others within the organization everything else, ensuring that projects are not delayed and that employees remain engaged. List the activities that are critical to professional development within your role, along with the activities that others are capable of completing themselves.

5. Key Action Items to Complete

As noted, 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, the timeframe in which you want to complete the task, and the cost (in time and/or money). Action items could include meeting with a mentor or manager, reading a book on leadership, completing a leadership assessment, or identifying training or educational opportunities.

6. Critical Indicators of Success

Leaders are assessed not only on their own success but also on the success of their teams. Your personal leadership development plan should list the critical indicators of success for leaders and their teams, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Improving the quality of work
  • Improving teamwork and morale
  • Increasing delegation of responsibility
  • Strategic planning and preparation
  • Continuous learning for you and your team
  • Recognizing the team’s contributions

personal development plan example leadership

Beyond the Plan: Building Leadership Development into your Role

A personal leadership plan should be a living document. You should revisit it on a regular basis to ensure that you are addressing the areas of improvement that you identified for yourself and meeting the timelines you set for taking on new responsibilities, building new skills, and so on.

Accomplishing the goals that you lay out in your plan should not require wholesale changes to how you work or learn. After all, the plan is meant to help you continue to grow, not start over completely. However, there are a few activities that you can add to your regular routine to support your development as a leader.

Seek feedback. Talk to your team and your peers about how well you are growing as a leader and where you can continue to make improvements. It’s also important to seek feedback from groups you don’t typically interact with, whether they be other divisions within your organization or third-party partners. These groups will provide different insight than those who work with you regularly.

Take time to reflect. Leaders have a great deal of responsibility to juggle. Take 15 minutes every morning to assess the most important tasks for the day and 15 minutes in the evening to reflect on what went well and what could have been improved. Consider writing your thoughts in a journal, focusing on lessons or insights you have gained from your experience.

Find a mentor. Whether as a source of advice or as a connection to networking opportunities, mentors are critical to personal leadership development . It’s important to find a mentor who will be available for regular meetings and who will provide honest feedback—someone who always tells you what you want to hear may inadvertently hinder your growth. Your mentor could be a manager at your current job, a manager from a previous job, a professor, or a respected figure from your personal life.

Sign up for training. Continued education provides a valuable opportunity to nurture leadership skills. In addition to resources such as books, networking events, and leadership retreats, consider earning a bachelor’s  degree to hone a wide range of skills—including psychology, writing, negotiation, finance, ethical decision-making, logic, and organizational behavior.

Interested in learning more about how a bachelor’s degree can help advance your career and refine your skills? Explore Northeastern’s Bachelor of Science in Management program to learn more. 

How to Create a Personal Development Plan: 3 Examples

Personal Development Plan

For successful change, it is vital that the client remains engaged, recognizing and identifying with the goals captured inside and outside sessions. A personal development plan (PDP) creates a focus for development while offering a guide for life and future success (Starr, 2021).

This article introduces and explores the value of personal development plans, offering tools, worksheets, and approaches to boost self-reflection and self-improvement.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free . These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients create actionable goals and master techniques to create lasting behavior change.

This Article Contains

What is personal development 7 theories, coaching in personal development and growth, how to create a personal development plan, 3 examples of personal development plans, defining goals and objectives: 10 tips and tools, fostering personal development skills, 3 inspiring books to read on the topic, resources from positivepsychology.com, a take-home message, frequently asked questions.

Personal development is a fundamental concept in psychology and encompasses the lifelong process of self-improvement, self-awareness, and personal growth. Crucial to coaching and counseling, it aims to enhance various aspects of clients’ lives, including their emotional wellbeing, relationships, careers, and overall happiness (Cox, 2018; Starr, 2021).

Several psychological models underpin and support transformation. Together, they help us understand personal development in our clients and the mechanisms and approaches available to make positive life changes (Cox, 2018; Passmore, 2021).

The following psychological theories and frameworks underpin and influence the approach a mental health professional adopts.

1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

As a proponent of the humanistic or person-centered approach to helping people, Abraham Maslow (1970) suggested that individuals have a hierarchy of needs. Simply put, they begin with basic physiological and safety needs and progress through psychological and self-fulfillment needs.

Personal development is often found in or recognized by the pursuit of higher-level needs, such as self-esteem and self-actualization (Cox, 2018).

2. Erikson’s psychosocial development

Erik Erikson (1963) mapped out a series of eight psychosocial development stages that individuals go through across their lifespan.

Each one involves challenges and crises that once successfully navigated, contribute to personal growth and identity development.

3. Piaget’s cognitive development

The biologist and epistemologist Jean Piaget (1959) focused on cognitive development in children and how they construct their understanding of the world.

We can draw on insights from Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, including intellectual growth and adaptability, to inform our own and others’ personal development (Illeris, 2018).

4. Bandura’s social cognitive theory

Albert Bandura’s (1977) theory highlights the role of social learning and self-efficacy in personal development. It emphasizes that individuals can learn and grow through observation, imitation, and belief in their ability to effect change.

5. Self-determination theory

Ryan and Deci’s (2018) motivational self-determination theory recognizes the importance of autonomy, competence, and relatedness in personal development.

Their approach suggests that individuals are more likely to experience growth and wellbeing when such basic psychological needs are met.

6. Positive psychology

Positive psychology , developed by Martin Seligman (2011) and others, focuses on strengths, wellbeing, and the pursuit of happiness.

Seligman’s PERMA model offers a framework for personal development that emphasizes identifying and using our strengths while cultivating positive emotions and experiences (Lomas et al., 2014).

7. Cognitive-Behavioral Theory (CBT)

Developed by Aaron Beck (Beck & Haigh, 2014) and Albert Ellis (2000), CBT explores the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

As such, the theory provides practical techniques for personal development, helping individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors (Beck, 2011).

Theories like the seven mentioned above offer valuable insights into many of the psychological processes underlying personal development. They provide a sound foundation for coaches and counselors to support their clients and help them better understand themselves, their motivations, and the paths they can take to foster positive change in their lives (Cox, 2018).

Coaching in Personal Development

The client–coach relationship is significant to successful growth and goal achievement.

Typically, the coach will focus on the following (Cox, 2018):

  • Actualizing tendency This supports a “universal human motivation resulting in growth, development and autonomy of the individual” (Cox, 2018, p. 53).
  • Building a relationship facilitating change Trust clients to find their own way while displaying empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard . The coach’s “outward responses consistently match their inner feelings towards a client,” and they display a warm acceptance that they are being how they need to be (Passmore, 2021, p. 162).
  • Adopting a positive psychological stance Recognize that the client has the potential and wish to become fully functioning (Cox, 2018).

Effective coaching for personal growth involves adopting and committing to a series of beliefs that remind the coach that the “coachee is responsible for the results they create” (Starr, 2021, p. 18) and help them recognize when they may be avoiding this idea.

The following principles are, therefore, helpful for coaching personal development and growth (Starr, 2021).

  • Stay committed to supporting the client. While initially strong, you may experience factors that reduce your sense of support for the individual’s challenges.
  • Coach nonjudgmentally. Our job is not to adopt a stance based on personal beliefs or judgment of others, but to help our clients form connections between behavior and results.
  • Maintain integrity, openness, and trust. The client must feel safe in your company and freely able to express themselves.
  • Responsibility does not equal blame. Clients who take on blame rather than responsibility will likely feel worse about something without acknowledging their influence on the situation.
  • The client can achieve better results. The client is always capable of doing and achieving more, especially in relation to their goals.
  • Focus on clients’ thoughts and experiences. Collaborative coaching is about supporting the growth and development of the client, getting them to where they want to go.
  • Clients can arrive at perfect solutions. “As a coach, you win when someone else does” (Starr, 2021, p. 34). The solution needs to be the client’s, not yours.
  • Coach as an equal partnership. Explore the way forward together collaboratively rather than from a parental or advisory perspective.

Creating a supportive and nonjudgmental environment helps clients explore their thoughts, feelings, and goals, creating an environment for personal development and flourishing (Passmore, 2021).

personal development plan example leadership

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A personal development plan is a powerful document “to create mutual clarity of the aims and focus of a coaching assignment” (Starr, 2021, p. 291). While it is valuable during coaching, it can also capture a client’s way forward once sessions have ended.

Crucially, it should have the following characteristics (Starr, 2021):

  • Short and succinct
  • Providing a quick reference or point of discussion
  • Current and fresh, regularly revised and updated

Key elements of a personal development plan include the following (Starr, 2021):

  • Area of development This is the general skill or competence to be worked on.
  • Development objectives or goals What does the client want to do? Examples might include reducing stress levels, improving diet, or managing work–life balance .
  • Behaviors to develop These comprise what the client will probably do more of when meeting their objectives, for example, practicing better coping mechanisms, eating more healthily, and better managing their day.
  • Actions to create progress What must the client do to action their objectives? For example, arrange a date to meet with their manager, sign up for a fitness class, or meet with a nutritionist.
  • Date to complete or review the objective Capture the dates for completing actions, meeting objectives, and checking progress.

Check out Lindsey Cooper’s excellent video for helpful guidance on action planning within personal development.

We can write and complete personal development plans in many ways. Ultimately, they should meet the needs of the client and leave them with a sense of connection to and ownership of their journey ahead (Starr, 2021).

  • Personal Development Plan – Areas of Development In this PDP , we draw on guidance from Starr (2021) to capture development opportunities and the behaviors and actions needed to achieve them.
  • Personal Development Plan – Opportunities for Development This template combines short- and long-term goal setting with a self-assessment of strengths, weaknesses, and development opportunities.
  • Personal Development Plan – Ideal Self In this PDP template , we focus on our vision of how our ideal self looks and setting goals to get there.
“The setting of a goal becomes the catalyst that drives the remainder of the coaching conversation.”

Passmore, 2021, p. 80

Defining goals and objectives is crucial to many coaching conversations and is usually seen as essential for personal development.

Check out this video on how you can design your life with your personal goals in mind.

The following coaching templates are helpful, containing a series of questions to complete Whitmore’s (2009) GROW model :

  • G stands for Goal : Where do you want to be?
  • R stands for Reality : Where are you right now with this goal?
  • O stands for Options : What are some options for reaching your goal?
  • W stands for Way forward : What is your first step forward?

Goal setting creates both direction and motivation for clients to work toward achieving something and meeting their objectives (Passmore, 2021).

The SMART goal-setting framework is another popular tool inside coaching and elsewhere.

S = Specific M = Measurable A = Attainable/ or Agreed upon R = Realistic T = Timely – allowing enough time for achievement

The SMART+ Goals Worksheet contains a series of prompts and spaces for answers to define goals and capture the steps toward achieving them.

We can summarize the five principles of goal setting (Passmore, 2021) as follows:

  • Goals must be clear and not open to interpretation.
  • Goals should be stretching yet achievable.
  • Clients must buy in to the goal from the outset.
  • Feedback is essential to keep the client on track.
  • Goals should be relatively straightforward. We can break down complex ones into manageable subgoals.

The following insightful articles are also helpful for setting and working toward goals.

  • What Is Goal Setting and How to Do it Well
  • The Science & Psychology of Goal-Setting 101

Fostering Personal Development Skills

1. People skills

Improving how we work with others benefits confidence, and with other’s support, we are more likely to achieve our objectives and goals. The following people skills can all be improved upon:

  • Developing rapport
  • Assertiveness and negotiation
  • Giving and receiving constructive criticism

2. Managing tasks and problem-solving

Inevitably, we encounter challenges on our path to development and growth. Managing our activities and time and solving issues as they surface are paramount.

Here are a few guidelines to help you manage:

  • Organize time and tasks effectively.
  • Learn fundamental problem-solving strategies.
  • Select and apply problem-solving strategies to tackle more complex tasks and challenges.
  • Develop planning skills, including identifying priorities, setting achievable targets, and finding practical solutions.
  • Acquire skills relevant to project management.
  • Familiarize yourself with concepts such as performance indicators and benchmarking.
  • Conduct self-audits to assess and enhance your personal competitiveness.

3. Cultivate confidence in your creative abilities

Confidence energizes our performance. Knowing we can perform creatively encourages us to develop novel solutions and be motivated to transform.

Consider the following:

  • Understand the fundamentals of how the mind works to enhance your thinking skills.
  • Explore a variety of activities to sharpen your creative thinking.
  • Embrace the belief that creativity is not limited to artists and performers but is crucial for problem-solving and task completion.
  • Learn to ignite the spark of creativity that helps generate innovative ideas when needed.
  • Apply creative thinking techniques to enhance your problem-solving and task completion abilities.
  • Recognize the role of creative thinking in finding the right ideas at the right time.

To aid you in building your confidence, we have a whole category of articles focused on Optimism and Mindset . Be sure to browse it for confidence-building inspiration.

With new techniques and technology, our understanding of the human brain continues to evolve. Identifying the vital elements involved in learning and connecting with others offers deep insights into how we function and develop as social beings. We handpicked a small but unique selection of books we believe you will enjoy.

1. The Coaching Manual: The Definitive Guide to the Process, Principles and Skills of Personal Coaching – Julie Starr

The Coaching Manual

This insightful book explores and explains the coaching journey from start to finish.

Starr’s book offers a range of free resources and gives clear guidance to support new and existing coaches in providing practical help to their clients.

Find the book on Amazon .

2. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level – Gay Hendricks

The Big Leap

Delving into the “zone of genius” and the “zone of excellence,” Hendricks examines personal growth and our path to personal success.

This valuable book explores how we eliminate the barriers to reaching our goals that arise from false beliefs and fears.

3. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection

Brown, a leading expert on shame, vulnerability, and authenticity, examines how we can engage with the world from a place of worthiness.

Use this book to learn how to build courage and compassion and realize the behaviors, skills, and mindset that lead to personal development.

We have many resources available for fostering personal development and supporting client transformation and growth.

Our free resources include:

  • Goal Planning and Achievement Tracker This is a valuable worksheet for capturing and reflecting on weekly goals while tracking emotions that surface.
  • Adopt a Growth Mindset Successful change is often accompanied by replacing a fixed mindset with a growth one .
  • FIRST Framework Questions Understanding a client’s developmental stage can help offer the most appropriate support for a career change.

More extensive versions of the following tools are available with a subscription to the Positive Psychology Toolkit© , but they are described briefly below:

  • Backward Goal Planning

Setting goals can build confidence and the skills for ongoing personal development.

Backward goal planning helps focus on the end goal, prevent procrastination, and decrease stress by ensuring we have enough time to complete each task.

Try out the following four simple steps:

  • Step one – Identify and visualize your end goal.
  • Step two – Reflect on and capture the steps required to reach the goal.
  • Step three – Focus on each step one by one.
  • Step four – Take action and record progress.
  • Boosting Motivation by Celebrating Micro Successes

Celebrating the small successes on our journey toward our goals is motivating and confidence building.

Practice the following:

  • Step one – Reflect momentarily on the goal you are working toward.
  • Step two – Consider each action being taken to reach that goal.
  • Step three – Record the completion of each action as a success.
  • Step four – Choose how to celebrate each success.

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others reach their goals, check out this collection of 17 validated motivation & goal achievement tools for practitioners . Use them to help others turn their dreams into reality by applying the latest science-based behavioral change techniques.

Personal development has a rich and long history. It is underpinned by various psychological theories and remains a vital aspect of creating fulfilling lives inside and outside coaching and counseling.

For many of us, self-improvement, self-awareness, and personal growth are vital aspects of who we are. Coaching can provide a vehicle to help clients along their journey, supporting their sense of autonomy and confidence and highlighting their potential (Cox, 2018).

Working with clients, therefore, requires an open, honest, and supportive relationship. The coach or counselor must believe the client can achieve better results and view them nonjudgmentally as equal partners.

Personal development plans become essential to that relationship and the overall coaching process. They capture areas for development, skills and behaviors required, and goals and objectives to work toward.

Use this article to recognize theoretical elements from psychology that underpin the process and use the skills, guidance, and worksheets to support personal development in clients, helping them remove obstacles along the way.

Ultimately, personal development is a lifelong process that boosts wellbeing and flourishing and creates a richer, more engaging environment for the individual and those around them.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free .

Personal development is vital, as it enables individuals to enhance various aspects of their lives, including emotional wellbeing, relationships, careers, and overall happiness.

It promotes self-awareness, self-improvement, and personal growth, helping individuals reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives (Passmore, 2021; Starr, 2021).

Personal development is the journey we take to improve ourselves through conscious habits and activities and focusing on the goals that are important to us.

Personal development goals are specific objectives individuals set to improve themselves and their lives. Goals can encompass various areas, such as emotional intelligence, skill development, health, and career advancement, providing direction and motivation for personal growth (Cox, 2018; Starr, 2021).

A personal development plan typically comprises defining the area of development, setting development objectives, identifying behaviors to develop, planning actions for progress, and establishing completion dates. These five stages help individuals clarify their goals and track their progress (Starr, 2021).

  • Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory . Prentice-Hall.
  • Beck, A. T., & Haigh, E. P. (2014). Advances in cognitive therapy and therapy: The generic cognitive model. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology , 10 , 1–24.
  • Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond . Guilford Press.
  • Cottrell, S. (2015). Skills for success: Personal development and employability . Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Cox, E. (2018). The complete handbook of coaching . SAGE.
  • Ellis, A. (2000). Can rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) be effectively used with people who have devout beliefs in God and religion? Professional Psychology-Research and Practice , 31 (1), 29–33.
  • Erikson, E. H. (1963). Youth: Change and challenge . Basic Books.
  • Illeris, K. (2018). An overview of the history of learning theory. European Journal of Education , 53 (1), 86–101.
  • Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Ivtzan, I. (2014). Applied positive psychology: Integrated positive practice . SAGE.
  • Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and personalit y (2nd ed.). Harper & Row.
  • Passmore, J. (Ed.). (2021). The coaches’ handbook: The complete practitioner guide for professional coaches . Routledge.
  • Piaget, J. (1959): The Psychology of intelligence . Routledge.
  • Rose, C. (2018). The personal development group: The students’ guide . Routledge.
  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2018). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness . Guilford Press.
  • Seligman, M. E. (2011). Authentic happiness using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment . Nicholas Brealey.
  • Starr, J. (2021). The coaching manual: The definitive guide to the process, principles and skills of personal coaching . Harlow: Pearson Education.
  • Whitmore, J. (2009). Coaching for performance . Nicholas Brealey.

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Individual development plan template + examples for leaders


Many business leaders are quickly realizing that providing professional growth opportunities to employees can increase retention rates  and satisfaction levels. And one way of helping employees achieve career goals is to use what’s called an individual development plan.

According to a McKinsey study , 41% of participants cited the reason why they quit their jobs between April 2021 and 2021 as due to a lack of opportunities for career development . Making it the top factor leading to attrition, even more so than inadequate compensation and uncaring leaders.

In this article, we’ll first explain what is an individual development plan (IDP). Then, we’ll go over the process of creating an individual development plan step-by-step. Lastly, we’ll include an individual development plan template and examples for you to adapt for your team.

employee journey map template

Table of Contents

What is an individual development plan (IDP)?

An individual development plan or “IDP” is a framework that helps individuals evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, career goals, and short-term objectives. It is often completed during performance reviews, self-appraisals , or one-on-one meetings and allows employees to self-reflect on their professional growth. 

Aside from being helpful for employees, individual development plans can be a useful tool to help company leaders with succession planning and restructuring. It is a great way to support leadership development initiatives, assess skill gaps , and embed better, more transparent communication practices between managers and direct reports . Ultimately, it can help to align individual ambitions with company growth objectives.

How to create an individual development plan

Although used for different purposes, creating an individual development plan is similar to the process of creating a performance improvement plan (PIP) . You need to create objectives and a realistic timeframe in which individuals should achieve those objectives. Here, we’ll explain every step in depth.

Set a timeframe

Like living organisms, companies are continually growing and changing. And, logically, the individuals that make up these teams have goals that are continually changing as well. While creating an Individual development plan, you’ll want to make sure that employees revisit and adapt their plans after set periods.

The first step is deciding how often you want for employees to self-assess and complete the individual development plan. Should it be on a quarterly, biannually, or yearly basis? As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to coincide IDPs with the employee’s regular performance reviews. That way, there’s less confusion and you can ensure that it’s incorporated into their evaluation routine.

Include the employee’s skillsets and performance

Next, you’ll want to create the individual plan itself. Or, if you’d prefer, simply use the individual development plan template that we’ve already created in the next section of this article. For the first portion of the plan, you should include a space in which the employee and their manager can collaboratively evaluate strengths, weaknesses, and overall performance. There should also be room for them to compare the employee’s performance with the expectations of the position. 

For this section, be sure to have past performance reviews, skills evaluations, and any other employee feedback records on hand and accessible. You’ll want managers and employees to have a complete picture and reference points to discuss employee progress.

Look at growth possibilities

The following space should be designated for the employee’s career growth interests and possibilities. Note, there might be more than one area that captures the employee’s attention. For employers, this can be advantageous because it’s more probable that employees can fill in-demand roles and skill sets through their career growth. 

On the other hand, perhaps the employee has a very clear vision of their career goals and ideal position. If that’s the case, employees should think about the skills and qualities that they need to cultivate. For example, if an employee would like to one day manage their team, perhaps they would need to develop delegation and resource management skills.

Set short and long-term goals

Next, it’s about making these ambitions concrete through short and long-term goals. Ideally, you want to clearly map out how employees get from point A to point B through measurable targets and focused areas of improvement.

Ideally, long-term goals should be set for the employee’s next 3-5 years in their position, while short-term goals can be set for the next 1-2 years (or even shorter). Keep in mind here that there’s no guarantee that a plan will go 100% unchanged. It’s not always possible to see what is coming next, and sometimes a little bit of flexibility can pay off.

While setting goals, it’s important for employees to consider factors that drive them to succeed. Do they like working on a specific set of tasks or feel especially competent with a certain skill set? If so, it might be wise to have goals that allow them to expand their knowledge of this specific area. The idea is to create goals that are cohesive with their interests and ambitions. 

Measure employee progress

After going through the process of creating an individual development plan, it’s important to measure employee progress toward completing their objectives. If you don’t already have software to keep track of employee goals, be sure to keep individual development plans stored and organized in a shared drive. Both managers and employees should be able to access this document at any time for their own use.

If you’re looking for a more efficient and streamlined alternative, the best option is to invest in OKR software to keep track of employee goals. With OKR software like Factorial, employees and managers alike can visualize progress toward goals through a user-friendly interface. More on this later. 

Individual development plan template

Creating an individual development plan template should be a simple process. Here’s an example template that you can use for your own reference:

Individual development plan example

Drive performance with okr software.

No two employees are the same and neither should be the way that you measure their individual development. With Factorial, you can customize and define OKRs and KPIs for every employee on your team. Don’t hesitate, try Factorial today .

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How to Create a personal leadership development plan

Key takeaways from this article

Creating a personal leadership development plan can help leaders to identify their strengths and weaknesses, set achievable goals, and chart a course for personal growth and development over time. Crucially, any personal leadership development plan example will usually include details of how the success of that plan will be measured.

An effective leader is always improving. To help them grow, improve and strengthen their skills they may create a personal leadership development plan. A personal leadership development plan is a roadmap that outlines the steps needed to achieve personal goals and objectives.

a woman working on her personal leadership development plan

What is a Personal Development Plan in Leadership?

A personal development plan for leadership is a document outlining a leader or would-be leader’s goals, objectives, and strategies for personal growth and development over the coming months and years. It serves as a roadmap for achieving personal and professional success.

A personal development plan can help leaders to identify their strengths and weaknesses, set realistic goals, and create a framework for achieving those goals.

How do You Write a Personal Development Plan for Leadership?

A personal leadership development plan will be individual and will reflect the particular role, current needs and future ambition of its author. That said, most leadership development plan examples will usually contain a number of core steps. These include:

Current Situation

The plan will begin by assessing the current situation of its author, including strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth. It will be informed by both self-reflection, as well as feedback from others to help identify areas where the individual needs to improve.

The personal leadership development plan will outline clear goals in line with the personal and professional aspirations of its author. These should be SMART Goals , that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.

Strategies To Achieve Your Goals

A personal leadership development plan will also include clear strategies to help the individual achieve these goals. Typically, this will include leadership development programs as well as coaching and mentoring. It will also include the resources that will be needed as well as any potential obstacles and strategies and how they might be overcome.

Action Plan

An action plan takes your strategies and builds a framework to put them into action. In practice, this means dates, deadlines and milestones that will be used to help you track your progress.

Monitor & Evaluate Your Progress

A personal leadership development plan will also set out how progress will be monitored. This will usually include some key metrics, as well as feedback from others in order that progress might be measured, and adjustments made when necessary.

a man working on his personal leadership development plan

What are Some Examples of Personal Leadership Development Goals?

Personal leadership development goals can be varied, but frequently a personal leadership development plan will contain some key skills and competencies. These are likely to include:

Improving Communication Skills

Leaders need to communicate effectively to motivate and inspire their teams. Improving communication skills can help leaders to build trust, support team members, and better achieve their objectives.

Improved Decision-Making

Leaders need to be able to make informed decisions in the interest of their organisations. Enhanced decision-making abilities assist leaders in that task, helping them to evaluate risk, seize opportunities and develop effective strategies.

Develop Emotional Intelligence

Leaders need not only to be able to understand and manage their own reactions and emotions, they also have to be able to do the same for others. Teams will often include a wide range of different personalities and forming that team into a cohesive whole with a strong sense of shared aims and objectives takes advanced emotional intelligence.

Increased Self-Awareness

Leaders must be self-reflective and should understand their own strengths, weakness, and values. Better self-awareness helps leaders to make better decisions, develop stronger relationships, and to achieve their professional and personal goals.

Network Building

Finally, a successful personal leadership development plan example might include clear goals around networking. Building a strong network can help leaders to identify new opportunities, learn from others, and to access valuable resources.

a woman ticking off her personal leadership development plan list

What are the Core Steps in Making a Personal Development Plan?

Making a personal leadership development plan will usually begin with an assessment of the leader’s current situation, their strengths and weakness and how they want to improve. It will then set out a strategy to achieve those goals.

Typically, any realistic personal leadership development plan will detail the leadership development programs , as well as the coaching and mentoring methods that will be used. It will also include details of how progress will be measured.

Your Personal Path to Success

Leadership Success can help you achieve your professional goals with tailored and targeted leadership development plans.  Our experts have a wealth of experience and can help you grow, learn and develop as a leader.

Contact us to find out more about how you can take practical steps to achieve your own personal development goals.

More on Leadership Development

Developing Leadership Skills

Leadership Development Plans

Developing Leadership In Your Business

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5 Steps to Creating a Successful Leadership Development Plan

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  • 27 Nov 2019

Leadership development is a key initiative for many businesses. Organizations not only try to recruit candidates with leadership potential but cultivate their current employees’ leadership skills.

In a survey by global research and advisory firm Gartner , 60 percent of human resources executives said they’ll focus on cultivating leader and manager effectiveness for their company in 2023. In doing so, they intend to nurture the professional development of potential leaders by developing specific leadership qualities, such as authenticity, empathy, and adaptiveness—representing a new kind of “human” leadership.

Additionally, a report by the World Economic Forum projects leadership and social influence to be among the fastest-growing workplace skills through 2022, which ties into a burgeoning trend for all workers to become lifelong learners to address emerging skills gaps.

For motivated professionals who want to advance their careers and assume leadership positions, creating a leadership development plan is vital to staying ahead of the curve and rising to the demands of the job market. According to Harvard Business School Professor Ethan Bernstein, the path to effective leadership is more fluid now than in the past.

“Once upon a time, you would enter a leadership development program in a company that might put you on a 20-year track to becoming an executive,” Bernstein says. “Many of us can’t even fathom that today. But that should be freeing in that it gives us license to develop ourselves and create our own individualized leadership development plans.”

As you plot your career trajectory and consider how you can maximize your professional influence and impact, here are five steps to creating a successful leadership development plan.

How to Design Your Leadership Development Plan

1. assess where you are professionally.

Mapping your leadership development starts with understanding yourself and where you stand professionally. Taking stock of your strengths, weaknesses, and workplace tendencies can help identify areas for improvement and anticipate pitfalls that could arise on your journey to becoming a more capable leader.

“In the process of identifying how what you’ve done before may or may not make you successful going forward, you raise your awareness about how what you already know will contribute to, or undermine, your capacity to successfully lead others in the future,” Bernstein says.

Completing an assessment can be a valuable way to reflect on your motivational drivers and limitations and gain a more holistic view of your personal leadership style . Pairing self-reflection with a 360-degree assessment enables you to solicit feedback from colleagues and peers, which can provide greater insight into how others experience you. In turn, you can build and leverage a keener sense of emotional intelligence throughout your leadership development journey.

Related: 4 Tips for Developing Your Personal Leadership Style

2. Set an Attainable Goal

Goal setting is an essential component of any leadership development plan.

“Just like anything else: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably not going to get there,” Bernstein says. “It sounds overly simplistic, but that summarizes why goals are important."

Bernstein teaches the PACE model, an acronym for:

  • Pick a leadership goal
  • Apprise others in your inner circle of the goal
  • Collect specific ideas on how to improve
  • Elicit feedback on how you’re doing

The PACE Model in Leadership Development

PACE is employed by learners to select leadership development goals and chart a course of action for achieving them. The first step in the process, Pick, is centered on identifying and prioritizing a goal you can strive toward to boost your professional effectiveness. When setting this goal, take an agile approach and consider both the short and long term.

“You can’t lose sight of where you’re trying to go over the span of a decade—or even a career—which is why making long-term goals is important,” Bernstein says. “But we can’t, as human beings, make progress if we make the milestones so grand and far away that they seem unachievable. A little bit of progress each day keeps the frustration at bay.”

As you define and establish your key goal, consider how you’ll measure progress along the way to ensure you stay on track.

How to Become a More Effective Leader | Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

3. Engage in Leadership Training

Leadership training can benefit you no matter your career stage. Beyond the opportunity to gain and practice the technical skills needed to empower employees and influence others , you’re exposed to faculty and peers you can lean on for support and learn and grow from. It can also equip you for future leadership roles.

According to Bernstein, honing your leadership abilities in a classroom setting is advantageous because it provides a low-risk environment for reevaluating and fine-tuning goals when you encounter setbacks.

“It’s helpful to have a group of people—we call it your ‘inner circle’—who’ve heard and embraced your leadership goals, and whose conversations helped inform how you would go about achieving them,” Bernstein says. “In moments of challenge and relapse, you can go back to them for encouragement and courage. You can revise your goals in a safe environment because you have a level of openness and vulnerability with those people built into the course.”

4. Interact with Your Network

A professional network is one of the most valuable resources in any leader’s arsenal, so make it a point to grow yours . Throughout your leadership development journey, connecting with like-minded peers can have a positive impact by providing opportunities to employ the knowledge you’ve gained and receive feedback on your progress.

These kinds of interactions are core tenets of the online course Leadership Principles , in which learners practice delivering feedback through video exercises that allow them to evaluate their effectiveness in various business scenarios.

“Ensure your leadership development includes some interaction with other learners and also with the people who are benefitting and suffering from your current capabilities as a leader,” Bernstein says. “We try to teach people to be good protégés, as well as good leaders. It’s an ongoing process. That interaction is important in making things that seem very theoretical ultimately become very practical.”

5. Hone Your Soft Skills

Effective leadership requires a unique blend of characteristics and skills .

“There are skills you need as a leader that you don’t necessarily develop in any other context, at least in a focused way,” Bernstein says. “These include communication; career planning; knowing how to create and evaluate authentic change in a person, including yourself; and negotiating career transitions. These are things you typically won’t do many times in your career, but they will be very important to continuing your leadership trajectory.”

As you chart your leadership development plan, consider how you can bolster essential soft skills like actively listening , practicing empathy , and creating value in a negotiation to ensure you’re prepared to tackle any organizational challenges that come your way.

Leadership Principles | Unlock your leadership potential | Learn More

Developing Your Leadership Skills

Striving to become a strong, capable leader is a commitment you can make at any stage of your career —although doing so sooner means you can reap the benefits longer. By assessing where you are professionally and thinking deeply about where you want to go, you can design a leadership development plan that enables you to channel your passions and build the skills needed to be more impactful in your role.

Do you want to enhance your leadership skills? Download our free leadership e-book and explore our online course Leadership Principles to discover how you can become a more effective leader and unleash the potential in yourself and others.

This post was updated on December 21, 2022. It was originally published on November 27, 2019.

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Want more great resources on people development?

How to create a leadership development plan (free template).

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a checklist that shows you when someone is ready to be a leader?  While there are some notable differences between management and leadership the transition isn’t like flipping a switch. Furthermore, what defines a leader in one role or at one company, may not be the same at the next. 

This is why having a leadership development plan for your employees is so important. The steps to becoming a leader can be different for each person depending on the skillset they’re starting with. Having an individual contributor or manager create a leadership development plan in collaboration with their manager or HRBP is the first step towards long term leadership success. 

Leadership development in tumultuous times is tricky. With historically high unemployment rates and companies having to make the tough decision to lay off or furlough employees, taking the time to think about the future with leaders may seem like a lesser priority. However, showing employees that you’re invested in their development can keep them engaged and motivated throughout the chaos. 

Have you been laid off? 

Click here to read this article from our friends at The Muse on what to do next.

Here we’ll look at the definition of a leadership development plan, why it matters, and a step by step guide for your employees to use, complete with a downloadable template. 

What is a leadership development plan and why does it matter? 

A leadership development plan is a professional development tool that outlines learning goals to improve leadership capabilities. 

The biggest reason why creating a leadership development plan matters is because leadership can be subjective, and people have varying goals related to leadership. 

Here are four reasons why creating a leadership development plan is important: 

1. Provides clarity on a subjective and complex topic

Within organizations, leadership can be broadly defined as the act of leading a group of people and providing a high-level vision for a team. What it means to do this well can take many forms. Creating a leadership development plan helps people define what leading a group well and providing a vision would look like within a specific company. It can also help leaders recognize the additional responsibility of becoming a leader and having followers.

2. Makes long term goals achievable 

As mentioned previously, the path to leadership isn’t about flipping a switch. Leadership development takes time, and mapping out long term goals through a leadership development plan helps to make those goals specific and attainable.

3. Uncovers areas of opportunity 

Part of becoming a great leader is knowing and working on your hidden opportunities. Everyone has them and acknowledging and working on them transparently is a hallmark of great leadership. A leadership development plan is for development, not evaluation, meaning it’s the right outlet to use for doing the hard work of evaluating hidden opportunities.

4. Gives a clear path to advancement 

For many people, becoming a leader is tied to other tangible career advancements like becoming a manager, receiving a more senior title, or starting a role at a new company. While there are often processes in place for recognizing these types of advancement, discussing a leadership development plan with a manager is a great way to make that path clearer. 

Ready to dive into our leadership development plan template?

personal development plan example leadership

Leadership development plan: Step by step guide

When an employee is ready to start focusing on their leadership development, bring in a step-by-step plan. While this document might only be two or three pages, your developing leaders should plan to spend about four to six weeks thinking through this process. The more thought given to each step at this time, the clearer the path to leadership development.

The steps below are written to address leaders directly.  

1. Write down your leadership development goals 

This should encapsulate your career vision for the next 6-12 months, whatever is most appropriate. It could be helpful to read up on different leadership styles (we have guides to transformational leadership , transactional leadership , autocratic leadership and more) to get a sense of which style informs your goal setting. These goals can be related to things like developing your team, cultivating a new skill, and building relationships. 

Do your best to make your goals “SMART” by being specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. 

Example: Identify internal stakeholders with whom I must have a stronger, mutually beneficial relationship with to learn from and move things forward for my team. Take the first step to reach out by the end of Q2 and plan for follow up. 

2. Examine traits of leaders you admire 

When thinking about how to develop, it’s often helpful to reflect on positive examples for reference. Choosing a few examples of leaders you have worked with directly and indirectly is often helpful. Then, reflect on what specifically about those leaders was admirable. 

Example: My manager Tina always made the time to ask after my personal life in a way that showed she cared about me bringing my full self to work, and about my mental health in general. This is something I’d like to do more consistently as a leader. 

3. Take a 360 review and other assessments 

This step in the process may take a week or more, so it’s important to get started as soon as possible. A 360 leadership assessment includes a self reflection and peer feedback. The goal of a 360 is to help you identify strengths and areas of opportunity. 

Having the self assessment compared to peer feedback can also help you see where you might be rating yourself differently from the people who work with you. Torch coach Elizabeth Howes provides a useful guide to unpacking the results of your first 360 leadership assessment . 

4. Revise your leadership development goals (include timeline) 

Now that you’ve had time to write your first draft of goals, think about traits of leaders you admire, and review your 360 results, it’s a good time to go back to those goals and ensure they align with how you want to move forward. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Did I discover a hidden opportunity in my 360 that I should add a developmental goal around? 
  • Is there a trait of a leader I admire that I could receive mentorship from? 
  • Are the timelines I set for my goals appropriate or do I need to reprioritize? 

5. Review with your manager, coach, or mentor 

While you’ve collected feedback from peers and potentially your manager in the 360 review step, now is the time to review your goals for leadership development with a trusted advisor. 

This person could be your manager, coach, or mentor. What is important is that you have a discussion to solidify your plan, and you now have someone to help hold you accountable to it (other than yourself). 

6. Measure your development over time 

What might be the most important part of creating your leadership development plan using steps one through five is that you measure your development and track progress towards your goals over time. 

This means setting regular check ins for self evaluation, time with your chosen advisor (manager, coach, or mentor) and circling back with your team for their feedback (through a 360 and in one-on-one meetings).  

Get your leadership development plan template in an easy-to-edit format 

When should you create a leadership development plan .

A leadership development plan can be used at different points along a leaders’ career including: 

  • Establish what it means to be a leader and confront hidden opportunities
  • Reflect on early leadership and reevaluate hidden opportunities
  • Consider if/how your approach to leadership has changed
  • Examine how your approach to leadership aligns with your new role or company

Creating a leadership development plan is only the beginning of the developmental process. Ongoing development for employees takes many forms, and at Torch we’re here to provide one-on-one coaching and mentoring at scale for your leaders. 

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Nurture your future leaders: 7 individual development plan examples for leadership.

Nurturing future leaders is a must-do for your organization. Get 7 individual development plan examples for leadership to help you nurture your organization's f

Leadership development is an organizational imperative.

It is the lifeline that ensures a pipeline of capable leaders ready to steer the organizational ship. 

But leadership isn't an overnight metamorphosis. It's a gradual transformation facilitated by strategic individual development plans.

The answer lies in well-structured individual development plans.

This article will: 

  • Share s even compelling examples of individual development plans specifically tailored for leadership. 
  • Scrutinize each example , highlighting the key components that can guide aspiring leaders on their development journey.
  • Offer concrete suggestions for making each example even better . 
"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of GE.

leadership development plan template download

💼 What is an individual development plan for managers ?

7 Development Plan Examples For Leadership

An individual development plan for managers is a structured framework that outlines specific goals, actions, and strategies to support their professional growth.  

It is a personalized roadmap that helps managers identify their strengths, areas for improvement, and developmental needs . 

The plan typically includes a set of objectives and action steps to enhance their leadership skills , knowledge, and managerial capabilities.

Individual development plan templates can: 

  • Help managers assess their current skills.
  • Create a direction for their professional development goals .
  • Measure the progress toward their development goals.
  • Hone their strengths.
  • Address their weaknesses.

Sample development plan linked to career progression framework on Zavvy

🪞 Self-reflection + SMART goals development plan (Puna)

Self refelcetion example PUNA

The leadership development plan example from Puna , a leadership resource aggregator, uses a 3-step process:

  • Starting with a self-reflection exercise.
  • Seeking input and suggestions from colleagues.
  • Discussing the next steps for the development plan with HR or another manager.

What it does well 

  • Self-reflection is a great way to assess one's strengths to become an effective leader. Use this tool to see how a leader's strengths align with their colleagues' perceptions. (Our favorite question they included: E.g., What strengths do you want people to see in you/ what do you want to be known for ? )
  • Incorporates the leader's self-reflection , their peer's feedforward input , and the manager's to shape the focus of the development plan. 
  • Uses SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) goals. 
  • Structured around a leadership competency model that includes behavioral descriptions for each key leadership element (competency) . 

Leadership competency model template

What could be improved

  • Doesn't include a section to document the input from the manager. 
  • Doesn't track progress based on the goals set.
  • Doesn't include a follow-up timeline. 
  • Unclear if this is a yearly plan or if it covers a more narrow period. 

The biggest advantage of this leadership development plan example is it uses the SMART approach, which helps leaders create actionable steps and deadlines to achieve their career goals. 

How to make it better

  • Set frequent follow-ups to ensure the manager stays on track, offer feedback, and provide additional support.
  • Clearly define the time frame for the development activities. 

🔁 Leadership plan example including previous development evaluations + 360 feedback (Leads 360)

Leadership plan  example Leads360

If this is not your leader's first development plan, starting with an evaluation of previous plans is a great way to get started. 

This example from Leads 360 asks leaders to identify what worked well and not to help them craft new development opportunities for leaders to reach their long-term goals.

Then, it uses the insights from 360 feedback to shape the leader's development planning direction. 

What it does well

  • Evaluates previous development plans. 
  • Provides an overview of key strengths and their relevance for the organization. 
  • Includes examples to help leaders formulate their goals. 
  • Splits development planning into short, medium, and long terms actions (in two weeks, three months, and one year).
  • Acknowledges that growth is a shared process and includes a section explaining who will help the leader grow ( Which people are key to helping you successfully develop this capability? ).
  • Has an accountability agreement to track progress.
  • No structured 1:1s with a sponsor (accountability partner) to keep track of progress.
  • No competency expectations to better frame the strengths and areas for growth. 

While this example digs deep into the specifics to help uncover managers' strengths and opportunities for growth, there are additional elements that can further enhance it.

  • Integrate leadership assessments with the individual development plan to further evaluate your leadership capacity. 
  • Create a structured and regular check-in schedule to measure the progress of each goal.
  • Provide personalized training recommendations to help address areas of improvement indicated in the development plan.

📝 Basic leadership development plan example (Hamilton County School District)

Basic Leadership development plan example Hamilton County

Following a basic template can be a great headstart for your IDP. This example from the Hamilton County School District follows a very straightforward structure. 

Note: Teachers are the users of this plan example, and, as a result, its final goal is enhancing student performance. However, you can correlate this to managers striving to improve team performance. 

  • Clearly state the final goal: increase performance.
  • Uses the smart goals SMART framework to clarify the specifics of the plan.
  • Includes an evaluation section for reporting the impact of professional learning on student (employee) performance. 
  • Encourages the beneficiary leader to share their newly acquired knowledge. 
  • There is no accountability partner or manager to check up on the progress.
  • Focuses on only one goal. 
  • Lacks structure in learning objectives.
  • Schedule 1:1s with colleagues to take accountability for goals set. 
  • Increase critical areas to focus on improvement and opportunities for development .

🔮 Long-term leadership development plan template (Cleveland Clinic)

Long-term leadership-example-Cleveland-Clinic

A long-term leadership development plan is a powerful tool to shape employees' growth as leaders. 

This 3-year leadership development plan from Cleveland Clinic is a great example.

An excellent way to create long-term goals is to let them envision their selves as leaders years from now. This can help them work backward and set milestones to help them achieve that goal in the future.

From there, they can identify whether they want to improve their soft and management skills to be the leader they want to be. 

  • Kicks off with a "Leadership Challenge Assessment" consisting of 25 statements leaders have to rate themselves using a 5 scale rating. Here are some of them:  I try to form partnerships and collaborative relationships in my work setting; I encourage others when they are down or self-doubting . I listen closely to all points of view before making decisions . These correspond to a  
  • Creates long-term goals for leadership development.
  • It contains several sections that assess employees' capacity as a leader and recognize blind spots from previous experience to help address them: Envision yourself as an exemplary leader. Some examples are: Accelerate your learning by envisioning the future, Search for leadership opportunities and early wins. 
  • Adds the opportunity to schedule mentoring program with a manager/coach.
🤝 Here's a guide to help managers become effective coaches during their mentoring programs. 
  • No framework to align the leader's aspirations with company objectives or values. 
  • No input from direct reports, peers, or superiors.
  • No deadlines throughout the 3 years for the actionable steps necessary to meet development goals.
  • Implement a structured 360° feedback system to help identify blind spots from previous leadership performance reviews.
  • Create growth plans with clear milestones, whether weekly, monthly, or yearly, depending on the specific goals identified. 

🎯 "One big thing" goal + "One big liability" leadership development plan (Leadership Circle) 

leadership development plan Leadership Circle

Managers need to be intentional about their purpose when starting an individual development plan and see where they want to go as leaders. This can help them establish realistic, practical, yet challenging goals that can shape their capacity as a manager and a better leader in the future. 

Here's a great example of a template that sets a "One Big Thing" goal from Leadership Circle .

  • Includes a section for defining the vision, with examples and guidelines. 
  • Links out to 186 goal statements to inspire leaders. 
  • Includes a start-stop approach to behavioral change through personal development. 
  • Tracking progress from multiple colleagues for accountability by identifying an "Accountability circle." 
  • Suggests 3-9 months for the development plan.
  • Zooms in on the impact of the leader's development: impact on business results, own leadership, personal life, etc. 

One of the strengths of this example is it paints a big picture of employees' leadership goals while recognizing barriers they need to address that may hinder their progress. 

  • No structured feedback from peers to gather clear insights.
  • There is no concrete timeline for achieving subgoals or completing action items. 
  • Implement a structured 360° feedback system to manage constructive feedback from peers and collect them at a definite time.
  • Once the leaders define the key approaches to their development, include a section for determining a more concrete timeline for the actions that would enable their growth. 

🗺️ Development goals for leadership roadmap example (Department of Commerce)

Development goal xample-DOC

The Department of Commerce's Individual Development Plan (IDP) recognizes the power of straightforward goals to empower leaders to chart their path to success and cultivate their leadership capabilities. 

This example uses a roadmap framework, guiding aspiring and current leaders, encompassing short-term and long-term training and development activities. 

  • Has a straightforward approach to goal-setting. For each development goal, the leader would define developmental activities (e.g., assignments, learning resources, etc.). Plus, there is a section for the expected completion date and for reporting progress, encouraging accountability. 
  • Uses the SMART approach to frame development goals.

This plan takes a direct and uncomplicated approach, addressing competencies, tracking progress, and setting realistic timelines for each development activity, all aligned with their overall goal.

  • It doesn't fully assess the current skills and knowledge of the individual.
  • There is no link to expectations in terms of competencies and behaviors. 
  • Establish a leadership competency model considering the leader's current and desired skillset and knowledge.
  • To properly track progress, set regular check-ins with the supervisor to ensure growth is on track and provide additional support whenever necessary.

🌟 Vision and values-driven leadership development plan example (The Bush School)

Vision and values example Statement

When crafting an individual development plan, envisioning the type of leader you aspire to be sets you on the right path. Having a personal vision statement challenges you to think about where your life is headed, your purpose, and what matters most. 

This example from the Bush School requires aspiring leaders to draw on their vision and see if their core values match the goals they set for themselves. It also provides an attribute analysis in which leaders can assess their strengths, self, and social awareness to manage their team effectively.

  • Dives deeper into the person's strengths, weaknesses, and core values.
  • Identifies the skills and knowledge to serve as the basis for leadership development goals. 
  • Uses the Stretch and SMART goals frameworks. These allow leaders to challenge their capabilities toward reaching their vision statement while keeping realistic and practical goals in mind.
  • Includes a structured approach to development. Each development goal has a section for action items, one for resources that would assist the leader in accomplishing the goal, and the expected timeline for achieving the goal. 
  • Focuses too much on self-evaluation, which can be one-sided. 
  • The skills matrix at the end might be confusing to the users. 
  • Leaders should have another manager on board in the action plan to keep track of the progress on the goals and objectives they set for themselves.
  • Include others' feedback to provide a more well-rounded picture of areas of improvement. 

Depending on the managers' career aspirations and the leadership culture they want to foster, you can always draw inspiration from plans that work well to build great leaders.

💼 Are you in need of a ready-to-use template? Our leadership development plan template includes a comprehensive structure and a few examples to guide your leaders.
🌱 Also, check out these 10+ employee development plan examples that can bring out the best in your employees!

➡️ Grow your leaders and your teams with Zavvy

At Zavvy, we believe in nurturing leaders who inspire, motivate, and bring out the best in their teams . We are committed to providing companies with the easiest and most convenient solutions to foster exceptional leadership.

Say goodbye to countless hours on administrative tasks. Experience a streamlined, efficient, and hassle-free approach to developing your employees with Zavvy.

Zavvy can help leaders in the making by: 

  • Providing individually crafted development plans and career pathing frameworks powered by AI .
  • Creating competency-based feedback reviews to understand everyone's strengths and weaknesses.
  • Scheduling structured, regular check-ins to track progress and ensure accountability.
  • Offering access to thousands of learning resources that can easily be added to development plans.
  • Align leaders and employees and promote accountability and ownership with the goal management software.

Zavvy's development software lets you transform managers into coaches, turn employees into potential leaders, and boost company performance with team efficiency and productivity.

📅 Book a free demo now to see the power of Zavvy.

Zavvy 360 degree growtth system

What is an individual development plan for leaders? 

An individual development plan, or IDP, is a written plan that guides future leaders to understand their strengths and weaknesses and identify development opportunities. This plan should contain clear, actionable steps to help hone invaluable leadership skills. 

Why is it important to create an individual development plan?

Creating an individual development plan for leaders can benefit the company and the managers. Strong leaders can help steer a clear path for a complex business environment and solve problems effectively, propelling their career trajectory and the organization's overall growth.

What should be included in a leadership development plan?

Your individual development plan should depend on your long-term goals, leadership role in the company, core competencies, feedback from co-managers or employees, and the internal and external training resources available. We suggest you use Zavvy's career pathing framework to help you recognize individual competencies and use it as a reference to craft a development plan template for you. 

Do we have to use AI when using Zavvy's development plans? 

Not necessarily. You can customize your plans using AI-generated tools from Zavvy or do it manually. With the help of AI, you can save time and efficiently work on development plans with personalized recommendations based on the insights gathered by the system.

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Lorelei is Zavvy's Content Marketing Manager. She is always on the hunt for the latest HR trends, fresh statistics, and academic and real-life best practices to spread the word about creating better employee experiences.

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Did you know you can make your dreams and aspirations a reality by focusing on your own individual personal development plan ?

Your potential is limitless, and investing in personal development is a way to harness your many talents.

Establishing goals for what you want to achieve — where you would like to go in the short term or long term — can improve your personal development.

In this guide, I’ll help you understand what personal development means and its importance, what a personal development plan is and why you should make one, and how to write a personal development plan. 

I’ll also share with you my personal development plan template to get you started on your path to reach your personal development goals, complete with helpful examples and resources to support you.

What Is a Personal Development Plan (PDP)?

A personal development plan is a guideline for your life and your future success.

Personal development is the process of improving oneself through conscious habits and activities. It is the pursuit of personal growth to enhance your quality of life and to achieve your dreams and aspirations.

When you create a personal development plan, you start to define the kind of person you want to be, skills you want to have, and accomplishments you want to achieve. And then you map out your long-term and short-term goals to realize these aspirations and set timelines for when you want to reach them.

Many people underachieve in their careers because they do not realize the areas of personal development that can help achieve mastery in any field.

Effective leaders focus on continual self-improvement and know there is no substitute for hard work.

When you practice self-discipline by setting a goal, making a plan, and working on it every day, you will see personal development and progress within your career.

The Importance of Personal Development

Most of the time, what you think about is what you become. From the moment you wake until the moment you close your eyes at the end of the day, everything you experience plays a factor in your development.

When you take greater control over your experiences, you are able to guide your personal development and accelerate toward what you want to become instead of leaving it to chance.

Setting, striving for, and meeting personal development goals opens up a world of new possibilities for you to increase your quality of life.

For example, as a result of creating and following your personal development plan, you may gain more responsibility for work and open up opportunities for higher pay. This growth could qualify you for a better career trajectory to increase your overall happiness, job satisfaction, and ability to provide for the life you want for you and your family.

Focusing on your personal development also gives you better decision-making abilities so you can avoid problems that may have plagued you in the past or are holding you back now.

At the end of the day, personal development helps you create more positivity and harness the power of positive thoughts , which can transform your life. 

When you give time to yourself by focusing on your professional and personal growth, you are better able to achieve your version of success because of personal development.

Personal Development vs Self-Improvement

Recognizing the difference between self-improvement and personal development can be a little tricky.

While they are similar in that they are both very instrumental in achieving your goals and improving yourself, there are key differences between a self-improvement plan and a personal development plan.

Personal development is the work you are putting in to transform yourself on a daily basis. It’s the efforts you’re making to advance in your work, lifestyle, attitude, physique, and sociability.

Setting personal development goals and creating a plan helps you take full advantage of any opportunity that may come your way and make the most of your potential.

Self-improvement is an inner transformation. It is a self-motivated study to improve one’s character, status, or knowledge by their own efforts. 

Self-improvement is a lifelong process of constantly searching for ways to change your habits so you can reach your fullest potential.

The specific efforts you put into personal development lead to self-improvement.

Start Achieving All of Your Goals Today! Download my FREE Personal Development Plan Template

The 7 Categories of Personal Development

Focusing on personal development categories such as personal skills, personal growth, and personal power can create habits for personal improvement.

Personal growth is founded on education and skill. Through education and experience, you increase your skill level and your ability to succeed in your field.

There are seven main categories of personal development.

Personal Skills

Personal skills can be ones you were born with as well as skills gained through deliberate practice. They’re often referred to as soft skills. 

Examples of personal skills are decision-making, teamwork, organization, and communication.

If you’re interested in growing your skills at work, try working on your personal skills. The highest-paid, top individuals in their field are the ones that focus on growing their personal skills. 

Knowing what areas you excel in and which need development is very useful in your personal and professional life.

Personal Growth

Having a personal growth plan is one of the first steps toward bettering yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Humans and the human mind are constantly evolving. Think about it: you are not the same person you were a year ago. You’ve learned more, grown in many different ways, and have experienced more life events to further shape your personality, beliefs, and world outlook.

In order to experience personal development and growth, strive to be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday.

Personal Power

Personal power is the authority others believe you to have in certain situations and is fueled by your contacts, knowledge, and financial status.

Developing an ever-widening circle of contacts, seeking to learn more, and growing financially increases the number of doors that others will leave open for you to step into.

Expanding your network, knowledge base and financial status will also allow you to help others do the same, further increasing your personal power and opportunities for personal development and growth.

Personal Improvement

Personal improvement stems from good work habits and having a positive mental attitude. 

Thinking before you act is critical to developing a strong amount of personal improvement. To help you think first, try to set priorities on a list and consider the likely consequences before beginning. 

Working on personal improvement and generating a positive mental attitude will also reduce the amount of time that it takes you to achieve your goals.

Personal Empowerment

Personal empowerment is similar to Personal Power, except empowerment is the power you see within yourself, instead of how others view you.

Promoting a positive image and adopting creativity within your daily life can speed up the time it takes to achieve personal empowerment and your goals.

To help you increase your personal empowerment, consider looking for new, creative ways to finish a project in a faster, easier or cheaper way without compromising the end result.

Personal Analysis

It is very important to be conscious of areas in which you are naturally gifted as well as analyze areas in which you need improvement. This is called personal analysis.

Being truthful about where you currently stand is the first step to moving forward. You should be constantly evaluating where you are in relation to achieving your goals and ambitions.

Personal Objectives

Ambition goes to waste when there are no clear goals in sight. Developing short-term and long-term goals is a pivotal step in actually accomplishing them and growing as a person.

Having a set plan will help you have a clear understanding of which strategies are necessary in order to reach your desired destination.

Why Make a Personal Development Plan?

The reason you need a personal development plan is that making a plan will help guide you to better decision-making and remind yourself of where you want to go.

In other words, good preparation increases the probability of success and decreases the risk of things going wrong along the way.

Creating a plan for personal development helps you get a better sense of control over your life and will make you better prepared for whatever comes your way.

Consider these benefits to having a personal development plan:

  • It brings your vision to reality. 
  • It ensures you take appropriate and logically planned action.
  • It helps you improve your time management skills so you can achieve your goals. 
  • It’s a plan to keep track of progress, which serves to motivate you when you want to give up.
  • It’s been proven to reduce stress, improve balance in life, and increase self-confidence.

Developing personal development goals for work can make the difference between success and failure. Creating a self-growth plan for your personal life can mean the difference between life-long happiness and regret.

Skills & Objectives

The objectives of personal development are continuous personal growth, increased potential for success, and capitalizing on potential opportunities.

You can practice your personal development skills by setting aside time for the important people in your life, performing action exercises that force you to perform at the highest level, and studying growth performances to help ensure you continue to climb the ladder of success.

An action plan has to include measurable objectives so you know the exact steps it will take to reach your goals. Objectives break your larger personal developments goals into bite-sized pieces so you are able to know where you are headed and check off your progress along the way.

There are no limits except for the limits you place on yourself with your thinking.

Commit yourself to a life of constant learning. Even if you are at the top of your field, there is always something to learn. 

Once you have mastered a new skill, move on to learning another one. Constantly learning new skills keeps your mind fresh and active and opens doors that would otherwise be closed to you.

You will become unstoppable and you will see your entire future open up in front of you if you live a goal and growth-oriented life.

How to Set Personal Development Goals

Before you can set up a plan, you need to do some self-reflecting and answer personal goal questions.

A few questions you should develop before laying out a specific plan of action are:

  • What do I want to make out of my life?
  • What are my goals and ambitions?
  • What is currently standing in my way of achieving these goals?

After answering those questions, you can create a personal plan that contains a few key components.

The key components you should focus on are having a specific outcome that you are constantly working towards, planning and paving a path towards achieving it, being mindful of the obstacles, and understanding the bigger motivation behind your actions.

When developing a personal development plan for work, you should focus on SMART goals. SMART stands for “Specific”, “Measurable”, “Achievable”, “Relevant”, and “Time-Bound.”

By following this easy-to-remember acronym when goal setting , you can improve both your personal and professional life:

  • Specific: Write goals that are detailed and clear instead of broad and general.
  • Measurable: Set milestones that will let you know you are achieving your goal.
  • Achievable: Make goals that are challenging yet can realistically be achieved.
  • Relevant: Align your goals with your personal self-improvement plan.
  • Time-Bound: Pick an end date by which you want to achieve your goal.

Set Goals for Professional Life

In order to make progress that you can see and track in your professional life, you need to document a detailed plan of action for your personal development.

Some personal development plan examples for work include answering the following questions:

  • What do I want to learn?
  • What do I have to do?
  • What support and resources will I need?
  • How will I measure success?

Be as specific with your answers as possible. The more precise, the easier it is to track your progress.

Seeing how far you have come and how your hard work is paying off will give you a boost of confidence and provide a sense of accomplishment.

Some examples of personal development goals for work include the Golden Hour and the 21-Day Mental Diet.

The Golden Hour Rule

The Golden Hour Rule steers the trajectory of your day.

Beginning your day early and investing your first hour in yourself will make a tremendous difference in the way you feel, and you will begin to see positive results in your day.

You will begin to see yourself in a more positive light and improve on your personal development.

The 21-Day Mental Diet

The 21-Day Mental Diet personal leadership plan example means waking up early and investing at least the first two hours of your day in yourself.

With this extra time, set clear goals you can work to achieve in the workplace. This can be improving your productivity and efficiency to help you get that promotion or earn a raise.

Your goals may also include education. You need to learn more to earn more.

Try setting a goal to read something educational, motivational, or inspirational every day before you go to work.

Set Goals in Your Daily Life

Outside of the workspace, it is important to be focusing on some personal goals as well. Similar to the work plan, the personal plan requires you to focus on key points in order to achieve your goals.

Here is a personal development plan example:

  • What are the important goals that you want to achieve?
  • When is your set deadline?
  • What are your biggest strengths?
  • Who or what are your biggest threats?

There are several aspects of personal development disciplines that will make achieving success possible if developed correctly.

A few of these disciplines include goal setting, planning and organizing, and concentrating on your high-value activities.

Goal Setting

Goal setting can be done in the early morning and take only a few minutes of your day.

It can be as simple as purchasing a spiral notebook and writing out your ten goals at the beginning of each day. This will program them deep into your subconscious mind and help you actually follow through on accomplishing them.

Planning Your Day

Planning and organizing at the end of the day can help you better prepare for the coming day.

When you plan out your day, putting it down on paper, you can begin to visualize your important tasks and make sure you are working to complete them throughout the day.

Concentrating On Your High-Value Activities

High-value activities are the things you choose to do throughout the day that will give you the biggest return on your efforts to get you closer to your goals.

Concentrating on your high-value activities will help keep you focused and contribute to your success as much as any other discipline you can develop.

Promoting the highest value activities will make a powerful difference in how quickly you achieve them and the goals they relate to.

Personal Development Plan Template

Creating a plan for personal development will help you get a better sense of control over your life and your goals…and it doesn’t have to be a daunting task!

Follow this template for writing a personal development plan to get started in achieving your goals.

There are six core steps in this template that will help you take action and measure your progress.

Step 1: Set Your Goals

Write a list of the top 10 most important goals you would like to achieve. I encourage you to really write them down somewhere — on paper or on your computer — instead of just keeping them in your head. 

People who write their goals and have a clear plan are 30% more likely to achieve their goals.

Search deep within yourself and identify the things you really want out of life. Do not be hindered by thoughts of roadblocks that may get in your way. Open yourself up to all the possibilities that would make you truly happy in life.

These are life goals. Life goals are meant to be challenging, so they may seem huge, overwhelming, or even scary. But that’s why they will be broken down into digestible and manageable smaller goals. 

For example, providing for your family is an important long-term goal, but figuring out the steps to get there is the challenge. Your smaller personal development plan objectives will help you identify those steps so you have a clear road map to follow.

With each of the 10 goals you identify, also define your “why:” Why do you want to achieve this goal? What will it mean for your personal life, your career, your health, your loved ones?

Knowing your why will help set you up for success. It will keep you motivated to continue progressing forward until you have achieved what you want to.

Step 2: Prioritize Your Goals

Once you have identified your top 10 goals, write which of those 10 is the most important to you and why.

Starting with your highest priority goal, identify the short-term goals and steps that are needed to achieve your long-term goals.

What needs to happen today so you can move on to tomorrow?

This may require some research on your part, depending on your goal.

For example, say your goal is to become a leader in your field. Some of the short-term goals you will prioritize to reach this personal leadership plan example may include the following:

  • Choose a topic or niche in your industry that you want to specialize in. 
  • Learn everything you can about the issue by talking to people in your industry, reading about your topic, attending seminars and webinars, and so on.
  • Educate others by writing regular blog posts.
  • Start a podcast and offer valuable information.
  • Give interviews on podcasts, local radio and TV stations, and news outlets.
  • Write a book and get it published.
  • Become a public speaker at industry conferences or hold your own conference.

Step 3: Create a Timeline for Achieving Your Goals

Setting deadlines in your personal development plan template is crucial. Without them, your goals can get lost in the everyday chaos of life or forgotten completely.

Write down a specific timeline for achieving each of your goals, but be realistic in your timing and know the likelihood ahead of time of achieving your goal within a certain timeline to avoid discouragement.

While you may want to become debt-free by next year, you will first need to do what is necessary to earn more income or reduce your expenses. This could involve getting more education, finding a better job, or making major life changes, which could take more than 365 days.

Once you assign a due date to each of your short-term goals, tackle the hardest goal first . This will help you realize you can actually achieve your goals faster and give you the motivation you need to propel yourself forward.

If you’re unsure of the timeline you should set for accomplishing your goals, speaking to other people who have achieved the goal you are striving for will help you set a realistic deadline. 

Conducting online research could also help in defining a timeline to accomplish your goals. 

Knowing that it takes four to five years to earn a Ph.D. in business lets you know how long it will likely take you. If you can only attend school part-time, you know it will take longer, perhaps twice as long.

Step 4: Analyze Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Write down your strengths and weakness. Remember that skills like perseverance, positive attitude, and creativity are strengths and weaknesses as much as educational level, experience, and having a strong network of professional contacts.  

Focus on the attributes that are needed to achieve your goal. Then, write how your strengths can help you achieve this goal and how you plan to overcome those weaknesses.

Use a SWOT analysis to organize your thoughts and develop a strong strategy for achieving your goal. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. 

Ask yourself questions similar to these to help you develop each part of a SWOT analysis:

  • What sets you apart from your peers?
  • What is your competitive advantage?
  • What do others regularly praise you for?
  • What do people ask you to help them with?
  • What parts of yourself are you confident about?
  • What values are important to you?
  • What do you usually avoid doing because you don’t think you can?
  • What kind of tasks do you procrastinate?
  • Where are you lacking in skills, experience, or education?
  • What resources do you lack?
  • What areas do you feel you need improvement?
  • What gets in the way of your work performance or relationships with others?


  • What technology can help you achieve your goal?
  • What promotions or financial incentives are available at work?
  • Who can help you reach your goal?
  • What changes are happening or are projected to happen in your industry or personal life?
  • What conferences, classes, or networking events are available to you?
  • What are your competitors failing at that you can learn from and improve on?
  • What obstacles do you face that may hinder your progress?
  • Which of your weaknesses could lead to threats?
  • Who is trying to achieve the same goal that may get in your way?

Step 5: Write an Action Plan

Write actions that you need to take in order to achieve your goal. These can be things you need to add to your daily routine as well as things you need to eliminate from it in order to achieve the success in life that you are looking for.

Doing this will help you to achieve each goal faster.

Whether you use a notebook or your computer, just make sure you’re also physically writing down your plan so you can see it every day and hold yourself accountable.

Step 6: Measure Your Progress

The final step in your personal development plan template is to mark your progress.

Write down what has been working well, what you have accomplished, what you still need to improve, and what skills or knowledge you have gained along the way.

People who set up a system to report on their goals weekly achieve 40% more than people who do not. 

To help you in this final step, consider using a tracker to take notes, measure progress, and be analytical about what works and what does not.

Sometimes it is necessary to change courses midstream or add a step that you were not initially aware of. That doesn’t mean you should abandon your goal out of discouragement. It just means you need to adapt, and this is where a tracker can help you determine if it’s time to pivot.

Remember it’s okay to be flexible. Doing so will allow you to make changes when needed that will propel you toward your goal more efficiently.

This could be a good opportunity to use another piece of data about how people who write things down/journal are much more likely to be successful. 

Personal Development Courses and Programs

Personal development courses, coaches, and programs can also help you hit your goals.

A personal development program accompanied by a personal development coach helps to keep you disciplined and moving forward.

If you are looking to transform your life, check out these courses and programs that include all of my knowledge, distilled into powerful lessons to help you achieve immediate success in your own life. They will teach you how to stop worrying and stressing out and how to take control of your life, forever.

Power of Personal Achievement

Learn the right way to visualize your ideal future. This course will teach you how to set your goals and methodically achieve them with more efficiency than ever before.

This program will teach you how to ditch the negative emotions that have been hindering your success as well as how to redirect your energy and resources towards your personal mission. 

The Science of Self Confidence

In this course, you’ll learn just about everything I’ve learned about self-confidence during the past four decades.

I reveal the secret of the four Cs that teach you how to escape the endless loop of failure. You will find your true self and, as a result, finally feel truly confident.

Maximum Productivity

This course will equip you with the skills to discover your special calling. You will learn everything you need in order to know how to take the shortest, fastest route possible to your destination.

Ultimate success is achievable when you know how to dramatically improve your productivity.

Create Your Personal Development Plan Today

Don’t wait to start improving your life.

Follow a personal development plan for work and your personal life or use a template to start accomplishing your goals and improving your life.

For the easiest way to get started, download my free Personal Development Plan Template to organize your goals over the next few months and years and optimize your success.

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How to Create a Personal Leadership Development Plan

personal development plan example leadership

Successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes. No two workplaces, situations, crises, or scenarios are the same, and no two leaders are the same. And while it’s fine to say that servant leadership is the most effective type of management style , that doesn’t explain how a manager can become an effective manager. That’s where the personal leadership development plan comes into play.

The idea of developing a personal leadership development plan might seem a bit wonky, especially if you’re already in a leadership position. But having a plan — more specifically, a written list of leadership development activities — is important.

Here’s why: on the most basic level, you want your personal leadership development plans to be readily accessible as both reminders and guidelines for the goals you’ve set for yourself. We’ve all made mental to-do lists — and promptly forgotten everything on them. Same goes with a leadership plan.

Not sure where to start? Follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll have a leadership development plan in no time.

Step 1: Define What Generally Makes a Great Leader

The best way to make a leadership development plan is to draw inspiration from today's great leaders. To start, make a leadership skills list of qualities that you think make up the traits, competencies, abilities, and experience of a good leader.

  • Honest, ethical behavior
  • Being able to clearly and succinctly communicate a vision
  • Using creativity and intuition to navigate difficult and unpredictable situations

Step 2: Take a Self-Assessment

Next you want to identify your core characteristics. These are personality traits like "adventurous," "observant," and "impulsive." To do this, take a test like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or StrengthsFinder . Or, rally a group of friends, peers, colleagues, and family to write down words they'd use to describe you.

By breaking down your personality traits and strengths, you’ll have more insight into your personal style and be able to better answer the “Who am I?” piece of the personal leadership development process, which we'll get to later.

Step 3: Identify Your Core Values

Now that you've identified your core characteristics, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty details and identify your core values.

Core values are the principles you use to make decisions and define integrity and ethics. They are the things that help you weigh choices in life, and are typically unwavering.

  • Achievement
  • Advancement
  • Affiliation
  • Collaboration
  • Competition
  • Economic security
  • Helping others
  • Inner harmony
  • Personal development
  • Responsibility
  • Self-respect
  • Spirituality

From your selections, identify 3–5 as your main core values. To see what these look like in action, here's an example from Kevin Daum , a journalist at Fast Company who revealed his own core values and provided guidelines for developing your own.

Step 4: Write a Personal Vision Statement

A personal vision statement reflects your personal traits and core values. It seeks to answer the question, “Who am I and what is my higher calling?”

  • What you want to be (in terms of character traits – refer to your self-assessment!)
  • What you want to achieve or contribute
  • The principles/values you use to make decisions, big and small

The personal vision statement will become your personal constitution — a physical reminder for you to see where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to go. By outlining your vision, you will have something to look back on when it comes time to develop your goals and write an action plan.

To give you an example of what this could look like, here is dailyworth.com founder, Amanda Steinberg's , personal mission statement:

"To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world."
  • Does this represent the integrity I stand for?
  • Are direction, purpose, and motivation signaled in this statement?
  • Is this an accurate portrait of who I want to be?
  • Does this inspire me?

Remember: nothing is set in stone. Your personal statement will — and should — evolve over time. It should reflect where you are now and where you hope to go.

Step 5: Analyze What Others Think of You

You've done a lot of soul searching up to this point. However, being a great leader isn't just about what you think makes an effective leader. Other people — your industry, peers, and those you lead — need to also think you're effective.

  • What do you want your employees and coworkers to say about you when you are not in the room?
  • Now, what do they actually say? (You might realistically know the answer to this already. If not, ask a trusted peer.)
  • More generally, how do others currently perceive you?
  • Do you care about others’ perceptions of you?
  • What are the expectations for professionalism and leadership in your field?
  • If your personal assessment doesn't align with the answers to these questions, are you capable of changing your image and are the benefits worth the costs (cognitive, psychological, emotional, physical effort) to change? Do you even want to change?

The answers to these questions should serve as a checks and balance to all the work you did prior to this step. By identifying holes in what you want to be vs. what people already think you are, you'll be able to pinpoint exactly where you need to improve, which will help with the next step.

Step 6: Identify Current and Lacking Leadership Skills

  • First, identify the skills you already have. Skills are different than traits: Skills can be taught (e.g. Excel, communication, delegating, etc.). Traits are natural abilities that last a lifetime (e.g. thoughtful, risk-adverse, introverted, etc.).
  • Writing a resume can help identify these skills. Or, draw inspiration from these types of skills:
  • Personal skills : Developing self-awareness, managing personal stress, solving problems
  • Interpersonal skills : Coaching and counseling, other supportive communication, influencing and motivating others, managing conflict
  • Group skills : Empowering and delegating, building effective teams and teamwork, managing change
  • Technical skills : Making presentations, making policies, personnel management, budgeting, project management
  • Once you’ve made your list, mark each item with an “S” if it is one of your strengths or a “D” if it’s something that needs development. If you’re unsure, ask a mentor, friends, and/or colleagues to offer their insights.
  • Lastly, cross reference the skills you identified with the lists you made of "skills all great leaders have" and "the skills others think I have (or lack)." Ask yourself, "Are there gaps in which I need to improve?" Remember, you do not need to embody every trait a great leader may have. You also don't need to improve on every single skill others think you need. Narrow down which ones you should focus on by cross referencing them with your core values and personal mission statement. If the skills don't align with these, deprioritize or bag them altogether.

Once you have a list of skills prioritized in descending order by "need development" and strengths, it's time to make some goals.

Step 7: Set Goals

Here’s where all this prior self-analysis and research come into play. Using the prioritized personal leadership skills list you developed in step six, write 2–3 stretch leadership development goals (goals that are challenging) and 1–2 manageable goals (goals that are “SMART”) that will help you achieve each of your reach goals.

A good example of a leader who used this model is Jorgen Vig Knudstorp , who took over as the CEO of LEGO in 2004. The family-owned business was not in good shape, but over the next five years, Knudstorp turned the company around. His stretch goal: To improve the company in every area. The SMART steps he took to get there: building better relationships with employees and customers, empowering employees to make decisions at all levels of the hierarchy, and introducing tight fiscal controls.

  • Specific : Ask who, what, where, when, why, and which
  • Measureable : Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress; ask “How much?”, “How many?”, and, “How will I know when it is accomplished?”
  • Attainable : Just about any goal can be attained when you plan steps wisely and establish a realistic time frame; ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish the goal
  • Realistic : Goals should be things you are willing and able to work toward — things you believe can be accomplished and that you actually want to accomplish
  • Timely: Goals should be grounded within a specific time frame

Step 8: Write an Action Plan

You have your goals. Now it's time to make an action plan for achieving them.

The action plan lays out the specific steps you’ll take, resources you’ll use, and the support system you’ll build to reach your stretch and SMART goals. If paper isn’t your thing, tools such as Trello are available to help you keep track of everything.

  • GOAL #1: (Enter goal here)
  • SPECIFIC ACTIONS TO TAKE: (Pro tip: Start with a verb to incite action!)
  • RESOURCES TO ASSIST DEVELOPMENT: (Including any training you may need)

Then, put them in order of importance and/or time it will take to achieve said goals. You now have a road map for achieving your goals and becoming the leader you want to be! To see what all of personal leadership development planning can look like once complete, see this example provided by Yale University .

Remember: your finished personal development leadership plan represents where you are now and where you hope to go. Revisit your plan often, updating it and tweaking it as needed, so that it reflects where you are on the road to becoming a great leader.

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How to craft the perfect leadership development plan with tips and examples

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As organizations recognize the indispensable role of adept leaders in driving innovation, fostering engagement, and ensuring sustained success, the demand for strategic leadership development has soared. According to a report by Deloitte , 86% of executives identified leadership as one of their most pressing issues.

In this blog, we will explore the art of crafting the perfect leadership development plan. We have compiled practical tips, actionable strategies, and illuminating examples to help you create a roadmap to hone your leadership acumen and propel your organization toward triumph.

What is a leadership development plan?

A leader is looking at the end goal

A leadership development plan is a structured and personalized strategy designed to enhance an individual's leadership skills , competencies, and qualities. It serves as a roadmap for leaders to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for growth, and to outline specific actions for improvement.

This plan typically includes a combination of skill-building activities, training programs, mentorship opportunities, and self-assessment mechanisms .

A well-crafted leadership development plan involves several key components, such as setting clear goals, identifying relevant training or learning experiences, establishing a timeline for skill enhancement, and regularly evaluating progress .

The plan may focus on various leadership dimensions, including communication, decision-making, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and strategic thinking.

Why is leadership development important in the modern workplace?

A leader is pulling employees to the top

A proper leadership development strategy plan holds immense significance in the modern workplace due to several compelling reasons:

Complex business landscape

The modern workplace is characterized by rapid technological advancements , global markets, and intricate challenges. Effective business leaders need to navigate this complexity with agility, adaptability, and strategic thinking.

Talent development

Leadership development nurtures a pipeline of capable leaders . As the workforce evolves, organizations must cultivate a pool of skilled individuals who can step into various leadership positions and roles seamlessly.

Employee engagement

Empowered and well-trained leaders create an environment of trust, open communication, and growth. This positively impacts employee morale, job satisfaction, and overall engagement .

Change management

Modern workplaces often undergo transformational changes. Leaders equipped with the skills to manage change effectively can guide their teams through transitions, reducing resistance and disruptions .

Innovation cultivation

Leadership development fosters innovative thinking and problem-solving. Leaders who encourage creativity within their teams drive the organization's ability to adapt and innovate.

Diverse workforce

Today's workforce comprises diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Leaders must possess cultural competence nurture leadership skills, and inclusivity skills to harness the strengths of this diversity .

Succession planning

Organizations require a smooth transition of leadership as senior leaders retire or move on. A well-structured development plan ensures a continuous flow of leaders ready to step into higher roles.

Competitive edge

Effective leadership directly impacts an organization's performance and competitiveness . Developing leaders who can drive growth, innovation, and profitability becomes a strategic advantage.

Employee development

Leaders influence employee growth and development . Skilled leaders can mentor and guide their teams, helping individuals reach their full potential.

15 Things to consider while creating a leadership development plan

A leader explaining the company's target to employees

Creating a robust leadership development plan requires careful consideration to ensure its effectiveness and relevance. Here are some unique and creative points to ponder:

  • Holistic growth: Beyond skills, focus on holistic growth. Incorporate aspects like emotional intelligence, cultural sensitivity, and ethical leadership to create a well-rounded plan.
  • Cross-functional exposur e: Seek opportunities to work across departments or teams. Exposure to diverse functions enhances your perspective and adaptability.
  • Reverse mentoring: Engage in reverse mentoring , where younger or less-experienced colleagues mentor you. It fosters a reciprocal learning dynamic and keeps you updated on newer perspectives.
  • Challenge comfort zones: Include goals that take you out of your comfort zone. Conquering new challenges cultivates resilience and innovative thinking.
  • Learning from failures: Intentionally engage with past failures. Reflect on lessons learned and strategies to avoid similar pitfalls in the future.
  • Micro-experiment s: Incorporate a "micro-experiment" approach. Try small-scale leadership training strategies , analyze results, and adapt your approach accordingly.
  • Personal purpose alignment: Align your leadership goals with your personal values and purpose . Authentic leadership stems from a connection to your true self.
  • Global mindset: If applicable, involve international experiences. Exposure to different cultures enriches your leadership toolkit and global perspective.
  • Unconventional role models: Look beyond traditional role models. Draw inspiration from fields outside your own , such as arts, sports, or literature.
  • Peer-driven learning: Collaborate with peers to co-create learning experiences. This fosters a sense of community and encourages collective growth.
  • Innovative mentorship: Explore mentorship from unconventional sources, like startup founders, artists, or non-profit leaders, to gain fresh insights.
  • Mindfulness integration: Incorporate mindfulness practices into your plan. Mindfulness enhances self-awareness, emotional regulation, and decision-making.
  • Legacy project: Plan a "legacy project" that leaves a positive impact on your organization or community. This showcases your commitment to long-term value creation.
  • Journaling journey: Maintain a leadership journal to track your progress, insights, and reflections. It becomes a valuable resource for self-assessment.
  • Feedback ecosystem: Develop a diverse feedback ecosystem . Gather insights not only from supervisors but also from subordinates, peers, and external stakeholders.

By embracing these creative considerations, your leadership development plan becomes a dynamic and innovative tool that propels you toward effective and impactful leadership.

7 Common challenges in implementing a leadership development plan

An employee is balancing on a board above a ball

Implementing a leadership development plan is a strategic endeavor that can lead to transformative growth within an organization . However, numerous challenges may arise during this process, necessitating careful consideration and planning. Here are seven common challenges and insights on how to overcome them:

1. Identifying future leaders:

Pinpointing individuals with leadership potential can be complex. In a dynamic workforce, talent can be hidden in unexpected places.

Mitigate this challenge by establishing a comprehensive assessment process that evaluates not just current skills, but also attributes like adaptability, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving capabilities.

2. Tailoring development plans:

Crafting personalized leadership development plans can be intricate. Generic approaches won't suffice. Overcome this by conducting thorough assessments to understand each individual's strengths and areas needing improvement.

Customize training modules, coaching, and mentoring to align with these unique needs.

3. Balancing daily responsibilities:

Leaders already managing their roles may find it challenging to allocate time for development activities. Striking a balance entails integrating leadership development seamlessly into their routines.

Utilize microlearning modules, brief coaching sessions, and peer mentoring to deliver impactful content without overwhelming their schedules.

4. Ensuring leadership buy-in:

Gaining buy-in from both upper management and potential leaders is crucial. Leaders may be hesitant to invest time, and upper management might be concerned about diverting resources.

Address this challenge by presenting the tangible benefits of leadership development, such as improved team performance, succession planning, and long-term organizational sustainability.

5. Sustaining long-term engagement:

Maintaining enthusiasm and engagement throughout the development journey can be tough. Combat this by structuring the plan as a continuous learning process. Incorporate milestone celebrations, gamification elements, and regular progress assessments to keep participants motivated.

6. Adapting to changing needs:

The landscape of leadership evolves, requiring plans to be flexible. Develop a plan that integrates feedback loops and periodic assessments , enabling adjustments as leaders' roles and organizational priorities evolve.

7. Measuring return on investment:

Demonstrating the impact of a leadership development plan on the organization's success can be challenging. Implement robust metrics that evaluate not only quantitative results like increased productivity but also qualitative outcomes like improved team collaboration and innovation.

By addressing these challenges proactively, organizations can navigate the complexities of implementing a leadership development plan, ensuring that the growth of future leaders aligns seamlessly with the organization's goals and vision.

How to set your leadership development plan goals?

Employer looking at the next big thing by standing on an arrow

Setting effective leadership development plan goals involves a systematic and thoughtful approach. Here's a structured process to guide you in creating leadership development plans:

  • Define aspirations: Clarify your long-term career aspirations and the leadership roles you aim to achieve. This will provide direction and purpose to your goals.
  • SMART criteria: Frame your goals using the SMART framework - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This ensures clarity and feasibility.
  • Prioritize goals: Identify a few key areas you want to focus on. Avoid spreading yourself too thin by selecting goals that align with your career trajectory and organizational needs.
  • Break down goals: Divide overarching goals into smaller, actionable steps. This makes the process manageable and allows you to track progress more effectively.
  • Skill enhancement: Choose leadership skills you want to develop, such as communication, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, or strategic thinking.
  • Learning opportunities: Identify training programs, workshops, seminars, and online courses that align with your chosen skills. Seek both formal and informal learning avenues.
  • Mentorship and coaching: Consider seeking mentors or coaches who can guide you in your leadership journey. Their insights and experiences can be invaluable.
  • Feedback mechanism: Establish a feedback loop with peers, subordinates, and superiors. Regular feedback helps you gauge your progress and make necessary adjustments.
  • Personal growth: Incorporate personal development goals, like improving time management, stress management, or work-life balance. Leadership encompasses holistic growth.
  • Measurable milestones: Define specific milestones to gauge your progress. These could be based on timeframes, achievements, or skills acquired.
  • Regular review: Set aside time for periodic reviews of your goals. Assess what's working, what needs adjustment, and whether your goals still align with your evolving career path.
  • Adaptability: Be open to modifying your goals as circumstances change. Adaptability is key in the dynamic world of leadership.

Remember, a well-crafted leadership development plan is a dynamic document that evolves as you grow. It's a roadmap that guides your journey towards becoming a more effective and impactful leader.

Leadership development plan template

Employer guiding and cheering for employees to grow

A leadership development plan template provides a structured framework to outline your goals, actions, and timeline for enhancing your leadership skills. While there are various formats, here's a comprehensive template to guide you:

Goal setting:

  • Identify 2-3 overarching leadership goals you want to achieve.
  • Ensure each goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant , and Time-bound (SMART).


  • Reflect on your current strengths, weaknesses, and leadership style.
  • Consider feedback from colleagues, mentors, and self-assessment tools.

Skill enhancement:

  • List specific leadership or technical skills that you want to develop (e.g., communication, decision-making).
  • Break down each skill into actionable sub-skills or behaviors.

Learning strategies:

  • Identify relevant learning opportunities:
  • Workshops, seminars, online courses, conferences.
  • Books, articles, podcasts , webinars.
  • Mentorship or coaching programs.
  • Assign a timeline to each goal and learning opportunity.
  • Break down longer-term goals into shorter-term milestones.

Action plan:

  • Specify the actions you'll take to develop each skill or achieve each goal.
  • Include both formal learning activities and practical applications.
  • List resources you'll need for skill development (books, software, training materials).
  • Note any support you'll seek, such as mentors or peers.

Feedback mechanism:

  • Describe how you'll gather feedback on your progress.
  • Identify individuals or methods for obtaining feedback (360-degree feedback, regular check-ins).

Reflection and adjustments:

  • Schedule regular reflection sessions to assess your progress.
  • Adjust goals, actions, or timelines based on your evolving needs and circumstances.

Personal growth:

  • Incorporate personal and professional development goals that align with leadership effectiveness (e.g., work-life balance, stress management).


  • Assess your development plan's effectiveness periodically.
  • Evaluate how your enhanced skills contribute to your leadership role and overall impact.

Customize this template to suit your specific goals, preferences, and the unique demands of your leadership role. Remember, an effective leadership development plan is a living document that evolves with your growth journey.

5 Leadership development plan examples to inspire you

Employer lifting an employee up

Here are five diverse leadership development plan examples that can serve as inspiration for crafting your own personalized plan:

Communication mastery plan:

Goal: Enhance communication skills to foster clearer interactions with team members.

Actions: Attend public speaking workshops, practice active listening, engage in cross-functional discussions, and seek feedback on communication effectiveness.

Milestones: Successfully led a large team meeting, gave a presentation at a company event, and mentored a colleague on effective communication.

Inclusive leadership roadmap:

Goal: Develop inclusive leadership skills to foster diversity and equity within the team.

Actions: Participate in diversity and inclusion training, establish an employee resource group, facilitate open discussions on diversity , and mentor diverse talent.

Milestones: Implement diversity initiatives, create an inclusive team culture, and observe an increase in team collaboration and innovation.

Innovative problem-solving blueprint:

Goal: Cultivate innovative thinking to address complex challenges more creatively.

Actions: Attend design thinking workshops, encourage brainstorming sessions, explore new technologies, and promote a culture of experimentation.

Milestones: Successfully lead a cross-functional innovation project, introduce a new process that improves efficiency, and receive recognition for innovative contributions.

Adaptive change leadership strategy:

Goal: Develop skills to lead teams through organizational changes with resilience and empathy.

Actions: Enroll in change management courses, hold town hall meetings to address concerns, provide one-on-one coaching to team members during transitions, and lead by example during change.

Milestones: Successfully guide a major organizational change, observe minimal resistance from team members, and witness a positive impact on employee morale and performance.

Strategic visionary plan:

Goal: Enhance strategic thinking abilities to create a long-term vision for the team's growth.

Actions: Attend strategic planning workshops, analyze industry trends, conduct SWOT analysis for the team, and collaborate with senior leaders on long-term goals.

Milestones: Develop a comprehensive team growth strategy, witness improved alignment of team efforts with organizational goals, and contribute to achieving significant milestones.

These examples showcase how leadership development plans can be tailored to various skill sets and aspirations.

Drawing inspiration from these diverse approaches can help you shape a plan that aligns with your goals and empowers your journey as a leader. The importance of a leadership development plan lies in its ability to provide a structured framework for continuous improvement.

It helps leaders evolve in response to the changing demands of their roles and the dynamic business landscape. Moreover, an effective leadership development plan benefits both individuals and organizations by nurturing a pool of capable and adaptable future leaders, promoting employee engagement , and contributing to long-term organizational success.

A leadership development plan is a strategic roadmap designed to enhance leadership skills and competencies. It outlines goals, actionable steps, and a timeline for personal growth, enabling individuals to evolve into effective and impactful leaders.

How do I start crafting a leadership development plan?

Start by assessing your current skills, strengths, and areas for improvement. Identify your long-term career goals and align them with the skills you want to develop. Set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) and create an actionable plan to achieve them.

What should a comprehensive leadership development plan include?

A well-rounded plan includes clear goals, targeted skill enhancement strategies, a timeline for implementation, resources required (courses, workshops, mentorship), and mechanisms for feedback and evaluation.

How can I leverage mentoring in my leadership development plan?

Mentoring can be a powerful tool. Seek mentors who possess the skills you aim to develop. Engage in reverse mentoring, where you learn from younger colleagues. Virtual mentoring and online platforms can also provide diverse perspectives.

Can you provide an example of a successful leadership development plan?

Certainly. An example could be a mid-level manager aiming to enhance communication skills for effective team collaboration. Their plan might involve attending a communication workshop, reading influential books, leading cross-functional projects, and practicing active listening. Milestones could include successfully facilitating team discussions and achieving improved project outcomes.

Kailash Ganesh

Kailash Ganesh

Kailash is a Product Marketer with 5+ years of experience. He loves story-telling in the simplest way possible and he is an avid reader, movie buff, and likes to travel new places to meet new people.

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Tailored leadership development strategies – designed for impact

The key to an effective learning solution is getting the details right. The examples on this page provide a glimpse of how our skilled learning design team brings together high-impact learning experiences to create leadership development programs that deliver on specific objectives. Remember, these are just examples—let us tailor a learning experience just for you.

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Example 1: Fostering a Culture of Inclusion

This example, for a targeted set of leaders in the organization, is designed to help leaders create inclusive cultures.

Learning Experience

Moderated discussion:  Informal live discussion with senior executives on: company strategy for promoting Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging; DIB leadership; and plans for DIB improvements.

“Why Inclusive Leaders Are Good for Organizations, and How to Become One” “To Retain Employees, focus on Inclusion – Not Just Diversity” “Diversity Doesn’t Stick Without Inclusion?”

2-3 hours over 1 week

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Moderated discussion: Live conversation with Harvard thought leader

“Two Powerful Ways Managers Can Curb Implicit Bias” “Mindfulness Mitigates Biases You May Not Know You Have”

2 – 3 hours over 1 week

External Thought Leader Conversation

Moderated debrief/discussion: Analysis and discussion of real-life specific business challenge though live moderated discussion and case debrief

HBS Case Study: “Managing Diversity and Inclusion at Yelp”

3 – 4 hours over 1 – 2 weeks

Leading Inclusion every level

Hands-on Exercise: Based on research that shows that 61% of all employees cover their identities in some way, crippling their professional performance, this exercise provides individual reflection and team-based discussion focused on how managers can create a workplace environment where all members of a team can bring their full selves to work.

“Help Your Employees be Themselves at Work” exercise


Example 2: Leading through times of uncertainty

This example, for a targeted set of leaders in the organization, is designed to address an immediate challenge.

Moderated discussion:  Informal, live discussion among senior executives exploring current company strategy, business needs and goals.

“Leading in Complex Times” “Six Simple Rules for Managing Complexity”

Senior leader discussion

Moderated discussion: Live discussion with a Harvard Business School thought leader.

“The Ingredients of Great Leadership” “You Have to Lead from Everywhere”

Moderated debrief/discussion: Analyze and discuss a real-life business challenge through live, moderated case debrief and discussion.

HBS Case Study: “The 2010 Chilean Mine Rescue”

HBS Case Study

Hands-on Exercise: Develop actionable strategies to prepare teams to respond proactively, practicing adaptability and agility.

Exercise: “Leadership in a VUCA World” Harvard Business Review Video: “The Role of Tomorrow’s Leaders”

Applied Learning Experience

Example 3: Fostering organizational agility

This example addresses needs at multiple levels of the organization, creating a learning cascade to reinforce key messages and principles across the enterprise.

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  • 3-day HBS on-campus immersion
  • 3 virtual modules

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  • Strategic Organizational Agility
  • Innovation Culture
  • Adaptive Leadership

Work Application

  • 1 application/module
  • Cascade key messages to midlevel
  • Business impact project

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  • Senior leader led kickoff
  • 4 virtual modules
  • Strategic Agility
  • Collaborative Networks
  • Personal Adaptability
  • Agile Process & Innovation
  • 2 applications/modules
  • Cascade key messages to frontline leaders

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  • Agile Processes & Innovation
  • Cascade key messages to individual contributors

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  • Manager-led discussions

Harvard ManageMentor®, Harvard ManageMentor® Spark™, LeadingEdge

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  • Innovation and Change
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  • Application assignments
  • Frontline leader-led discussions to cascade messaging, debrief self-guided learnings
  • Specialists teach agile processes, reinforced by frontline leaders

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How to Create a Personal Leadership Development Plan

March 30, 2023

11 min read

by Casey Clark

CEO, Co-Founder

Chicago, IL

As a business partner, he helps his clients get a holistic view of their financial health by slowing down to talk about numbers. Then, he breaks down even complex problems into one or two elements to help them break through their barriers of growth.

Leaders play a critical role in every industry and at every company. Not only do they manage teams but they are responsible for making difficult decisions that can guide the company in the right direction. Even though leaders are often associated with being high-up at the company, in reality, leadership skills can come from a variety of job titles and roles within the organization. At Cultivate Advisors , our personal leadership development consultants are happy to work with you to put together a customized plan based on your unique needs. Read more to see how we can help below.

What Is Leadership Development?

leadership development plan

Leadership development is how you strive to improve leadership skills and competencies through strategic activities. In a leadership development program, staff across levels are taught important leadership qualities that help them lead and inspire their teams. A successful leadership development plan takes on many forms such as on or off-site training, conferences, graduate programs, training seminars, online training, and more. The goal of leadership development is to outline the steps that an organization will take to help both the staff and the company reach its maximum potential.

Benefits of a Personal Leadership Development

Having a leadership development plan will directly benefit your business in a multitude of ways:

  • It helps the business achieve better results: Personal and professional relationships thrive which helps reach higher financial performance and consistent achievement within your company.
  • Skilled leaders are more agile: Companies that nurture leadership skills can more easily navigate today’s complex business environment and better solve problems.
  • Strong leadership is helpful in innovation: Business leaders that are part of an ongoing leadership development journey will be more inspired to work toward the overarching goals of your company and drive innovation in competitive markets.
  • Skilled leaders attract and keep top talent: Personal leadership development plans can help attract top performers to your business and keep them around for longer. A reduction in staff turnover is key to meeting your business objectives.
  • Helps increase employee engagement: Potential leaders can participate in leadership training that makes them feel more connected to the company.
  • Improves communication both internally and externally: Effective leadership can make or break the success of your company. If leaders prioritize personal growth and meeting leadership goals, it will result in a stronger culture.
  • Proper leadership development strategy drives overall business strategy: Having an effective leadership development plan can help drive the direction that your business is heading. When you take the time to cultivate a leadership style that works for your industry and talent, you will ultimately create a lasting direction for where you want your company to go.

Elements of a Personal Leadership Development Plan

Once you’ve put some thought into the professional development at your company and you have a better idea of how to create a great leader, it’s important to put together a good leadership development plan. The document should be personalized and formatted in an ideal way for the intended audience; some people prefer spreadsheets while others want visual charts. Regardless, here are some elements to include.

1. Essential Skills to Master

personal leadership development plan

Meeting leadership development goals often means mastering certain skills such as running meetings, making personnel decisions, and sharing information with groups. Outline the skills needed to thrive in these types of tasks. In some cases, shadowing someone who exemplifies these strategies is helpful in improving these leadership skills.

2. Experience Gaps to Close

On top of developing tactical skills, it’s important that you understand the strategic responsibilities that an effective leader can take on. This may include anything from starting a new project or turning around an existing project that might not be going according to plan. Managing larger and more essential business projects is also important when determining where to close certain gaps.

3. Identify New Relationships to Build

On top of developing tactical skills, it’s important that you interact with various company stakeholders regularly such as heads of department, managers, and front-line employees. Future leaders need to know how to interact with those in leadership positions and build relationships with them. As you continue your leadership assessment, make sure to identify those that you want to build a mutually beneficial relationship with.

4. Outline Tasks to be Delegated

You can become a better leader by balancing your responsibilities. Finding a balance between taking on tasks yourself while also delegating to those who you entrust to assist you is key for leadership roles. Good leaders always prioritize projects that can generate the most revenue for the company and are completed on time.

5. Pinpoint Key Action Items to Complete

Another aspect to consider on this leadership development journey is to outline the strengths and potential areas where improvements can be made. For example, if you want to improve in a particular area, make sure to follow it up with action items such as a timeframe or any associated costs. This could also include reading more leadership books, completing assessments, or identifying educational opportunities.

6. Establish the Critical Success Indicators

A great leader knows that they are only as successful as their teams. Make sure to strive to always improve your quality of work, provide continuous learning opportunities for your team, delegate when necessary, and improve morale whenever possible.

Reach out to our team at Cultivate Advisors today!

We will help you create a leadership development plan that helps to meet the goals of your business.

Your leadership development program should come in all shapes and sizes to cater to future leadership roles in your organization. Having a personal leadership development plan is essential to act as a readily accessible action plan for your employees. If you aren’t sure where to begin, we recommend following the below guide.

Step 1: Define What Generally Makes a Great Leader

Start creating your leadership plan by looking to today’s leaders who have inspired you. In many cases, it’s important to be able to overcome obstacles and have a high level of emotional intelligence. Who has the abilities, traits, and experiences of a strong leader? For example, you might say that they are honest, ethical, can clearly communicate, use creativity, can manage various scenarios with their intuition, etc. Once you’ve put together these general qualities, you can move to step two in the process.

Step 2: Set SMART Goals

All great leaders follow SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. This means that new skills should be thought out carefully and in the right environment in order for them to develop properly. For example, effective leaders are capable of demonstrating personal responsibility for specific metrics and outcomes within the organization. They are able to take an agile approach to expand their knowledge and own strengths. Another example would be effective time management skills. If you are always running behind on deliverables, you will be unable to keep up with the pace that your job demands. Other goals might include conflict resolution skills or achieving professional certifications that can further your skill sets.

Step 3: Take a Self-Assessment

personal leader development plan

Don’t lose sight of your core characteristics. Some examples would be personality traits such as impulsive, observant, loyal, ambitious, etc. You can take tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or get together with your peers or family members to see how they would define you on a personal level. Once you have a better understanding of your personality and your strengths, you’ll be better suited to speak to who you are as a leader.

Step 4: Identify Your Core Values

Now that you have a better idea of your core characteristics, you will better be able to outline your core values. These are the principles that help you make your decisions when you have to weigh a difficult decision in your life, whether it is on a personal or professional level. Some common examples of core values include community, affluence, creativity, courage, knowledge, wisdom, humor, and friendship. The most well-rounded leaders have a mixture of various core values that can serve them in the workplace and beyond.

Step 5: Write a Personal Vision Statement

Whether you are starting a new job or you are feeling uninspired in your current position, you can turn to writing a personal vision statement that outlines your core values. It should reflect who you are and your higher calling. You can narrow down these questions by considering the type of person that you want to be, the things that you want to accomplish, and the values that you use to guide your decisions.

This will act as your personal constitution and a physical reminder to which you can refer when needed. This gives you something tangible to refer to when you’re writing out your goals and making your decisions.

Step 6: Analyze What Others Think of You

Being an impactful leader means thinking beyond yourself. You also need to think about what other people think of you including your peers and your industry. Consider how you want your team to speak about you when you aren’t in the room and what their perception is of you. If you don’t care about what other people think, this is a red flag.

Make sure you understand the expectations when it comes to professionalism in your field and consider if you have any changes to make or new skills to learn. Answering these questions can help serve as checks and balances to all of the previous steps.

Step 7: Identify Current and Lacking Leadership Skills

development plan for leadership

Using the above information, you’ll want to expand on the skills that you’ll need to become an effective leader. Start by listing out what skills you have, such as delegating, Microsoft Excel, communication, etc. Next, think of the traits that you possess. These are natural abilities that will last for a lifetime such as being risk-averse, extroverted, etc. For example, consider what you would write on a resume in terms of personal skills, interpersonal skills, group skills, and technical skills.

As soon as you’ve compiled your list, you can mark each one with an S if it is a strength or a D if it needs development. While you don’t need to embody every trait that a leader has, you can constantly work to grow.

Step 8: Write an Action Plan

Now that you’ve outlined your goals, it’s time to take action. Putting together an action plan can map out the specific steps to take and the resources you’ll use to get there. Prioritize your goals in the order of importance and don’t forget to factor in the time it will take to achieve these goals. You now have your leadership development goals laid out in front of you!

Enhance Your Personal Leadership with Cultivate Advisors

Leadership development plans might take some time to put together, but they are well worth your effort in the long-term. If you’re in need of assistance when putting together leadership development plans at your company, our experienced leadership management consulting team can assist you. We have experience working with countless industries and businesses to help them achieve their goals.

Reach out to us today to take advantage of our consultations!

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6 Steps To Develop An Effective Leadership Development Plan: Types And Examples

What is leadership development, types of leadership development plans, components of a leadership development plan, how to develop a leadership development plan, 5 leadership development plans examples.

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What is a leadership development plan?

Benefits of a personal leadership development plan, individual leadership development plans, group leadership development plans.

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  • Needs assessment: A thorough evaluation of the organization’s current leadership skills and knowledge, as well as identification of any specific challenges or issues the organization is facing.
  • Goals and objectives: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals and objectives that align with the overall goals of the organization and address the identified needs.
  • Development methods: Selection of the most appropriate methods for achieving the goals and objectives of the plan, such as mentoring, coaching, training programs, workshops, or online courses.
  • Timeline and milestones: A schedule for the plan’s implementation, including milestones and deadlines, should be followed to ensure that the plan stays on track and that progress can be monitored.
  • Resources: Identification of the resources required for the plan, such as funding, personnel, and materials, and ensuring that they are available.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: Regular monitoring of the progress of the plan, assessment of the effectiveness of the development methods, and making any necessary adjustments.
  • Communication and buy-in: Communication of the plan to all stakeholders, including employees, managers, and executives, to ensure buy-in and support.
  • Measuring success: Establishing metrics to measure the success of the leadership development plan and regularly reviewing the progress and impact of the program.

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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.

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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 behaviors 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 personalized leadership development plan will set you on the right path to achieve your leadership goals.

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 personalizing 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 behavior 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 utilize 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 recognizing a significant behavior 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 behavior 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 behavior to start and another behavior to stop in support of accomplishing your “One Big Thing.” If you’re stuck on which behaviors to select, reflect on your “One Big Liability” and consider behaviors 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” behaviors, 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” behaviors.

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.

Once you’ve reviewed the checklist above, download our free l eadership development plan PDF template to get started with personalizing 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. 

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How to write a professional development plan

Continuous development is important in a career, no matter your line of work. Whether it’s to keep up with technology or upskill for promotions, ongoing learning and training will only benefit you. 

This is where a well-structured professional development plan (PDP) comes into play. A PDP helps you stay competitive and relevant in your field, and ready to take advantage of any job opportunities that come your way. It serves as a guide, outlining your career objectives , the skills you want to develop, and the steps required to achieve them. 

Here’s how to create a PDP that will help you realise your career aspirations .

How to write a development plan

Creating a professional development plan takes time and consideration. You have to make sure it’s realistic and in tune with your overall career objectives – the things you want to achieve in your work life. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or looking to take the next step, here are some personal development plan examples to get you on your way.

1. Self-assess to find areas of improvement 

The first step of creating a PDP is self-assessment. This involves taking a look at where you are professionally, where you hope to be in the future, and any skill gaps that might be stopping you from getting there. To do a self assessment, begin by asking yourself these questions:

  • Where am I in my career? Are you a graduate just starting out , a mid-level manager aiming for a more senior role or someone looking to change into a new industry? Look at your current job responsibilities, achievements, abilities – and any feedback you’ve received from peers or supervisors.
  • Where do I want to be in X years’ time? Whether it’s a 5-year or 10-year plan, having a clear idea of where you want to be is important. This could be landing a leadership position , becoming an expert in your field, or starting your own business. Your goals should be achievable, pushing you to grow but remaining realistic.
  • What skills am I currently lacking? Identify the skills and knowledge gaps that are stopping you from reaching your goals. This could include technical skills relating to your industry, soft skills like communication, or broader like critical thinking .

Useful tools for self-assessment

  • The Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF): this provides information about sector-specific job roles and the skills required for them. You can refer to this when identifying the skills you need to develop.
  • Holland Code Assessment (RIASEC) : the Holland Codes refer to personality types. Determining yours can help you understanding what career path best match your interests and passions.
  • MBTI personality test: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can offer insights into your personality type, helping you understand your work preferences, communication style and how you interact with others in a professional setting. You can do free tests online to find out yours.

Case studies and examples

  • Maya is a marketing professional. After carrying out a self-assessment, she realised her lack of data-analysis skills was getting in the way of becoming a marketing manager . By identifying this gap, she was able to enrol in the right courses and take on projects at work that improved her ability to analyse digital marketing data specific to her industry.
  • Raj is an IT professional. Through the RIASEC model, he discovered his strong investigative interests, leading him to transition from a generalist IT role to a specialised career as a cybersecurity analyst , aligning his career path with his interests and skills.

2. Establish clear goals

Setting clear goals is an important part of your professional development plan . These goals should be short-term, mid-term and long-term, providing stepping stones towards your larger career objectives.

Short-term goals (within a year)

Short-term goals are goals you can achieve in a year. These might include finishing a course, learning a skill or networking with industry professionals . For example, a software developer might aim to learn a new programming language within six months.

Mid-term goals (2–5 years)

Mid-term goals are goals you can achieve in two to five years. They often build on your short-term goals. For example, the software developer building their own portfolio site after learning several coding languages.

Long-term goals (5+ years)

Long-term goals are goals you set out to achieve in the next five years or so. For example, the software developer being promoted to a senior independent contributer role at a leading tech company. 

3. Build strategies

Once you have worked out exactly what your goals are, the next step is to build strategies to help you achieve them.

  • Identify top development goals: focus on the goals that will drive your career forward. Prioritise them based on what will bring the biggest benefit to your professional growth.
  • Include a target date to achieve your goals: this helps in tracking progress. 
  • Identify resources required: determine what learning resources you’ll need to achieve your goals, such as a short course or mentorship . 

4. Create a timeline to achieve your goals 

It’s important to break down each goal into smaller tasks and add a timeframe, so your goals seem more manageable and you can stay on track . 

Example of a professional development timeline

  • Year one: complete a course 3D animation and attend at least three workshops and/or industry events.
  • Years two to three: use 3D animation skills to get a promotion. Mentor junior designers. Create an online portfolio of work. 
  • Years four to five: aim for a team leader position or build a freelance client base. 

Flexibility is key in any development plan. Give yourself options in case something doesn’t go to plan. If your goals change, adjust your timeline. Regularly review and update your plan to reflect your current situation, new opportunities and changes in the industry.

Professional development goals and organisational objectives

Your professional growth at a company should be tied to the goals of the organisation you work for. By matching your professional development with the organisation’s aims, you can play a role in the company’s success, which creates a win-win scenario that will skyrocket your opportunities there. 

Examples of beneficial alignment

  • Mutual benefit: when your professional development goals are in line with your organisation’s objectives, it benefits both parties. For instance, if your company is focusing on using generative AI for content, developing skills to harness that technology furthers your career and benefits your organisation.
  • More job satisfaction: employees who see their personal growth reflected in their work tend to be more engaged and satisfied. 
  • More opportunities for promotion: companies are more likely to promote from within when an employee’s skill set and ambitions align with the company’s future direction.

Use HR resources for professional development

Many organisations offer resources and budgets for employee development. Talk with your HR department to understand what’s available to you. This could include:

  • Free access to training programs and workshops
  • Sponsorship for professional courses or certifications
  • Opportunities for internal job rotations so you can learn new skills 

Some companies allocate a specific budget for each employee’s professional development. This can be used for attending conferences, enrolling in courses or buying educational materials. 

Professional development plan template

A well-designed PDP guides you towards achieving your professional goals. It includes key information such as short-term and long-term goals, action steps and timelines. Here’s a professional development plan example to guide you.

Short-term goals

Goal:  i mprove public speaking skills

Action steps:

  • Enrol in a public speaking workshop
  • Practise by presenting at team meetings


  • Receive feedback from peers and mentors.
  • Deliver a presentation to the whole department.
  • Complete the workshop in 3 months.
  • Present at a team meeting every month

Long-term goals

Goal: get  a managerial position in the marketing department

  • Develop leadership skills through training
  • Take on more responsibilities in current projects
  • Successfully lead a team project
  • Receive positive performance reviews and feedback from superiors
  • Achieve within 2–3 years.

Without a professional development plan, you may find yourself wondering what’s next in your career. It’s worthwhile taking the time to make one, assessing your skills and setting  structured goals , where your ambitions line up with your organisation’s objectives. A personalised PDP can help keep you motivated, driving you towards short-term goals and  moving you forward in your career . 

What do you write in a professional development plan?

In a professional development plan, you write specific, actionable goals along with strategies to achieve them, a timeline for completion and methods for measuring progress. This includes short-term and long-term goals, skills to be developed, resources needed and any potential obstacles.

What are the five steps of a professional development plan?

The five steps of a professional development plan are:

  • Perform a self-assessment
  • Establish clear, measurable goals
  • Build strategies for achieving these goals
  • Create a timeline for completing each goal
  • Regularly review and adjust the plan

What are the 4 key components of any professional development plan?

The four key components of any professional development plan are:

  • Your current skills
  • Your future goals
  • Action steps to take
  • A timeline 

Why is a development plan important?

A development plan is important because it gives you something to aim for and a roadmap for getting there. It helps to bridge skill gaps and encourages continuous personal and professional growth. It can prevent you from feeling stuck or stagnant in your career, and can move you closer to any larger aspirations. 

How do you format a professional development plan?

A professional development plan should be formatted with clear headings for each section: goals (short-term and long-term), action steps, measurement criteria and a timeline. It should be easy to read, with each goal and plan of action clearly outlined (see above examples).

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What Is Professional Development and What Are the Benefits?

Explore different aspects of professional development, how it can benefit you and your career, and ways to get started.

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Engaging in professional development is a way to improve your skills, knowledge, and techniques relating to your professional career. This could be anything from learning something new in an academic setting to earning Professional Certificates or brushing up on knowledge and learning a new skill through research and personal projects.

What is professional development?

Professional development is education, training, or skill development engaged in for career progression. This can range from keeping up to date with changes and trends in your field to learning new skills to advance your career.

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personal development plan example leadership

Who needs to engage in professional development?

Putting time aside for professional development can benefit you at any career stage. Learning more about your field can enhance your work and help you move on to new areas. For example, showing that you are willing to improve and grow in your position and beyond is an asset to your company.

Some companies and industries consider ongoing professional development a requirement for working in a specific position. Many employers will offer regular internal and external training to ensure employees are current with industry standards. The process helps ensure they have skilled employees and attract professionals dedicated to growing within their roles.

Some professionals, such as psychologists, certified public accountants (CPAs), pilots, and lawyers, have continued professional development (CPD) as an essential requirement to practice. This may involve taking exams to renew licenses or retain membership with a professional body. It may also mean taking courses to sharpen skills in fast-moving industries at regular intervals or moving to the next level. These include industries like construction and surveying, education, and medicine.

Read more: What Is a Professional Development Plan? And How to Create Your Own

The difference between personal development and professional development

Professional development and personal development share similar characteristics, but professional development is always career-related. On the other hand, personal development can include working on any area that benefits your personal growth. This could improve your career prospects or help you perform your role at a higher standard. Still, personal development generally affects all aspects of your life instead of solely your career. Professional development focuses on improving your skills to perform better at your job or profession.

Examples of professional development

Professional development can take many forms. It can be structured learning, such as courses, seminars, and workshops. These can be set by an employer or based on personal areas of professional growth . Other forms of professional development include more reflective learning, such as research, reading, and listening to podcasts. This type of professional development is more informal and led by employees rather than employers.

Online courses

Whether formal or informal, essential or optional, professional development can be in the form of online courses. These can vary from degree programs to short guided projects and everything in between. Online learning is a big part of how we learn these days, and you can always find plenty of available options. On Coursera, you can access various professional development courses for multiple professions.

Leaders at 3,800+ companies develop their talent with Coursera

personal development plan example leadership

Academic courses

Academic courses can be considered continued professional development if they relate to your role. These can be bachelor’s degrees, graduate degrees , or courses with accreditation.

Conferences and seminars

Attending conferences and seminars can count toward your professional development efforts, as they are opportunities to learn from industry experts and for peer support. Speaking at a conference can be a great way to develop your presentation skills and learn from leaders in your field.

Reading and research

Doing informal professional development is a great way to upskill and learn something new to help your career development. A wealth of books on professional development, as well as podcasts and videos, are available.

Finding a coach or mentor allows you to learn from someone who has already achieved what you want. Using a performance coach or picking a mentor in a position above you gives you opportunities to follow their guidance and learn strategies that worked for them.


Professional Certificates are a quantifiable form of professional development. Whatever your industry, having a certification in a relevant field can boost career prospects and aid performance in your role. Coursera hosts a range of Professional Certificates for you to choose from, including the Google Project Management Certificate .

Benefits of pursuing professional development

Whether you are looking to progress in your career or just want to perform your best in your current role, you can see the benefits of professional development in many different ways. With so many options, professional development can be invigorating. Keeping up to date with industry specifics and learning skills to help you in your role can benefit you and your company.

Skills development

The skills you develop through professional development can be both workplace and technical. You don’t need to limit which skills you work on, provided they help you develop and grow in your career.

Confidence building

Professional development can increase your knowledge and help you learn skills that benefit your career. You may feel more confident in your role and can take on new responsibilities or put yourself forward for promotion.

New qualifications

Achieving a qualification or certification is a way of gaining proof that you have mastered a skill or a certain level of knowledge. While non-accredited professional development is still valid, it is easier to demonstrate your achievements if you can cite a certification or certificate and add it to your resume.

Career development

With your new skills, you may become more appealing to employers and stand out from other candidates when you apply for a new role or approach your boss for a promotion.

Are you ready to take the next step in your professional development? You can take several courses on Coursera on professional development. Consider starting with  Professional Development: Improve Yourself, Always , delivered by Macquarie University.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.


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