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Mehmet Mutlu29.04.202412 min read

What is leadership development? The process, planning, and phases

What is leadership development? The process, planning, and phases

"Chief learning officers find that traditional programs no longer adequately prepare executives for the challenges they face today and those they will face tomorrow."

In today's ever-changing business world, cultivating strong leadership is one of the biggest necessities for a company's success. Leadership development is the process where organizations support employees to become effective leaders in the future. Leadership development is about identifying, promoting, and improving the skills needed to lead peers and drive results.

As companies adapt to new challenges of the contemporary market, investing in leadership development becomes very important for building a pool of talented nominees of leaders who can navigate the organization forward.

In this article today, we will explore the fundamentals of leadership development, including the process, planning out a program, and phases to help companies foster a culture of leadership excellence.

Key Insights
  • An effective leader should have some essential skills such as communication skills, emotional intelligence, and strategic thinking.
  • 83% of organizations believe it’s important to develop leaders at every level of the company, and only 5% of businesses have implemented leadership development at all levels.
  • Leadership development helps companies cultivate a pipeline of skilled and capable leaders to ensure continuity in developing leadership and organizational stability.

Table of Contents:

What is a leadership development?

Leadership development is the calculated and systematic process where companies identify and enhance the influence skills necessary for effective leadership. It includes a comprehensive range of activities and training designed to foster leadership talent at all levels of a company, from emerging leaders to C-suite senior leaders and senior managers.

These activities may include formal training programs, mentoring relationships, coaching sessions, and certain feedback mechanisms to determine the process. Leadership development programs are tailored to address individual needs as well as an organizational important goal in order to create a culture of constant growth and improvement.

At its core, leadership development aims to empower management roles with the necessary knowledge, skills, and confidence to lead teams and be part of the innovative spear in order to achieve organizational goals. Effective leadership development not only benefits the employees involved but also contributes to company strength, agility, and long-term stability in a volatile business landscape.

When organizations invest in leadership development, it means a continuous positive impact of good leaders who can adapt to evolving challenges, inspire self-confidence in employees around them for a creative workplace, and push an organization toward sustained success.

Leader giving presentation to his employees
It is important to train your leaders before they start facing difficult challenges of leadership


The leadership development process

Starting on the leadership development journey is an improving and transformative experience for both potential leaders and organizations at the same time. It is an ongoing process of growth, and self-discovery that unfolds over time while at the same time both guiding and aspiring leaders through a series of meaningful experiences.

Throughout this journey, business leaders can expect to encounter exhausting challenges and different setbacks; but at the same time, moments of achievement, with each being an incredibly valuable learning opportunity.

With leadership development programs, next-generation leaders are empowered to explore their strengths, adjust and tailor their skills, and expand their leadership repertoire through a mix of different formal training, mentorship, and coaching experiences.

So at the end of the day, the leadership development journey is a transformative experience for employees who are qualified to be leaders. It prepares them to influence, and lead with high impact.

Benefits of leadership development

60% of workers [2] in the United States quit or are considering quitting their jobs because they feel too much under pressure from their managers. Leadership developmet can reduce this number by instilling emotional intelligence with leaders.

Investing in leadership development is a decision that brings a number of advantages to companies. For instance, a benefit of leadership development includes different aspects such as enabling companies to ensure long-term stability and succession planning. In addition to this, cultivating a culture of collaboration and a leadable environment improves team performance and drives organizational growth. Leadership development:

  • Cultivates a pipeline of skilled and capable leaders to ensure continuity in developing leadership and organizational stability.

  • Creates a culture of innovation and collaboration through creativity, problem-solving, and strategic thinking among teams.

  • Enhances employee engagement and retention by empowering individuals to grow within the organization while making immense contributions to job satisfaction.

  • Equips leaders with the necessary skills and competencies to navigate hard challenges and achieve strategic objectives.

  • Serves as a strategic basis for organizational success and sustainability. It benefits both employees and the company as a whole.

You might also be interested in our related article: 8 benefits of leadership training

What are 3 essential leadership skills?

Effective leadership revolves around a set of essential skills that empower leadership roles to inspire, guide, and push the teams toward success. These necessary core competencies create the foundation of an effective leadership development plan. It enables employees to find solutions for complex situations and create a culture of perfection within their companies.

Here are three essential leadership skills:

  1. Communication skills: Strong communication skills are an absolute must for effective leadership. Leaders must be able to express their vision and convey expectations clearly while actively listening to the perspectives of their team members.

    Effective communication creates trust and ensures alignment toward common goals. Moreover, leaders who shine in communication are masters at delivering feedback constructively in order to resolve conflicts diplomatically and inspire employee engagement through different narratives.

  2. Emotional intelligence: Another one of these leadership abilities is emotional intelligence. Leaders with high emotional intelligence have the ability to understand and manage their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. They show empathy and build strong relationships to navigate interpersonal dynamics with quality.

    If they can create a supportive and inclusive environment, emotionally intelligent leaders can inspire loyalty and commitment among their team members. In addition, leaders with strong emotional intelligence shine in conflict resolution when diffusing tense situations with tact and empathy, and utilizing emotional cues to motivate and empower their teams.

  3. Strategic thinking: Strategic thinking is also absolutely necessary for leaders to anticipate future trends. They need to identify opportunities and make informed decisions that align with organizational goals. Strategic leaders should be able to analyze data and develop long-term plans to drive their company's growth and success.

    They show agility and adaptability when faced with uncertainty and when guiding their teams through change. What's more, strategic thinkers possess a global mindset and are able to identify emerging opportunities in diverse markets and industries to leverage innovation to maintain a competitive advantage.

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Retorio allows your potential leaders to access their AI coaching anytime they want


Phases of leadership development

While the concept of a "leader" may seem singular, there are different phases of leadership positions in corporate organizations. Leadership encompasses three main categories: the leader of the future, the evolving leader, and the senior leader.

Each category has distinct challenges that must be identified and overcome for professional development and different responsibilities to be taken.

The leader of the future

Future leaders are employees with leadership potential who may be new to management or leadership roles, being prepared for higher-profile positions, or identified as "leaders of the future."

They often face the challenge of transitioning from technical and individual contributor roles to effective manager-leaders while at the same time building formal and informal networks and managing day-to-day tasks while considering future implications for their careers.

Coaching is particularly effective for future leaders, providing exposure to key concepts, self-understanding, interpersonal and leadership skill development, and problem-solving capabilities.

The results of effective coaching for emerging leaders include different qualities such as agility to take quick actions, achievement of developmental goals, motivation, and of course long-term career planning.

The evolving leader

Developing leaders include individuals currently in management or leadership roles seeking to enhance their effectiveness or those transitioning to new roles requiring additional core leadership competencies.

Their challenges and duties revolve around managing and focusing power and influence as well as creating company-wide exposure to align strategies. Leadership development plays a pivotal role in supporting developing leaders and establishing self-understanding of management and personal style. It explores factors leading to success versus current reality and enhancing interpersonal and management skills.

The outcomes of leadership development coaching for developing leaders include factors such as improved team performance, goal achievement, increased employee retention, and addressing performance or developmental needs.

The senior leader

Senior leaders are executives responsible for defining the company's main mission, vision, and strategic direction. They brawl with grand vision challenges like achieving and sustaining business results and overseeing succession planning as well as main leadership challenges like strategizing based on feedback, employee empowerment, work-life balance, etc.

Leadership development may appear like it is not necessary for senior leaders, however, it is particularly impactful for them in assisting in vision, direction, and strategy development. It enhances decision-making and coordination within the executive team and cultivates shifts in leadership style that positively impact company culture and alignment.

The outcomes of leadership development coaching for senior leaders include regularly achieving business goals to focus on the next one, improved executive team performance, stakeholder relations, and creation of a broader better strategic approach to business.

A successful leadership development plan and example

According to research made by Zippia [3], while 83% of organizations believe it’s important to develop leaders at every level of the company, only 5% of businesses have implemented leadership development at all levels.

That is why well-implemented plans for leadership development are essential for maintaining business operations during difficult times and in cutthroat marketplaces. With this kind of plan, companies can prevent their most valuable employees from looking for other jobs with competitors and keep them engaged with the company.

Furthermore, the more capable the leaders are, the more likely the company will be able to stand out from the competition and survive in a market that is bound to change at all times.

Here are some of the steps companies may take to create a successful leadership development plan:

Identifying the talent

A successful leadership development plan begins with the crucial step of identifying employees with the potential for leadership roles within the company. Identifying talent involves assessing not only their current performance and understanding of the possible leadership position but also future potential and alignment with the organization's values and goals.

This process may include performance evaluations, assessments of key competencies and behaviors associated with leadership success such as communication skills and strategic thinking, as well as observations of employees' ability to influence, motivate, and inspire others.

If companies take a proactive approach to talent identification, they can build a strong channel of future leaders who are well-equipped to drive organizational success and manage naturally hard challenges of leadership effectively.

Deciding the crucial leadership competencies

An effective leadership development plan must identify the critical leadership competencies required for the company's present and future success. The leadership development plan is created around these competencies. Developing them requires making sure the upcoming generation of leaders is prepared for both known and unknown challenges.

Based on the research made by Gartner[4], 79% of the hr leaders state that their collegues dont claim liability or collaborate with human resources departments to understand the necessary skills needed for future leaders.

For this reason, it is important for companies to identify the necessary competencies to find the best potential leaders within the company's pool. Some of the most crucial competencies are:

  • Problem-solving

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Inclusivity

  • Conflict resolution

  • Sharing vision

  • Innovative approach

  • Decision making

Building a leadership development program example

When building leadership development, there are some important elements to consider utilizing. Here is a table example of some of the important solutions to consider for your leadership development strategy:

Steps to implement Strategy
Personalized self-paced learning Leaders can utilize learning programs that are specifically tailored for them. As a benefit, they don't have to do this at one specific time which relieves their schedule.
Certificates Employees may sometimes need to get and hold some of the professional certificates to work in certain positions and be seen as competent by their co-workers
Leadership mentoring It is important for potential leaders to be mentored by already existing leaders in the area they lack or an area where they might have to be specifically strong.
Job carousel The potential leaders work in different positions in the company for three to nine months to have a better idea about positions.
Job shadowing Job shadowing enables leaders to acquire a realistic understanding of how that position works. This also allows the potential leader to meet with some of the stakeholders and understand the difficulties of the job.


Regular 360-degree assessments

Monitoring the effectiveness of your leadership development program is crucial for ensuring success in meeting organizational goals. Establishing a strong observing system involves implementing methods like a 360-degree leadership assessment, which gathers feedback from key stakeholders to assess employees' readiness for leadership roles.

Continuous feedback loops and engagement throughout the process allow for adjustments to the development plan and it ensures its relevance and alignment with evolving organizational needs. Providing opportunities for coaching and skill-building events or talks empowers employees to take ownership of their development.

This comprehensive approach to leadership development guarantees that employees are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and mindset required to thrive in leadership roles and contribute to the company's long-term success.

Retorio allows you to create engaging training programs for their leaders with only a couple of clicks!

With Retorio's AI-powered coaching platform, leadership development reaches new levels. Our 24/7 self-paced training platform empowers employees to initiate training sessions at any time, from anywhere in the world, making their journey to becoming healthy, inspiring, and productive.

Through Retorio's AI-powered coaching platform, employees not only acquire the essential skills and knowledge required for effective leadership but also receive personalized guidance and feedback tailored to their specific requirements. Retorio enables companies to swiftly and efficiently train their leaders while creating a culture of collaboration and continuous growth.

Click below to get started with Retorio's AI-coaching platform!

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A leader should have a diverse range of qualities to effectively guide their team towards achieving goals.

Communication skills are essential, as leaders need to tell their vision clearly and make sure that everyone understands their role in achieving it.

Empathy is another crucial quality, as it allows leaders to understand and relate to the needs and concerns of their team members, fostering trust and collaboration.

Adaptability is also key. Leaders need to navigate change and uncertainty with resilience and flexibility. Effective leaders are able to inspire and motivate others, fostering a positive and productive work environment. 

Leadership training focuses on developing a comprehensive set of competencies that are necessary for effective leadership.

Interpersonal skills are prioritized because leaders need to effectively convey their ideas, listen to others, and build strong relationships with their team members.

Motivating and empowering team members is another key aspect of leadership training, as leaders learn how to delegate tasks effectively and provide constructive feedback. 


Mehmet Mutlu

I specialize in writing educational and compelling narratives that explore the transformative impact of AI-powered coaching within sales, customer service, and leadership. I focus on creative writing to share my insights on Artificial Intelligence and the future of L&D.