Why Every Leader Needs an Individual Development Plan

Individual Development Plan

Leadership is one of the greatest privileges and responsibilities any person can be given. It requires setting examples, helping to direct others, and most importantly helping others to grow to their most capable and successful selves.

Due to the weight and opportunities that leadership poses, one of the greatest pitfalls that anyone runs the risk of falling into is a lack of development.

While of course leaders are always forced to learn from the mistakes and victories of their leadership, many leaders frequently find themselves stuck, dragged behind, or even losing their edge with the amount of time that they spend in the leadership field. This is where leadership development comes in.

There are a number of leadership development resources to be found in physical forms, workshops, online courses, or even guides to bettering your leadership. However, every leader is different, faces different struggles, and is in different fields or capacities.

The ability to find or generate, and follow a distinct, individualized development plan can be the key for any type of leader to find not only deeper success than expected, but unlimited, unfaltering personal growth. 

What is an Individual Development Plan?

For every leader, individual development looks different. For a number of leaders, a large percentage of their personal development is caused by their work itself. Especially for kinesthetic learners, the more that they lead others, and the more that they do, the more they discover how they can grow and learn.

However, many leaders will eventually lead a space where they are uncertain how to continue their growth process, this is where intentionality comes in—the core of a development plan.

“Leaders cannot just show up to work, or show up to their project and expect for the work itself to teach them to lead. While there are lessons to be learned within leadership, a lack of intentionality behind it means that they will not go forth to learn on their own.

When developing an individual development plan, a leader is creating a strategy for intentional learning in the leadership space.” – Chris Gadek, VP Marketing, AdQuick

Intentional learning is perhaps the secret sauce of an individual development plan. As leaders examine their different options for leadership resources, they must do so with intentionality. This may even entail entering the workspace with the desire to produce notes, to develop skills, and to engage with employees regarding what methods for growth may be best. 

“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” (Eastwood, Brian. “How to Create a Personal Leadership Development Plan.” Northeastern University, 2019).

What is an individual development plan? It is an intentional learning strategy for leaders to retain a continuous state of growth across mediums.

What are Your Options?

Everyone learns, and everyone leads differently. A great first step toward leadership development is to understand your learning modalities. Are you a kinesthetic learner? a visual learner? or an auditory? The way that you learn allows you to best select resources that will make up your individual development plan.

“Mapping your leadership development starts with understanding yourself and where you stand professionally. Taking stock of your strengths, weaknesses, and workplace tendencies can help you identify areas for improvement and anticipate pitfalls that could arise on your journey to becoming a more capable leader” (Gavin, Matt. “5 Steps to Creating a Successful Leadership Development Plan.” Harvard Business School, 2019).

Once you have narrowed down the best ways to educate yourself and grow your leadership skills, you want to create a set of goals you have for yourself, and welcome in a mentor figure, or mentor figures, who can help you navigate possible growth points that you may not be yet aware of. With this determined, you can direct your growth focus towards these things.

At this point, you are able to produce a smorgasbord of leadership development options to produce the most effective growth for you, and in turn, those you lead. Pair up the use of mentors, classes, personal practices, and personal measurements of your success and growth. 

“Analyze what you need to learn and seek out methods to discover these things. If you find yourself lost in how to develop a skill, seek out a mentor who can direct you to the right resources.” – Bryan Alston, Chief Marketing Officer, Greater Than

Active Learning

One of the keys to developing an individual leadership development plan is to develop strategies for active learning. As we mentioned earlier, you cannot expect your workplace or your leadership space to force you to learn. You have to make a choice. 

“Developing active learning skills will allow you to examine all of the aspects of day-to-day life, and understand how you can be in a state of learning within them.” – Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder, and CEO, OSDB Sports

For instance, if you are leading in a managerial space, social disagreements and lack of inspiration are problems that you can view as merely day-to-day puzzles to be remedied or aspects of a larger strategy for you to learn.

As you understand the regular aspects of these types of events, you are able to develop more leadership strategies to resolve them. Placing active learning opportunities in your own plan can provide you with a plethora of situations for growing your leadership skills throughout the week.

Written, and Personal

“Ensure that your leadership plan is written down in some capacity. You need to record your intentions for growth, as well as document your steps forward, and your successes.

When you are intentional regarding this process, you will be able to see your own growth, and discover the best strategies for your own development.” – Brook Hiddink, President, and CEO, Audacia Home

When you practice these things in a way that is centered around how you want to grow, and you are excited about doing so, your leadership growth plan will be solid, successful, and highly motivational.

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