Leadership Development as a 5 Year Journey

A proven best practice to improve as a leader is to
create and follow-through on
Individual Development Plan (IDP).
An IDP usually defines what you want to get better at and why
and how you’re going to get better.

Studies on goal attainment prove over that over that
people with written, specific plans are more likely to achieve their goals.

Most IDPs are written for a one-year time horizon,
sometimes even less. I’m wondering if that one-year default time-period needs
to be challenged.

If you were to go to a bank or venture capitalist and ask
for funding to start your new business, they would never accept a one-year business

When you work with a financial planner, you work with 5,
10, even 30 year time horizons.

Important, complex, and challenging goals like starting a
business, retirement, or becoming a great leader are rarely achieved in a year.

So what would a five-year leadership Individual
Development Plan look like? Honestly, I’ve never written one – but if I had to
come up with the ideal plan, it could look something like the one below. I’ve
included approximate costs when appropriate. That way, you can get your request
in before budgets are developed and finalized (or start saving your own money).

Keep in mind, every individual is unique, and this is in
no way meant to be prescriptive. It’s only an example, but includes what I’d
consider to be proven best practices for leadership development.

Year Leadership Development Plan:



Vision statements can be written for where you want to be
financially, with your career, your family, your business, or any aspect of
your life. To quote Steven Covey, you’re starting with the end in mind.  In this case, imagine where you want to be as
a leader in five years.

Example: “In five years, I want to be seen as a role
model leader by my peers. I’d like to be in a position in my organization where
I can have a have a greater impact on the organization and those around me. I
want to have made a significant difference in the lives of those I’ve led.”

one: establish a baseline
Let’s first establish a baseline by first learning about
leadership and assessing your current level of competency:

– Read 2-3 books about leadership and/or leaders that I
admire (or equivalent reading though blogs, newsletters, etc…)

– Start a journal and make notes of the qualities of
great leaders that I want to emulate

– Interview 2-3 leaders that I admire to learn more about
what makes them tick and how they got to where they are.

– Take a 360 leadership assessment. In addition to the 360,
have someone that is certified in the assessment review the results with me.
Cost for the assessment: $100 to $300.Cost for the review: about $2500 – $3000,
unless your organization has internal experts

two: get a coach and establish specific goals

Now that you have a good idea of what leadership looks
like and where you stand against the target, it’s time to identify some
specific goals for the next 4 years.

– Work with my manager and an executive coach to help me
identify leadership development goals that are aligned with business goals.

– Monthly sessions with my executive coach for the next
12 months. Approximate cost: $8,000 – $12,000. Less for an internal coach or an
“apprentice” coach (someone working on their coaching certification that may
work with you pro bono).

– Read 2 more books or equivalent  and interview two more role models, this time
targeting the specific goals I’m trying to achieve (i.e., “improve my ability
to lead  transformational change”)

– identify either a change in jobs or a significant
challenging assignment that will give me an opportunity to learn and apply the
leadership skills I am hoping to improve

– Continue to journal

three: trail by fire

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, the most
effective way to improve as leaders is though job changes and challenging
assignments. So it’s now time to:

– Move to a new job or start working on my challenging

– Identify 2-3 experts that can help me be successful in
my new role or assignment and meet with each on a monthly basis

– Check in with my coach 3-4 times throughout the year

– Read one book or equivalent that will provide specific
“how-tos” for my new role or assignment

– Continue to
reflect and journal
four: back to school

This one may be misplaced and should start sooner, but
for the sake of a five year plan, let’s put it in here. Also, some
comprehensive programs include assessments and coaching, so you may be able to
combine them.

– Attend a leadership/executive development program.
Cost: $2000 – $10,000.

– Continue in new role, or new challenging assignment

– One book or equivalent

– Regular check-ins with support network (boss, coach,


– Move into new role that is aligned with my vision

– Take another 360 degree assessment to obtain another
snapshot of how others now perceive me as a leader

– Identify 1-2 individuals to mentor on leadership

– Write my own leadership book, blog, or guest post based
on my five year journal

On one hand, you could argue that five years is way too
long to do all of these things. Why not do it all in a year? That’s the way
most plans are written, and that may be why most plans never come close to
being completed.

Some may take issue with the costs. Yes, things like
executive coaching and executive development programs are expensive, and
possibly beyond the means of many. While I understand, and there are less
expensive options, you generally get what you pay for. It’s an investment, and
progressive organizations are willing to make these kinds of investments. After
all, Organizations with the highest quality leaders are 13 times more likely to
outperform their competition.
What do you think? Would a five year approach to
leadership development planning work for you?