28 Leadership Development Recommendations for your Individual Development Plan

Welcome to the September edition of the Leadership
Development Carnival

For this month’s edition, I asked an all-star cadre of leadership
development bloggers, authors, and consultants to submit an answer to the
following question:

“We all know that individual
development plans
(IDPs) need to be tailored for each leader.
However – if you had to recommend ONE THING that every leader should have in
their in IDP, what would it be?

Here are their responses:

1. S. Chris Edmonds, from Driving Results Through Culture,
says that every leader needs to have “Serve
employees” as their #1
target in their individual development plan. Here’s why:

“Most organizations see leaders’
as drivers of results – exceeding sales quotas, deepening market share,
boosting profits, etc. This is an important facet of what leaders do but it’s
not the only thing leaders need to do. They also need to serve employees,
creating a safe, inspiring work environment that helps each unique employee
thrive, every day.

Just as performance metrics are
closely scrutinized, leaders must gather data from employees to gather
perceptions of the leader’s service to employees. Do employees believe their
leader acts with integrity, doing what they say they will do? Do employees feel
that their boss honors their career aspirations, building needed skills that
serve their organization now and in the future? Do employees speak up,
challenging the leader’s plans, decisions, and actions if they see a gap?

I raise these and other questions
in my blog post,
Your Reality Checked

2. John Hunter,
Curious Cat Management
Improvement Blog
, says “One item I
think every leader should have in their IDP is to continue to improve
coaching their staff
. Everyone can improve their coaching, exactly what
form “improve coaching” takes could vary for every individual: be
more encouraging, be more challenging, focus on building an understanding of
the organization as a system, spend more time coaching – less time reading and
writing reports, etc..

One book, I would
have anyone who worked for me read is the Leader’s Handbook. I recommend it for
others but whether it belongs in an IDP would depend on if the organization committing
to the type of Leadership presented in the book. Unfortunately many
organizations don’t practice those ideas so it wouldn’t make sense to include
it in employee’s IDP; it would just frustrate them when they are blocked from
improving systems in the organization.”

3. Mary Jo Asmus,
Mary Jo Asmus, says “It’s rare for
me to work with a leader who listens deeply; even the best have room for
improvement. If I could recommend ONE THING for every leader to have in their
IDP, it would be to learn to listen
. Listening for understanding, context, new ideas, etc. is
foundational to great leadership, yet many leaders miss opportunities because
they don’t listen well enough to hear those things.

Beyond those benefits, great listening has some other
advantages that aren’t immediately apparent for a leader. I describe some of
those in a post called
“Three Surprising Benefits from Better Listening”.

4. Joel Garfinkle,
Advancement Blog
, says “Improve Your Perception: A reputation that
took decades to build can be threatened by a single event. Improving your
perception is a key skill to work and include in your IDP. Read more at this
blog post
How Your Shoddy Reputation Could Destroy Your Budding Career.

5. Frank Sonnenberg,
says “All great leaders need work on how
reinforce the beliefs and values
of an organization
. They know that once internalized, these beliefs and values
affect the norms that influence day-to-day actions, determine what’s important,
reinforce appropriate behavior, and change attitudes. Here’s a post that
explains more why this is so important:
Beliefs and Values

6. Jim Taggart,
Changing Winds, says “Every leader, whether in a management
or staff role, entrepreneur or small business owner, should incorporate in
their individual development plan (or learning plan as it’s often called) a clear statement on what they are
passionate about
, and what they see as their central purpose in life. A
recent trip through New England illustrated for me what happens when passion
meets purpose. My latest post
Do it Right…and They Will Come:
Where Passion Meets Purpose
 draws on some
personal experiences in the hospitality industry.

People who
truly love what they do and who excel in doing it exceptionally well separate
themselves from their competitors. In an organizational setting this applies
equally, where people empower themselves through creativity, innovation and
superior customer service.”

7. Jennifer V. Miller
The People Equation offers this
advice for an IDP: “I would recommend that leaders build in one action item
that relates to learning an aspect
related to the organization’s
that is outside of the team member’s area of expertise.
Examples: an
accounting manager could shadow HR for a day or an person in operations could
learn more about the sales process. The more “opposite” the functions are, the
better because not only will it increase business literacy, but it will also
reduce the “us/them” tensions that sometimes naturally occur within different
business functions.”

8. Dana Theus,
InPower Consulting, says “We talk a lot about
“integrity,” but most of us don’t understand the true power of it in
it’s simplest form. If every leader made
the effort to
do what they said they would do, and only say what they
commit to doing
, every time, every company would be better run
overnight. It requires a level of personal awareness, humility and courage to
actually practice integrity in the microcosm of our daily actions, but great
leaders are masters of this simple skill. Practicing this level of integrity
will begin to reshape your life – at work and at home. It will change the
relationship you have with your employees, subordinates, colleagues, spouse and
family. This kind of integrity, I believe, not only shapes a powerful leader, but
cure a toxic corporate culture as well.”

9. Mary Faulkner,
Surviving Leadership,
says “All leaders should undergo a 360
feedback survey
.  The higher one
ascends in a company, the less likely it is he/she will get honest
feedback…to his/her face.  A 360 might
enable the leader to gain some much needed self-awareness about how actions are
perceived by others.  Note: This can
backfire in a culture of fear – worst case scenario, everyone is so scared that
they give the leader GLOWING reviews, and now the leader has “proof”
he/she doesn’t have to change.”

10. Julie Winkle
, from
says “Today’s most critical leadership competency is talent development. Given the pace of change, complexity of
business, ever-shifting markets, and escalating expectations (just to name a
few), the only sustainable advantage an organization has is its people.
them to constantly grow
directly affects engagement, retention and

11. Tanveer Naseer,
Tanveer Naseer Leadership,
says “In the current climate of prevailing uncertainties and continual change,
one competency today’s leaders need to develop is how to deal with failure and
in particular, how to help their employees to use them as teachable moments to
gain a better understanding of the current realities. To learn more on this,
check out my article
How Can We Learn
To Value Failure?

12. Karin Hurt,
Let’s Grow Leaders, says “I
would recommend every leader include a deliberate plan to build deeper connection with their teams.  This is particularly important as leaders
grow in scope and scale of responsibility. 
I share a bit of my journey in
Development Made Easy

13. Linda Fisher
, from
Leading in
, says “Every leader should have proactive steps for learning and improving ethics
moral compass
, their interpersonal behavior, their global thinking, their
community impact and their environmental sustainability.”

14. Dr. Anne Perschel,
Germane Insights,
says “Leaders who aspire to achieve a broad vision for change that extends
beyond their own needs and desires, should be concerned with the development of their own ego.  People can sense when someone is a leader
in title only, who is more focused on advancing their personal agenda than on
leading for a more universal purpose. A recent post,
Leadership’s Dirty Little Secret
, addresses becoming such a
transformational leader by way of achieving advanced stages of adult ego

15. David Burkus,
LDRLB, says “Creativity. We give a lot of lip service to creativity and
innovation, in particular how leaders can “unleash” creativity in
their organization. But before you can roll it out in an organization, you have
to learn (or rather re-learn) it yourself. Leaders face big problems and need
BIGGER thinking to solve them.”

16. Tom Walter,
The Serial Entrepreneur, says “You can’t get
“there” on your own
.  Leaders can
reach self-actualization faster through engaging
outside influencers
.  These can be
advisors, peers or coaches.  Most
importantly, they must be people who have achieved success beyond the current
level of the leader.”

17. Tacy Byham, Ph.D.
and Linda Miller
, from
Management intelligence
, say
Traditionally IDPs focus on skills, knowledge or experiences. Yet, one
of the most overlooked and fatal areas of developmental focus for leaders is personality. News stories continually
scream with executive derailment due to negative personality characteristics,
hurting not only themselves but the people they lead as well.

As leaders progress in their careers, the complexity,
ambiguity and pressure results in rising stress levels creating a perfect storm
for leaders to capsize. For example, it’s easy to cross the line from
confidence to arrogance and from passionate to volatile. The most effective
leaders make a conscious effort to control their susceptibility towards the
triggers that can derail them. Gaining control requires self-insight, active
monitoring and a willingness to change.

Since personality is often the ’make or break,’ DDI wonders
why more IDPs don’t include personality. Why not help your leaders avoid being
part of tomorrow’s leadership derailment headlines?”

18. Art Petty,
Management Excellence
, says “One of the consistent gaps I see in many leaders is a lack of
experience with and understanding of the
concepts and tools of project management
. While the mention of project
management conjures images of schedules, charts, documents and process, my
encouragement is to consider it from a slightly loftier altitude. Strategy is
executed in projects; much of our world of work is a world of projects, and
effective prosecution of projects requires focus on team development,
decision-making, risk management, ideation and innovation and learning. The
definition of organizational health put forth by Keller and Price is: the
ability of a firm to align resources and renew itself faster than competitors.
This is all about project work, yet many leaders aren’t experienced in leading
projects, have no clear template for serving as an executive sponsor and aren’t
accustomed to coaching project teams to success. In too many cases, the
discipline is viewed by a firm’s senior leaders as an administrative process
and one that generates costs in terms of people, process and time. Thorough
exploration of and some immersion in the discipline will open any leader’s eyes
to the remarkable potential for learning, growth and development of competitive
advantage that comes from the proper and rigorous pursuit of projects. “

19. Anna Farmery,
The Engaging Brand, says “My
dad always taught me that the best tool for a leader to keep in their top
drawer was a ….mirror. He said that you could tell a bad leader as they
looked into it out of vanity, a great leader looked into it to ‘reflect’ on
themselves. Self development is about being honest about what you have done
well and what you need to improve upon….it is not always about courses,
learning is as much about listening and watching to how people are reacting to
you. So my development tip is this….keep
looking in that mirror
…not or vanity but to see the leader you really
are! Here are some more principles that my wonderful Dad taught me about
My 6 Leadership Principles. “

20. Neal Burgis, Ph.D.,
Practical Solutions,
says “In tailoring an Individual Development Plan for Leaders, the one item I
recommend every leader should have within their plan is that of understanding their self-awareness & strengths.  They both go together, so I combine them as I
look at self-awareness as a strength a leader must have in their role.”

21. Tim Milburn,
Developing Lifelong Leaders , says “I
believe every leader benefits from intentional
. Mentoring widens our perspective. It allows someone else to
speak into our lives. It helps us to develop humility. If I could only
recommend one thing it would be for every leader to walk through their
leadership journey with the assistance of trusted mentors.”

22. Lisa Kohn,
The Thoughtful Leaders Blog, says “ONE THING every leader
should have in their IDP – an understanding
of Chris Argyris’ Ladder of Inference
. The Ladder of Inference helps us
understand the stories we’re making up, about ourselves and others, that get in
the way of communicating and working together effectively. Without realizing
it, we often make assumptions about others, based on what we’ve observed and
the reasons we’ve attributed to others’ actions, and without realizing it, we
only see evidence that supports our
beliefs. By becoming aware of when we “walk up the
ladder,” we can lead more effectively.”

23. Mary Ila Ward,
The Point: Sound Advice
for Career and Leadership Development
, says “Every leader in their
Individual Development Plan should have “Developing Others” in their plan.  Our view at Horizon Point Consulting is that
the primary responsibility of leaders is to make more leaders.  Developing others is the key competency that
distinguishes “leaders” from “managers”.   IDPs should challenge each leader to set
goals and action items related to developing others and leaders should consistently
be seeking feedback from others on the progress they are making in this area.”

24. Lolly Daskal,
Lead from Within, says “Every
leader should cultivate the foundations of how
. If we want to be better leaders, do better work, enjoy
better relationships and make our mark wherever we go, we must start with the
basics. We begin with ourselves, with trusting the heart enough to regain
control of the mind and quieting the mind to make room for the heart. In my Huffington
post I ask

25. Wally Bock,
from Three Star Leadership,
says “Every IDP should include lots of
. Regular review and after-action review. Review with/by another
person and your own assessment and review. For a bit more see my tip on Making
Reflection a Habit


26. Mike Henry Sr.,
from Lead Change Group, says “The one
skill you should have is the ability to
let the
other person win. No one
will ever trust you if you can’t let them win first.  Check out Give Win First over on
Lead Change Group.”

27. Chery Gegelman,
from Simply Understanding, says “For an uncommonly effective vision and tools
for leadership success every IDP should include:  Reading
the books First
Break All The Rules
and Now
Discover Your Strengths 
 These two books lay a powerful foundation that
can be greatly enhanced by studying individual learning styles and Situational
Leadership. “


Thanks to all of the authors for submitting such outstanding
recommendations! As you can see by the diversity of the responses, there really
is no “one right answer”.  A development
plan needs to be tailored for the unique needs of each individual leader.

if I had to pick ONE thing to include in any development plan, I’d have to go
with the advice offered by many of our experts:

28. Get
some feedback on your strengths
and weaknesses
. We are generally clueless
when it comes to how we come across to others, so increasing our self-awareness
is a safe bet for any aspiring leader. As Anna’s Dad used to say, “keep looking in that mirror!”.