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Build a Leadership Development Program

Don’t let a lack of leadership development be the downfall of your organization.


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McLean & Company conducted in-depth interviews with HR professionals and subject-matter experts, to gain a better understanding of leadership development.

Expert contributors include:

  • Madina Cornish, National Manager, Talent Management, Canadian Red Cross
  • Nikki Sullivan, Director of HR Culture and Development, LEAGUE Partners
  • Larry McMullen, Hillman Group, Director of Leadership and Organizational Development
  • Lynne Farlow, President, Wolf Leadership Development, LLC
  • Karen Wright, Executive Coach and Author
  • Cindy Davis, Chief People Officer, North Highland

Four additional Human Resources and Leadership Professionals contributed information to assist with the development of this solution set. Due to the sensitivity of the information, these contributors requested confidentiality.

Your Challenge

  • Looming talent shortages have motivated organizations to place leadership development among their top priorities for the past four years.
  • Leadership development goes hand-in-hand with succession planning. It prepares pipeline candidates to move into critical roles.
  • It is also critical due to its ability to improve engagement and reduce turnover rates, which impact the organization’s ability to achieve strategic goals.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Organizations are often overwhelmed with developing their leadership competencies, getting traction for the program, and not over-engineering the program.
  • Selecting employees with leadership potential and creating effective development opportunities can be a challenging undertaking.
  • Build a leadership development program that uses experiential, relational, and formal learning techniques.
  • The greatest amount of learning occurs in on-the-job experiences, but development is made more successful when experiential learning is combined with both formal training and feedback.

Impact and Result

  • Develop a tailored leadership program by aligning leadership competencies with organizational needs and prioritizing the largest competency gaps.
  • Assess employees for leadership potential by observing and evaluating their performance of core leadership competencies, and through the use of a 9-Box Grid.
  • Gain buy-in for the program with a clear business case and showing results-based success as an outcome of the program.
  • Ensure that leadership development is a company-wide initiative and that participants’ managers are onboard with the program, as they will be responsible for a lot of the development oversight.

Research & Tools

1. Make the case for leadership development

Gain support to implement a leadership development program.

2. Identify and assess candidates

Assess potential leaders to determine participants for the leadership development program.

3. Build the leadership development program format

Set up the individual development to encompass a 70-20-10 mix of experiential, relational, and formal training.

4. Create the development plans

Determine developmental activities for participants and finalize opportunities that will be made available for participants.

5. Communicate the program

Create a communication plan for each target audience.

6. Evaluate and measure

Determine evaluation criteria to measure the program’s success.

Guided Implementations

This guided implementation is a six call advisory process.

Guided Implementation #1 - Identify candidates for the leadership development program

Call #1 - Use the 9-box talent grid to identify candidates for the program
Call #2 - Assess leadership competency bench strength

Guided Implementation #2 - Build the leadership development program

Call #1 - Prepare to launch the leadership development program
Call #2 - Build individual development plans using the 70-20-10 principle

Guided Implementation #3 - Communicate and evaluate the leadership development program

Call #1 - Communicate to gain buy-in and momentum for the program
Call #2 - Select evaluation metrics to track progress and impact

Onsite Workshop

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Onsite workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn't enough, we offer low-cost onsite delivery of our project workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a roadmap in place to complete your project successfully.

Module 1: Identify Candidates for the Leadership Development Program

The Purpose

  • Identification of the participants for the leadership development program and the leadership competencies that require improvement.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Ensure that you are spending the effort on developing the best candidates to move into leadership roles.
  • Align development effort with business goals to support their achievement.




Make the case for prioritizing leadership development.

  • Understand the importance of leadership development.

Use a 9-box grid to assess talent based on performance and potential.

  • Identify candidates for the program.

Review your business’ strategic goals and related leadership competencies.

  • Determine the focus of the leadership program.

Module 2: Build the Leadership Development Program

The Purpose

  • Put in place a decisive plan of action for the pre-work that will need to take place prior to launching the program.
  • Create effective individual action plans.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Decide on formal training content and delivery methods, plan to implement a mentoring program and/or coaching, and communicate with participants’ managers.
  • Ensure adherence to the 70-20-10 principle of leadership development.




Decide what formal training will be offered in-house.

  • Align formal training to real business and leadership requirements.

Determine mentoring and coaching initiatives.

  • Ensure that relational learning is occurring for program participants.

Finalize development opportunities that will be made available for participants.

  • Provide participants with a variety of experiential, relational, and formal leadership development opportunities.

Module 3: Communicate and Evaluate the Leadership Development Program

The Purpose

  • Communicate the leadership development program.
  • Select evaluation metrics to track progress and impact.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Gain buy-in and momentum for the program.
  • Demonstrate the program’s impact and success.




Calculate an ROI.

  • Create an effective business case with a clear cost-benefit analysis.

Create a communication plan for each target audience.

  • Communicate using impactful materials and techniques to drive program interest and set realistic expectations.

Determine evaluation criteria.

  • Effectively measure the program’s success and make improvements based on feedback.