How to Design a Successful Leadership Development Program – Strong Advice

How to Design a Successful Leadership Development Program

Sep 03, 2020, 5.10pm UTC (+4) 

6 mins Read 

Harvard Business Review released an article by Jennifer Perry, Foster Mobley and Matt Brubaker on “Most Doctors Have Little or No Management Training, and That’s a Problem” (December 15th, 2017). The main thrust of the article was to emphasize every hospital’s need for uniquely qualified medical professionals who exhibit high leadership qualities during the dispensation of their regular medical duties. The article focused on the desire to see medical practitioners excel in the day to day business leadership of the hospital. They assert this will provide greater stewardship of hospitals as more medical practitioners become leaders who wisely balance quality and cost without compromising on either. The challenge, however, is that most medical practitioners have not been trained and developed as leaders neither in their course of study to become medical professionals nor at the medical organizations they work in. Having developed and led advanced leadership programs for various organizations ourselves, Strong Advice understands that the underlining question is not about whether a leadership program should be developed, but rather “how would we design a successful leadership development program?”  

You might think such a challenge is peculiar to only practitioners in the medical field. However, many industry CEOs, Human Resources (HR) leaders, Leadership coaches, and Chief experience officers (CXOs) are diligently seeking new ways of integrating the culture of leadership development and skill training within the DNA of their organization. These clients have struggled to achieve significant business and organizational impact. 

According to research carried out by infoprolearning “The bottom line is that more money is spent on leadership development than any other area of corporate training, yet 71% of organizations do not feel their leaders are able to lead their organization into the future.” With many millennials feeling they have never truly been developed as leaders while working within organizations despite all the huge investments made into leadership development and training. When some are asked why they thought this was the case, many are quick to sum up the thoughts of the collective, that most leadership development programs designed never seem relevant to them on the day to day basis at their jobs. They often contained great principles and insights about leadership but never quite addressed the day to day realities of working. It then becomes a case of head knowledge versus practical, experiential learning.  

As our expert team studied cases of unsatisfactory leadership training, it was clear that a more customized approach based on a detailed assessment of the needs of the attending audience and goals for the organization was critical to success.  

These findings, coupled with the urgency created by the rise of the global covid19 pandemic, has led many companies to begin seriously considering the impact on leadership that the pandemic will have on their company’s culture, profitability, employee responsibility, and engagement, business efficiency, and cross-collaboration and many other factors. This has created a surge of remote working with the implications of the post-covid19 workplace culture looming close. The need to design compelling leadership development programs that consider scenarios like the current pandemic has never seemed more paramount to the overarching long-term business success in this “VUCA” business world.  

Particularly in the past, many leadership development efforts have failed in connecting the impact of every leadership program at organizations with business goals & objectives. These, many have attributed to a poor design strategy of the leadership development program, which failed to account for the impact of the program on business goals and objectives.  

For over a decade, we at Strong Advice have faithfully sought to assess leadership needs and design relevant leadership programs linked to our clients’ business goals at the forefront of our minds. We are committed to create a holistic and transformative leadership development program, designing not what we want, but what our clients need! 

We therefore desire to share some principles that has helped us successfully design leadership development programs. 

3 ways to Design a Leadership Development Program 

  1. Designing a relevant curriculum for the intended audience of the leadership development program. 
  1. Aligning leadership development program with the Business Goals and Objectives of your Organization. 
  1. Leveraging the use of digital technology  

Designing Relevant Curriculum for the Intended Audience 

When it comes to developing a leadership development program, the spectrum of leadership development material is broad. It is therefore important to know what should be included and what should be left out.  The key to expertly designing a leadership development program is focusing on an audience centered curriculum. The term audience-centered curriculum is described as a curriculum that focuses mainly on solving the direct needs of employees within a company.  Below are some ways you can find out what those needs are as you design your leadership curriculum.  

  1. Who I am designing this leadership program curriculum for? 
  1. What do I know about this group of professionals? 
  1. What role do they play within the organization? 
  1. Based on careful observation and interviews how would you describe emotions they feel on the day to day basis?  
  1. What challenges do they face at their work? 
  1. What leadership skills will they need to develop to do their jobs even better on a day to day? 
  1. How can these insights help me design a custom-made curriculum tailored to them? 
  1. How does the environment they work shape or influence the role they play within their organization? 

Align Leadership development Program with Business Goals and Objectives 

Along with identifying the problems and challenges of the audience in context is identifying how all of this connects with the business goal and objective for business impact. Below are some ways to move to the next phase in designing a compelling leadership development program. 

  1. Define the problem: Many times, understanding the challenges professionals face only makes it an endless list of problems that need to be addressed by one leadership development program. The wise thing to do is group them into themes and streamline those challenges into one or two defined challenges. By doing this, the leadership training material is specific and relevant to the intended audience but does not overwhelm them. 
  1. Define a measurable business impact. How will solving this challenge and equipping leaders to increase business goals and objectives? What metrics are you working with? What KPIs are you working on those metrics? 
  1. Be specific with the above and don’t leave it to chance! 

Sign up HERE for a FREE online consultation to assess your organization’s leadership needs and let us help you customize a relevant program specific to your organization. 


In this digital age it’s hard to imagine any leadership program that doesn’t involve a form of digital technology being used to deliver the output. Here are two aspects to consider when leveraging digital technology. 

  1. What Learning Management System (LMS) should be used as the Technology Platform for our leadership development program. The fundamental decision to be made is deciding on the best system that fits your company culture. Ensure the platform chosen is easy to use and matches audience preference to make it easily adopted by the employees to easily adoption of the system. 
  1. Interactivity: As in-person training was characterized activities that engage the audience present so also is the need for interactivity in engaging the audience when doing leadership training online.  Gamification is a must-have feature to have designed into your LMS. Gamification simply put is applying the concepts of rewards and achievement into a system to drive a similar response as would be found in a video game. Gamification done well, will help the users of any system be more engaged and desirous to keep using the system. 

Alongside gamification is using certificates as motivation for continuous leadership development. Also, a small reward that leads to tangible outcome in real life can help motivation. For example, how about a free coffee or a donut when achievement reaches a new level.  

Sign up HERE for a FREE online consultation to assess your organization’s leadership needs and let us help you customize a relevant program specific to your organization. 

You don’t have to figure all this out on your own. Visit us at to help you build and execute a standout leadership development program focused on the success of your organization. 

By Leke Abaniwonda 
Staff at Strong Advice 😊 

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