5 steps to developing your company’s best leaders

When you think about growing your business, what comes to mind? You’re probably concerned with making more sales, improving your product, marketing your brand or streamlining operations. But what about employee leadership development?

The 2017 Retention Report from the Work Institute found that replacing an employee costs 33% of that employee’s annual salary – and that 75% of employee turnover is preventable. Leadership development programs are one of the most consistent ways employers can improve retention and their bottom line. Here’s how to get started.

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What is leadership development?

One leadership development definition is that it’s “the process of recognizing potential and building management skills in your company.” Leadership development gives employees a clear path to management positions and allows you to promote from within, which increases employee morale, creativity and innovation. It improves retention, cuts down on your onboarding costs and creates loyalty in your employees. It’s a worthwhile investment that every business must develop.

How to create a leadership development program

Tony says, “The meeting of preparation with opportunity generates the offspring we call luck” (and he’s in good company, as this idea originates from the Roman philosopher Seneca). Just as successful people aren’t simply “lucky,” businesses with great leaders have put in the work to get where they are. Prepare a leadership development program, identify opportunity in your employees and you’ll soon have great leaders in your organization.

1. Understand yourself

people are walking down the street

Tony says that “Changing an organization, a company, a country – or a world – begins with the simple step of changing yourself.” Any business or team is only as strong as its leader. Before you can teach leadership, you must first master yourself. True leadership is about relationship building, influencing others and making the choices no one else can make. And you can’t do any of that without a deep understanding of your own psychology. Learn to ask yourself the right questions and surround yourself with people who will challenge you and help you grow and understand yourself. Then you’ll be ready to create a leadership development program.

2. Identify your needs

There are many different leadership styles – democratic, visionary, commanding and more. There is no one-size-fits-all definition of a leader that will work for every company and every situation. A startup experiencing high growth will need different skills than an established, hierarchical business. A collaborative environment will need different skills than a top-down structure.
Make a list of the qualities you want, including both soft and hard skills, which can include qualities like being adaptable to change, inspiring others, excellent public speaking or sales abilities, innovative and forward-thinking. This is your starting point for leadership development – the employees you enroll in the program should have these skills.

a man is looking at the bright sign

3. Determine your participants

how to create a leadership development program

Identifying leadership potential within your organization isn’t always easy. It can be tempting to focus on technical skills or educational background because these are easy to see and quantify. However, high-performing employees don’t always become great leaders. A few key traits you can look for to identify potential leaders include:

Communication skills

Effective communication isn’t just about delegating. In fact, we spend about 45% of our communication time listening. Can you identify good listeners on your team?

two men are communicating and laughing

a hand with a how to become a leader sign


Is there someone on your team who has a good rapport with other team members? Who do your team members go to when they have a problem or need help? This person is most likely a natural leader.

Passion and purpose

What is leadership development if not creating the next generation of employees to carry on your company vision and purpose? Find employees who truly live your company’s core values and give them a chance to shine.

feet with a passion led us here sign

4. Set goals and measure results

goal review in the notebook

Don’t just throw potential leaders into a new role and call it a day. “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible,” as Tony says. Every leadership development program needs concrete SMART goals in order to measure progress and determine whether your employees are succeeding – and therefore whether you are seeing a return on your professional development investment.

Your potential leaders will have different skills and varying levels of development, so your plan will need to be individualized for each employee. It can include things like:

a group of people attending the leadership development workshop

  • Completing a workshop or seminar
  • Completing an online program
  • Developing and delivering a presentation for a big client or account
  • Training new hires on hard or soft skills
  • Being a “manager for a day,” shadowing a current manager and helping them make decisions
  • Working in a different department or role to challenge comfort zones

a man is training the new employee

5. Reward top performers

rewarding the best leaders

You’ve carefully chosen the most passionate, reliable and relatable people on your team, and rewarding them for their hard work is essential. However, their motivation may not be what you think – and monetary rewards may not be the best method. Sometimes, simply laying off the micromanaging can be a reward, as it shows that you trust them. Assigning them big clients or accounts is another way to show you have faith in their skills. For collaborative leaders, planning a team-building experience or a fun event can be rewarding. The best leadership development programs customize rewards based on leaders’ personalities and strengths.

Top leadership development programs

Does thinking about how to create a leadership development program seem overwhelming? Let the experts handle it for you.

Tony Robbins

Discover your inner leader at Tony Robbins’ Leadership Academy – and get inspired by the energy and passion of others who strive to reach their peak state. And Business Coaching can help you get on track in all areas, from leadership to growth.

tony robbins leadership

Gary Vee and Grant Cardone

gary vee leadership

Together, these two business titans run the National Achievers Congress, bringing in leading speakers and entrepreneurs from all industries to teach the latest leadership methods.

Whether you choose to create your own leadership development program or turn to the experts for guidance, you’re sure to see amazing benefits within your organization.

Want to develop your leadership skills today?

Learn everything you need to know about leadership development and more through Tony Robbins’ 7 Forces free content series.