The Timing of Leadership Development


When investing in leadership development for their talent, companies shouldn’t just provide programs without considering what initiatives should be assigned to which levels of personnel at the company. After all, people develop certain skills quicker than others and need them at different stages of their professional development. When companies direct particular learning initiatives to leaders at specific points in their careers, they increase the likelihood of a return on their leadership development programs.

DDI, in its 2015 Global Leadership Forecast,1 came up with some guidelines for how to plan leadership development at four hierarchical levels:

  • Frontline: Supervisors, team leaders, location or department managers, foremen, etc.
  • Mid-level: Group managers, district managers, etc.
  • Higher-level: Directors, department heads, vice presidents, etc.
  • Senior-level: CEOs, COOs, CFOs, executive VPs, senior VPs, etc.

First of all, DDI advised in its report that, when companies build their leadership development programs, they should focus as much on the timing as on the content to capitalize on the natural growth trajectories of their leaders.

In addition, companies should not overlook frontline and mid-level leaders, who will need certain skills in order to advance to higher-level positions, and will need to use those same skills once they have settled in those roles. After all, if foundations aren’t established early, future skill development will be limited. Also, companies should not relegate basic skills development to lower-ranking leaders. Even skills such as communicating and networking are relevant development targets for senior leaders.

Finally, when it comes to global leadership skills, companies are advised to prioritize learning on intercultural business communication among frontline leaders, learning on integrating into intercultural environments among frontline and mid-level leaders, and learning on leading across countries and cultures among high- and senior-level leaders.

Tailoring leadership development programs to the different leadership levels within a company increases the strength and effectiveness of the initiatives.

1 Development Dimensions International, “2015 Global Leadership Forecast,”