How to Make Leadership Development Personalized

How to Make Leadership Development Personalized

Developing leaders and building soft skills is at the top of agenda for many organizations. But how do you personalize the development process for every leader in your company? You can’t offer executive coaching to everyone and the traditional classroom or e-learning “one-size-fits-all” format is just not enough anymore. So what are some alternatives?

Technology is quickly changing the face of HR and nowhere it’s as apparent as in leadership development. It seems that new tools are popping up every day – from micro-learning apps to peer feedback and continuous learning platforms. They promise to deliver personalized development to every leader in your organization. As you’re exploring your options, here are some things to consider:

Identifying Development Needs?

The only way to truly personalize leadership development is to first understand the person’s individual strengths and development needs. Without an assessment, you’re shooting in the dark. There are many different assessment options on the market and most rely on self-report. But any self-report test will be biased by the person’s level of self-awareness; and we know that majority of us are not very accurate when it comes to identifying our own strengths and weaknesses (Atkins & Wood, 2002). Some assessments, however, test actual skills in a simulated environment and so provide a more accurate measure of the person’s development needs. Using a combination of inbox exercises and role-plays, you can easily measure every leader in your organization using a streamlined, one-hour virtual assessment center that will cost about as much a couple of self-report personality tests (click here to see an example ).

Focusing on Knowledge or Behavior Change?

Many micro-learning apps focus on acquisition of knowledge. They present instructional text or videos in small chunks. Although knowledge of leadership is important, it doesn’t necessarily transfer into leadership skills. For instance, I could be watching YouTube videos of piano playing instruction all day long, but it won’t make me a concert pianist – not until I start actually practicing. So how do you practice leadership on a daily basis? You break down the skill into its individual components, and you practice each micro-behavior until it becomes ingrained and automatic – until it becomes a habit. Then you move on to the next micro-behavior and you build the skill by combining those micro-behaviors together.

Knowing where your gaps are (like from a virtual assessment center) allows you to focus on the micro-behaviors where you’ll see the biggest improvement and fastest growth. You can then use an app to help you put a development plan together and deliver daily reminders to practice the micro-behaviors you need. Click here to see an example.

Example of a leadership development app

Example of a leadership development app

Are You Measuring Improvement?

How do you know that the leadership development process is working and leaders are really improving? The ultimate measure of success of any training and development intervention is behavior change. But that’s not easy to assess. However, modern technologies, like artificial intelligence, can estimate improvement from different variables. For example, after the initial assessment baseline, you could track improvement of every leader by the way they practice their daily exercises and interact with the app. And their scores can be updated in real-time, so that you don’t have to wait 6 to 12 months to see if your interventions are actually working. You can react right away and adapt your development strategy.

As technology continues to change the face of leadership development, it creates unique opportunities that were previously impossible: Now you can easily assess every leader in your organization using a shortened virtual assessment center that actually tests skills and doesn’t just rely on self-report. You can deploy apps that generate a personalized development plan for each leader, and as they continue to practice leadership exercises on a daily basis, you can monitor their improvement in real-time. With today’s technology, you can make leadership development highly personalized for every leader in your company.


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About the Author

Martin Lanik is the CEO of Pinsight, a leadership assessment and development firm. Pinsight’s mission is to bring fairness to leader selection, development, and succession through unbiased people insights and highly personalized leadership development solutions. More than 100 companies - including AIG and CenturyLink – have implemented their programs, which have been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Chief Executive, Chief Learning Officer, and Investor’s Business Daily. Martin holds a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from Colorado State University. Learn more at

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