Career Fortitude



There are countless acronyms, methods, and X-step processes for leadership development action plans out there among the business community and now AI-created concoctions derived from the vast content of the internet.  I’m not against AI content, I use it myself to help my own writing.  My point is there’s no one concrete method that perfectly fits every person going through leadership development.  You can’t expect to have a personalized approach to your development by working through a checklist of items.  We are all very unique in our values, experiences, personalities, and aspirations.  The development process must adhere to these unique attributes.

Development, whether in our personal life or professional life, must be tailored to the individual level.  This is how strong connections between a person’s experiences, abilities, and emotional intelligence converge to help you uncover what area of yourself to focus on to improve your life.  This isn’t just for professional development.  This important process of self-awareness that leads to action and growth transcends into every aspect of your life.

I’m going to share the developmental pieces that I use with developing leaders that lays the path for professional growth through a leadership development plan.  It’s not a “method” or “stepped process”, it’s meant to act as a foundation to keep you grounded along the development journey.  Although there are tools and exercises I use with clients that can be placed in each of the foundational pieces, each individual’s tools needed are based on their specific development journey and needs in their current state.  The tools used to help different leaders might overlap, but starting with a broad foundation allows the process to be strictly personalized for each individual.

The same is true for physiology and psychology.  A doctor doesn’t prescribe every patient the same medication, diet, and exercise routine.  Same with behavioral therapy, the exercises and tools differ for every patient.  The medication, physical activity, and mental exercises are prescribed according to each patient’s specific needs.  The same should be practiced in leadership development since we are all unique and have individual experiences, abilities, and emotional intelligence.  These areas must be analyzed before prescribing development activities.

Beware of acronyms, methods, and X-step processes for leadership development that claim to be a one-size-fits-all solution.  You are not a clone of every other leader.  You are unique in every way from all others.  You deserve to be seen as an individual, which will in turn result in the most efficient and effective leadership development for yourself.

Why This Leadership Development Foundation Matters

Middle managers face a wide range of responsibilities to ensure their team is supported and fully functional while adhering to the organization’s goals and outcomes to drive the business forward.  It’s critical to meet the goals of the business while also staying balanced as a professional, continuing to grow as a leader, and ensuring your career is progressing forward.

Understanding the fundamentals of how a business operates and applying skills learned in school such as economics, accounting, and statistics are helpful in leading a successful business.  These are areas of business that I learned while receiving a degree from a management college.  While there were some basic communication and human resources classes in the curriculum, I definitely didn’t receive a well-rounded skill set for leading others and building strong teams.  I had no idea of what to focus on to continue developing as a leader of people.  Specifically, there was a huge gap in learning about the soft skills that actually have a much larger impact on the success of a leader than the administrative skills taught in schools.

There’s a vast spectrum of leadership skills that just don’t get the attention they require before a new leader jumps into a middle manager role.  It’s difficult to simulate the experience of what actual successful leadership requires until you’re in the real world.  Hiring managers for these new leaders must have a strong development plan in place and be ready to execute on day one of hiring a new leader.  Even if the leader is not new in a management position, hiring managers should be expected to have development plans in place based on the new hire’s experience and skill set.

Assessing a new manager’s current level of leadership, creating a leadership development action plan, and sustaining the development process is critical for success.  It’s critical for the new manager, the team, and the organization’s success that this leadership development is consistent and has plenty of fuel to keep the development engine running.

What Happens With No Developmental Support

Whether the hiring manager is in a middle management, director, or C-level role, the engagement and support of the new manager is imperative.  Chances are the hiring manager has a significant number of responsibilities for keeping the business successful, but carving out the necessary energy and time to keep the development of their team high in the ranking of responsibilities is crucial.  Leaders of leaders who don’t invest in developing their team will struggle with their own workload as well and the business and culture will suffer.

The domino effect will kick in and middle managers who don’t have developmental support from their leader will also struggle to provide the developmental focus for their direct reports.  The lack of growth cascades down the ranks and throughout the team, resulting in everyone becoming stuck with tasks they can’t delegate.  Without a strong foundation in place to grow leaders, the efficiency of the whole team is at risk of being frozen with nothing driving improvement.

The return on investment (ROI) for leadership development can be substantial and multifaceted.  Leaders who undergo development plans are better equipped to inspire, motivate, and empower their teams.  These leaders improve productivity, innovation, and employee engagement. This can result in increased salary, career growth, and marketability in the job market.

My Foundational Approach To Leadership Development

Leadership development refers to the intentional process of enhancing the skills, abilities, and qualities of individuals to excel in leadership roles.  It involves various activities, such as feedback, coaching, mentoring, and experiential learning, aimed at expanding leadership capabilities and effectiveness.  A leadership development action plan focuses on cultivating essential traits like communication, decision-making, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, and resilience.

The four foundational pieces of my leadership development plans are: Reflect – Personalize – Visualize – Act.  As I mentioned, these are meant to be broad areas of focus and doesn’t get down into each tool that can fall into a specific piece.

Reflect – What brought me to this point?  Am I where I want to be?

Begin by reflecting on where you are and how you got here.  This is a time to consider the decisions you’ve made in your career and determine if your values and motivators have remained the same.  Think about what has gone well in your career.  Consider the aspects that bring fulfillment and joy, and understand the aspects that bring frustration and imbalance.

Personalize – Who do I want to be?  What do I want to accomplish?

Next, you must determine your current motivators.  This stage includes exercises and assessments to help you strengthen your personal brand while connecting your values with your aspirations.  Taking lessons learned from the past, review your values, and utilize your growth mindset to access your full potential.

Visualize – Who am I when I’m at my best?  What do I need in order to grow? 

This piece is all about connecting your reflection and personalization.  Taking reflections from the past and grounding yourself on your values and aspirations to visualize what success looks like in your journey.  This is a time to identify your signature strengths and blind spots.  Define boundaries for the version of yourself that promotes confidence, success, and well-being.

Act – What must happen to achieve my goals? How do I become the best version of myself?

The final piece is the time to bring your vision into reality.  This is where all the prior work you’ve done comes into action and progress starts.  This stage includes creating goals, defining expectations, and committing to executing to your best ability to achieve your goals.  Goals can be developmental, educational, or accomplishment-based.

Within each piece of the development journey there is a wide range of tools and exercises that are meant to drive your development by improving emotional intelligence and through gaining knowledge areas like:

  • Understanding Your Values and Setting Boundaries
  • Receive and Process 360 Degree Feedback
  • Identification of Strengths and Opportunities
  • Focused Development Activities
  • Change Management
  • Enhanced Leadership Skills
  • Employee Engagement and Retention
  • Innovation and Adaptability
  • Building Dynamic Teams
  • Creating Vision

The Journey Never Ends

Leadership development action plans are critical for nurturing and enhancing the skills and abilities of individuals in leadership roles. These plans serve as roadmaps for personal and professional growth, guiding leaders toward achieving their full potential and effectively leading their teams and organizations.

Leadership development is not a one-time event but rather an ongoing journey of self-discovery, learning, and growth.  Using this foundation throughout the journey of your career allows you to find stable ground and keeps you accountable for taking action based on reflections.  Without taking action you’ll likely get stuck and struggle to learn and grow, limiting your ability to succeed in your career and obtain fulfillment.

Kickstart Your Development

Think about the current state of your career.  How satisfied are you by your work?  What professional goals do you have for yourself for the next 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years?  What are your salary goals?  What would you like to achieve?  What’s your development action plan?  Do you have the necessary support to achieve that plan?  Do you have the structure needed to sustain progress?  How will you stay accountable to driving your development and growth?

If you don’t have all the answers to these questions, take the time to: Reflect – Personalize – Visualize – Act.  Pick one aspect you want to improve or one goal you want to achieve.  Build the foundation for yourself by fully working through each of these pieces.

Coaching and development resources provide countless advantages to help individuals work through each piece of the foundation for your leadership development action plan.  Several tools fit into each piece that align your experiences, abilities, and emotional intelligence to build an individualized development plan.  Steer clear of the flashy acronyms, concrete methods, and step-by-step processes that claim to be one-size-fits-all.  When it comes to exponential growth and development, an individualized approach tailored to your specific personality and goals is the proven advantage.

If you would like to learn more about receiving this individualized coaching support, reach out to me for a free consultation to see how I can help.  Click here:

Link to my FREE Career Satisfaction Worksheet

Philip Hilt – Leadership & Career Coach


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