The Four Pillars of a Leadership Development Program

We’ve written before about the importance of implementing a structured interview and development process to assess the leadership ability of your applicants and hire the strongest candidates into your community. Once you have these leaders in place, however, the important process of unlocking and unleashing their potential begins. Your leadership development plan needs to start on day one, and it should harness the emotional intelligence your employees bring with them, emphasizing their abilities to build trust and foster team environments within your communities. There are four overarching principles to keep in mind:

Ethics and Communication

Your hiring process will help you identify those with integrity as a central character strength. Your leadership development program should build on this by clearly communicating the ethics and core values held by your communities. Set expectations for how your leaders conduct their own duties as well as define what they should expect from the CNAs, nurses, administrative staff, and other employees throughout your organization. Ensure your guiding principles are used as a part of evaluative processes, and ethical guidelines are communicated and modeled by leadership. Without consistent communication of your community’s ethical standards, your leaders will have no touchstone to return to when evaluating their own progress.


How do you define a successful leader? Leadership development is an investment in your employees that pays dividends in organizational growth, resident satisfaction, and increased employee morale. Designing a leadership development program, therefore, begins with identifying how your organization defines success. These need to be objective, quantifiable, and measurable. Once defined, it is far easier to build a program that addresses each deliverable.


There is no one leadership style that is better than any other. The strongest leaders are authentic, and people trust them because of it. Therefore, finding the leadership style that is most comfortable is critical to growing in a leadership role. To this end, your leadership development plan should include room for self-reflection. An example of this might be regularly (quarterly or semi-annually) asking your leaders to set specific and actionable short- and long-term goals, both for personal growth and community improvement. Meet with your leaders and ask them to report on the progress they’ve made toward achieving these goals. What are some successes they’ve had? Where have they fallen short of the progress they hoped for? Look for accountability and internally-motivated growth.


When designing training, ensure that the learning criteria is clearly communicated: let your leaders know what you expect them to get out of the lesson, seminar, or conference they are attending. Success criteria, as well, should be fully communicated: how will your leaders know they have successfully completed the training? Is it finishing the day and getting a certificate of completion, or do you want to hear specific instances of how the learning has been implemented? (Note – this is another good self-reflection exercise!)

These four pillars will support a solid, ongoing leadership development program: communication of expectations and values; clearly defined results; room for self-reflection and personally-motivated growth; and actionability. Periodic evaluation to ensure the results you’re achieving are still aligned with the goals of your community as a whole is also important. As the needs of your employees, residents, and their families change, this will allow you the flexibility to know your leadership team is on task, on board, and ready to drive the organization forward.

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