Leadership Development Programme (LEAD)

Please be advised that the intake of candidates for the LEAD Programme is on hold.  Please continue to check this website regularly for further updates and call for applications.  

What is LEAD?

The Leadership Development Programme (LEAD) is an entry point for young development professionals interested in a career with UNDP. The LEAD Programme provides qualified individuals exciting opportunities to develop their experience, knowledge and skills and to serve as development practitioners in UNDP, while contributing to development work. UNDP works through 136 country offices to provide development advocacy, advice and assistance to 166 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Arab States, Eastern Europe, CIS, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The LEAD Programme is a key element of UNDP’s succession management strategy. It aims to develop a talented pool of young professionals that is drawn upon by the Organization to replenish middle management functions in the short term and senior management functions in the long term.

How is the LEAD Programme structured?

The duration of the Programme is for a period of up to four years, depending on the participants’ performance. During the Programme, participants are placed in two assignments, each lasting for an approximate period of two years. To provide opportunities for participants to build their competencies and to apply their expertise, two leadership tracks are formally recognized within the Programme with progressive career benchmarks in each and crossover encouraged. The two tracks are policy advice and development management and business operations. While assignments vary depending upon specific country needs, participants work as entry-level or mid-level managers. The practice areas are Democratic Governance, Poverty Reduction and the MDGs, Crisis Prevention and Recovery, Environment & Energy, and the substantive area of HIV/AIDS. While the focus and method of work varies from country to country, participants typically interact with the government, civil society, academic institutions, private sector, UN agencies, donor and other development organizations in achieving the development goals.

Participants receive feedback on work performance and developmental needs through regular supervision and through the annual performance review. In addition, they are reviewed by a corporate review group (of UNDP senior management), which assesses participants’ performance, and decides on their continuation in the LEAD Programme and reassignments; participants’ readiness to move into middle or senior level management positions; and in some cases separation from the LEAD Programme.

It is normally expected that participants will continue in the initial assignment for two years in order to have sufficient time to learn and develop the required skills and competencies and to contribute to the assignment. After the first assignment and based on their performance, participants would be recommended for a second two year assignment, which will broaden their understanding of UNDP, help them gain a different perspective and widen their internal networks.

After two years in the Programme, LEADs may also apply to vacancies, and if selected through a competitive process, be mainstreamed, subject to corporate review group and bureau approval. Once a participant is mainstreamed, s/he is encouraged to apply to vacancies within UNDP and will be given 12 months to secure a position through a competitive process, or be separated at the conclusion of the 12 months. If the LEAD participant’s performance is an issue, following a thorough review, the corporate review group could recommend discontinuation from the LEAD Programme.

What is unique about the LEAD Programme?

LEAD participants have the opportunity to go through a special training and mentoring programme. The LEAD Programme begins with two weeks of training at headquarters in New York in the areas of policy, organizational processes and leadership skills development. On completion of the first year, participants go through another training workshop for 2 weeks at to share ideas, experience and further work on specific competencies. In addition, a variety of other learning resources including UNDP’s Virtual Development Academy with customized courses and options are available to strengthen participants’ skills and knowledge. On-line facilities are offered to enable the sharing of ideas, knowledge and experience with others. Under the Programme’s mentoring scheme, participants are assigned a mentor - a more experienced UNDP staff member - who gives confidential advice and career support. Participants’ careers are closely monitored to ensure that they are exposed to opportunities that will facilitate their career progression.