Medicine is dependent on strong leaders to advance innovation in the clinical care of patients. In most academic medical streams, there is no explicit system-wide approach for succession planning and leadership development. In late 2009, it was clear to the authors' department that they were at risk of losing high-potential individuals and division heads. Succession Planning and Needs Assessment (SPAN) was introduced to the department executive in late 2009 and endorsed in mid-2010. An executive coach was hired to assist in identifying emerging leaders and the skills needing to be developed within a mentorship cycle for leaders to be successful. A group of emerging leaders plus observer senior leaders worked between June and October 2010 to develop a manual that would provide guidance to the department executive. Since June 2010 a succession plan has been in place, allowing allocation of leadership roles. A group of 18 individuals has met four times to establish the elements of leadership development. A manual has been endorsed that includes elements such as the traits needed to be considered an emerging leader; the skills agreed on as important to develop; and the mentorship cycle needed. The group has also proposed a coordinator role and a budget for resource material. Departmental leadership development initiatives are important for succession planning and engagement of high-potential academics, who eventually will become our future leaders. In this article, the authors propose a cohort approach to piloting department initiatives that make a difference to developing leaders.