Higher education (HE) in the changing context requires leadership training and development as a vital element for university governance and innovation. While there are several theoretical frameworks on leadership development, most of them are outcome evaluation-oriented. Consequently, there is a lack of a leadership development model which emphasises both design process and expected outcomes. In addition to this, HE leadership development has been gradually transformed toward complexity and flexibility due to the volatile external environment of the 21st century. Thus, instead of having a development programme that simply focuses on individual skill enhancement, a comprehensive leadership development programme that equally fosters leaders' competencies (leader development) and develops collective leadership (leadership development) is increasingly utilised. Unfortunately, previous theoretical frameworks fail to take into consideration these new features. The main aim of this study was to develop a comprehensive theoretical model for academic leadership development (ALD) that promotes both leader development and leadership development. In the present study, 24 academic leaders, lecturers and researchers from five European and six Chinese HE institutions co-designed the ALD model. The constructed model consists of four main dimensions: theoretical core, types of training and providers, training format and ultimate goals. The results contribute to developing, promoting and enhancing leadership development in academic settings.