Leadership skills aren’t something you collect and store away on a shelf. They’re tools that are in constant use. And just like tools, they need regular care and maintenance to stay sharp.
That’s where setting a few clear leadership goals can help. Honing your leadership qualities can help you succeed in your own career while making sure that your team stays strategically aligned and working toward the company’s vision.
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In this article, we’ll go into some more detail about why leadership goals are so important and share some objectives that could make you an even more effective leader. But first, let’s define what we mean when we talk about leadership goals.
What are leadership goals?
Leadership goals are a set of well-defined objectives that are designed to improve your skills as a team leader in some specific and measurable way. They can be short- or long-term goals, as long as they’re focused on an aspect of your personal development and comprise clear and attainable aims.
The importance of leadership goals
Leadership goals are more than just an exercise in self-improvement. By becoming a more effective leader, you can encourage a happier and more productive workplace, and ensure that the company vision stays in focus.
Employees look to leaders not just as managers but as mentors too. The example you set for colleagues when you work toward your leadership goals can motivate others to do the same.
How to set goals as a leader
No two leaders are the same, so how you go about setting objectives for yourself will be determined by how you manage and interact with your employees day to day.
Before setting out to improve one or more of your leadership skills, take some time to honestly appraise your own strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Identify the quality you want to work on, choose it as your leadership goal, and then create a subset of objectives that meet the SMART criteria—objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
An achievable aim can’t be ongoing. It must be something that can be completed and checked off a list. For example, a goal to “build relationships” doesn’t have a fixed end point, but “set aside one hour per week to have one-on-one meetings with employees” does.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of seven of the most important leadership goals to strive toward. How you break these down into smaller and more achievable objectives will be determined by your leadership style.
Seven vital leadership goals
Invest in your knowledge
Knowing your industry inside-out puts you at a big advantage as a business, as well as a leader. So you might set a goal of expanding your understanding of how your competitors operate, how your customers think, and where your industry is headed.
Leaders can fall foul of something known as “we’ve arrived” syndrome. This happens when a successful company achieves its main goals, so leaders lose focus and fail to notice that the industry is continuing to evolve around them. This goal helps you stay sharply focused on the trends and developments in your field, to set new and bigger goals for your business and inform your decision-making.
Improve your listening skills
Listening is one of those skills many people think they already have until they learn how to actually do it. Great listeners are trained to understand the message behind the words. They use open-ended questions to gain a deeper insight into what’s being said by inviting the speaker to phrase their argument from different vantage points.
Setting yourself a goal of becoming a better and more curious leader can make you more approachable to your teams. Learning how to listen can also involve practical changes such as having an open-door policy and setting specific hours where you’re available to any employee who wants to speak with you on any topic.
Try to foster stronger relationships with the people you work with. The potential benefits of this should be obvious enough. An open and honest line of communication between employees and leaders means building a shared knowledge base and gaining invaluable insight, which leads to more streamlined cooperation and better business outcomes.
Creating those relationships is the challenge, and it takes time. Pursuing this as a leadership goal could mean encouraging shared activities, involving employees in the decision-making process, or simply having regular one-on-one meetings with colleagues.
Work on your confidence
One of the hardest leadership qualities to achieve is presence. While this characteristic might seem like something people are born with, the most confident people you meet in everyday life have spent time developing and honing their people skills. Some may have been formally trained in the art of public speaking and communication.
Charismatic leaders are better able to influence and motivate employees to do their best work, so setting a goal to work on your confidence can help you progress your career and interact more effectively with your teams.
Learn to manage your time
Sometimes, what might seem to be a rapidly escalating workload or a gridlocked schedule can turn out to be a simple matter of time management. Pursue this goal if you’re feeling overwhelmed or believe you could be spending your time more efficiently.
What does your daily routine look like? Are you taking the time to slow things all the way down, delegate, and plan your next steps? If tasks are like cars at an intersection, good time management is the traffic warden directing the flow. Hone the skill and you might find that there really are some extra hours in the day.
Be more adaptable
The ability to react quickly and decisively to a fast-changing situation is crucial for achieving effective leadership, but adaptability isn’t simply about fostering a flexible mindset that can deal with unpredictable events. Adaptability is also about anticipating those outcomes and preparing for them by drawing on your expertise, your knowledge, and the skills and perspectives of your teams.
The unexpected is, by its very nature, difficult to plan for. By setting a leadership goal of becoming more adaptable and more open-minded to change, you place yourself and your team in the best possible position should you encounter an unfamiliar challenge.
Lead by example
Your actions can influence your employees’ attitudes and behaviors more than your words. Leading by example is a leadership technique that embraces this basic idea. It’s about walking the walk, and acting in a way that’s consistent with the core values you’re trying to inspire in other people.
Reaching this leadership goal demands a serious commitment to discipline, as even small contradictions between the things you say and the things you do can become magnified in the eyes of your employees.
Achieve this objective and you can begin to build better connections with your teams over time, all while furthering your company’s vision and enhancing your own distinct leadership style.
Steve Hogarty is a writer and journalist based in London. He is the travel editor of City AM newspaper and the deputy editor of City AM Magazine, where his work focuses on technology, travel, and entertainment.