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5 questions to help you lead better next year

Now is the time to reflect on the past year -- where your leadership shined and where you can improve next year.

6 min read



This is the time of year when it’s really tempting to look forward and outline plans that will make 2017 a banner year for your organization.

Setting new goals and establishing the strategies and budgets that you’ll need to achieve them is a reasonable place to start. Another important leadership action is spending time taking stock of 2016, so you can review what you’ve learned from the pivotal moments and events of the waning year. Perhaps you’ve developed a better understanding of how to expand your reach in a competitive market. Maybe you’ve finally cracked the code to create that breakthrough product that your team has been struggling with for months.

But an even more important topic for reflection is what you’ve learned about yourself as a leader, and how your leadership has shaped the evolution of your team over the last 12 months.

Remarkably, many leaders I know are using the last few workdays of the year for introspection; they’re looking back before they look forward and applying what they discover to inform their leadership intentions for the New Year. The most valuable leadership insights they’re developing are being obtained by reflecting on the following five questions, and here’s why.

Unsplash image/SmartBrief illustration

What are the most important values that you’ve relied on as a guidance system during the past year?

 It’s essential to recognize that values drive your behaviors, and the team takes its cues from what they see you demonstrate. So, the next time you find yourself frustrated because there’s too much unproductive bickering during staff meetings, or too few instances of innovative ideas coming forward, ask yourself what you must own as it relates to this behavior. Are you demonstrating those same values? Are you holding the team accountable for respecting one another? Are you reinforcing open communication among all team members, or is it a poorly kept secret that the way to get ideas adopted is by being the last person to pitch that idea to you?

Values are your leadership compass; without them, it’s easy for the entire team to get off course.

How has your leadership role evolved? 

Unless you’ve been trapped on a deserted island for the last year, it’s a certainty that your role as a leader has evolved, or it needs to. Understanding the ways in which your organization and team are changing informs what is required of you.

Do you need to spend more time developing a young team, for example, where your role becomes “leader as teacher”? Is it the right moment now to delegate more responsibility and authority to talented staff members, where your role becomes “leader as mentor”? Are you allowing people to take prudent risks, and even fail, so they learn and grow, where your role becomes “leader as coach”?

Are there additional skills that you need to acquire to be more effective in a changing environment, where your role evolves to “leader as learner”? Remember, leadership is an organic, dynamic state of being, and you are in a constant process of becoming better at it by adjusting to the needs of your team and the organization while growing your own capabilities.

Where have you demonstrated the strengths of your passions or struggled with their vulnerabilities?

The next-decade leaders I work with are both aware of their passions and realize that they offer strengths that can be leveraged.

The “Builder” leader, for example, knows that her passion allows her to fearlessly pursue goals, even when the roadmap for how to achieve them hasn’t been created yet. At the same time, she also knows that her passion-born vulnerabilities can derail her, like the times when she’s frustrated and dismissive because the team doesn’t immediately grasp her vision, which alienates the very people she needs to help her achieve goals.

Being able to identify the moments in the year where you’ve used a passion-born strength or suffered from a vulnerability will help you develop passion mastery. This way, you’ll more readily recognize the situations in which you can apply those strengths as well as better anticipate the situations that prompt you to demonstrate undesired behaviors. That knowledge offers you an important gift: the opportunity to course correct.

Have you created a culture where people can flourish?

I’ve worked with leaders who have capably developed brilliant strategies, yet failed to create a culture in which they could be successfully implemented.

It showed up in obvious ways. There was a malaise in the organization, or worse, a pulse of fear that drove people to play it safe while looking for an escape route. These leaders struggled with gaining the commitment of their teams because they did little to show their people that they were willing to invest in their long- term success.

It’s staggering to think about the amount of time the people on your team will spend at work. It’s more than 85,000 hours across the lifetime of any individual. If those hours are meaningful, it will drive discretionary effort, so make sure the environment you create at work is one in which the people on your team can thrive.

Where did you make mistakes, and what do you wish you’d done differently? 

The ability to evaluate and own your mistakes or oversights is crucial at the leadership level. Our research shows that successful leaders demonstrate a significant capacity for reflection and meaning making. They also devote more time to learning from their mistakes than they do celebrating their brilliance, because they realize that when it comes to leadership success, hubris and arrogance are not their friends.

When you accept that being a leader is not synonymous with being infallible, you realize that mistakes are where the learning begins. So, lean into the learning and make it a great New Year.


Alaina Love is chief operating officer and president of Purpose Linked Consulting and co-author of “The Purpose Linked Organization: How Passionate Leaders Inspire Winning Teams and Great Results” (McGraw-Hill). She is a recovering HR executive, a global speaker and leadership expert, and passionate about everything having to do with, well … passion. Her passion archetypes are Builder, Transformer and Healer. You can learn more about how to grow leaders, build passionate teams and leverage passion to create great customer outcomes here.

When she’s not working with her Fortune 500 client base, Love is busy writing her next book, “Passionality, The Art and Science of Finding Your Passion and Living Your Bliss,” which explores the alignment of personality, purpose and passion, and the science of how it contributes to our well being. Follow Love on TwitterFacebookYouTube or her blog.

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