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New Year’s development goals for leaders: 2016 edition

3 min read


For many of us, making and breaking promises to ourselves for the New Year has become an annual tradition. We say we’re going to lose that 10 pounds, quit smoking, change jobs, read more, be more positive, etc.,  and start off all Tigger-like with energy and great intentions. Then, when the going gets tough we lose interest, motivation, and momentum and at the end of the year we’re back to where we started.

For next year, let’s break that cycle! Let’s set our yearly leadership development goals and put some best practices in place to help us achieve those goals.

We’ll start with 10 goals. Don’t get too ambitious, just pick one or two, or maybe these will inspire you to come up with something better of your own. Then, make sure you include the three “goal boosters” at the end.

Credit: Pixabay

1. Pick one thing you like to do or are good at but probably should not be doing at your level and delegate it. That’s right, let it go! Just be sure to provide appropriate support and coaching to your delegee (new made-up word).

2. Practice in-the-moment, “don’t get distracted by shiny objects,” focused active listening. It’s called “leadership presence,” and it’s the single most important thing you can do as a leader.

3. Let someone on your team know where they really stand. Good or bad, doesn’t matter, just commit to some honest, caring, constructive developmental straight talk.

4. Pick one thing that’s not broke and make it better. Look for an innovative breakthrough solution, not just incremental improvement.

5. Look for at least one thing someone is doing well and tell them about it. While each day would be a nice stretch goal, weekly may be more realistic.

6. Gain clarity on your leadership values and share those values with your team.

7. Get feedback on your leadership skills. Take a formal 360-degree assessment or use some other method to get more informal feedback. Then do something about the feedback!

8. Take a leadership course. Whatever program you chose to attend, just make sure it’s grounded in solid theory (no flavor of the month fads), builds self-awareness, and includes lots of practical on-the-job application.

9. Read at least four leadership books. That’s one a quarter. Believe me, it’s harder than it sounds. Keep an action log of new ideas that you are going to try out.

10. Find a new mentor or coach and/or mentor or coach someone new. Get a little, give a little.

Bonus content: Three proven ways to help you achieve your leadership goals:

1. Write them down. Be SMART about it — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

2. Tell others about them. Make “public declarations.”

3. Find an “accountability partner.” Someone to check in with you once a month to review progress on your goals (or each other’s goals).

Dan McCarthy is the director of Executive Development Programs at the University of New Hampshire and runs the Management & Leadership channel of He writes the award-winning leadership development blog Great Leadership and is consistently ranked as one of the top digital influencers in leadership and talent management. He’s a regular contributor to SmartBrief and a member of the SmartBrief on Workforce Advisory Board. E-mail McCarthy.

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