Outstanding leadership is key to any organization's success. Without it, a business is prone to low morale and frequent turnover. One way to help yourself grow as a leader is to set actionable, trackable leadership goals. These goals should be focused on addressing your weaknesses and building upon your strengths.
Whether you’re a seasoned leader, or you’ve just stepped into your first management role, you should always make a point to improve your leadership skills. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together everything you need to know about setting leadership goals and what goals you should focus on.
What are leadership goals?
Leadership goals are objectives aspiring leaders set that typically pertain to improvements in communication and fostering healthy relationships — both of which create healthy, happy, and productive work environments.
As a leader, you should always assess your skills and look for ways to grow and improve. Maybe you’re excellent at organizing data for meetings but could work on your public speaking skills, or you excel at conflict-resolution but could still be a better active listener.
Goal-setting is key to effective leadership that can keep up with evolving industries. If you consistently set goals for your leadership style, both your employees and your business will benefit.
How to Set Leadership Goals
Your strengths and weaknesses as a leader may not be the same as the next person’s, so it’s important to tailor your leadership goals. It helps to take the time to sit down and write exactly what you want to accomplish. You can get started by first identifying your strengths and weaknesses. Then, you’ll want to choose one or two weaknesses you want to improve at a time.
After you’ve chosen the weakness (or weaknesses) you'd like to improve, set three or four development goals —and build a road map to achieve them. As you work toward your goals, track your progress. Once you’ve achieved your goals, reassess your leadership skills, choose new areas to work on, and set new goals.
Leadership SMART Goals
SMART leadership goals are leadership goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
What is your exact goal as a leader? Saying you want to be a better listener is too vague of a leadership goal in this case. However, saying you want to lessen the amount of times your colleagues have had to repeat themselves by 10% is much more specific.
Whatever your goal is needs to be measurable with quantitative data. Examples include wanting to improve revenue by 20%, cutting production costs in half, or expanding your team by adding 15 more people. All of these goals can be quantified.
It’s important to set realistic goals. It’s great to have ambitious goals, but they shouldn’t be impossible. For example, a goal to quadruple your company’s revenue within the month may not be realistic, however, a goal to increase revenue by 20% each quarter is much more attainable.
Setting goals that are far too ambitious can result in burnout, missed deadlines, decreased morale, and high employee turnover.
Your leadership goals should be clearly connected to the overall project you’re working on. For example, if you want to improve your brand’s social media presence, then having a goal specifically connected to raising engagement on Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok is relevant.
Give yourself a reasonable timeframe to complete your goals. For example, let’s say you want to improve your active listening skills by reducing the number of times colleagues have had to repeat information by 50%. To make this goal timely, you could give yourself three months to reach that goal.
16 Leadership Goals Examples
Here are 16 leadership goals every business leader should have:
1. Become a more active listener.
Effective leaders don’t just provide guidance, they also listen — that's why improving active listening is an important leadership goal. Employees want to feel heard and know their voices matter. By hearing your team members and colleagues out, you can gain insight into new perspectives and discover ideas to move your business forward.
Active listening means giving the person who is speaking your full, undivided attention. You’re not just listening to their words, you’re consciously analyzing what you hear, paying close attention to the intent, content, and emotion of the speaker.
Pro Tip: Schedule a weekly meeting with at least one person who directly reports to you in order to practice active listening.
2. Learn to gracefully accept constructive criticism.
A key to improving any skill is to learn to take constructive criticism. Being open to upward feedback can help give insight into areas into how you can improve your workplace’s day-to-day. Empowering your staff to provide feedback on your or the company’s performance can also boost morale and lower turnover.
Pro Tip: Send out surveys and create spaces for your employees to provide upward feedback. Set a goal to increase the number of employees providing feedback by a certain percentage, such as 20% by the end of a quarter.
3. Be adaptable to growth and change.
No matter your industry, you should always be prepared to adapt to new developments. This was especially clear during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when businesses had to swiftly adjust their business models to a changing economy and the norm of working from home.
The keys to being adaptable are developing backup strategies, creating a strong support system around the office, and not getting too attached to a particular business approach.
Pro Tip: It never hurts to come up with a Plan B, C, or D in case of an unexpected event. You may also want to practice mindfulness to develop habits that promote adaptability and calm.
4. Improve your confidence.
If you exude confidence in yourself, your work, and your decision making, others will feel confident in you as well. Employees are more likely to trust in and follow confident leadership. And don’t feel discouraged if you’re not feeling confident all the time.
On days when you’re not feeling confident, repeat uplifting affirmations to yourself and make a private list of your best qualities as a leader.
Pro Tip: Taking a class in public speaking is a great way to build confidence especially as it pertains to speaking in front of large groups of people.
5. Build emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and regulate your emotions. This is a great leadership goal to have because you need to be able to remain calm if you want to adapt to a changing market or facilitate a healthy work environment.
To build your emotional intelligence, focus on these five components:
- Internal motivation
- Self regulation
- Self awareness
- Social awareness
Pro Tip: Commit to keeping a journal and giving yourself about 30 minutes at the end of each workday to document how well you handle your emotions. What were some good moments, and what are some pain points you need to work on?
6. Be comfortable delegating tasks.
Asking for help can be hard, but it takes a team effort to run a business. If you overload yourself with too many responsibilities, you risk experiencing burnout. Instead, get in the habit of asking for help and relying on your team when necessary. Delegating tasks can reduce your stress and even provide new opportunities for team members to develop new skills.
Pro Tip: Start by delegating two simple tasks a week to an employee (or employees) who directly reports to you.
7. Practice transparency.
A great leader is open and honest with their staff and takes accountability for their own actions. This establishes trust between management and employees, which is incredibly important during times of uncertainty.
Pro Tip: Commit to sending out weekly updates or hosting regularly scheduled meetings to keep employees informed about company wins and losses.
8. Become a mentor.
If you want to boost morale at the workplace and foster your company’s growth, you should also act as a mentor to your staff. You can be a mentor by uplifting your employees and guiding them toward advancement. This can be done with scheduled training activities and meetings.
Pro Tip: Schedule weekly or bi-weekly training sessions where you can offer advice and help staff members build their skills.
9. Improve time management.
Just like your employees, you have to meet your deadlines. That means committing to ending meetings on time, sending out important information in a timely manner, and following up when you say you will.
Pro Tip: Keep a timer and dedicate a specific amount of time to completing certain tasks. For example, give yourself 30 minutes to draft reports. If the task takes longer, keep track of why. Is the task naturally more time-consuming? Do you need to limit distractions? Use your findings to better audit your time in the future.
10. Micromanage less.
Micromanaging can make employees feel anxious, lower morale, and cause burnout for your staff. This all can lead to higher turnover and a decrease in productivity. Your employees want to know that you trust them to succeed in the company’s mission — so try to take a hands-off approach whenever possible, and make it clear that you’re always available for guidance when they need it.
Pro Tip: Reduce check-ins on projects to once a week or bi-weekly, allowing your employees to work without too much pressure.
11. Build a dynamic team.
A well-rounded team with diverse perspectives is a strong asset to any company. To achieve this as a leadership goal, you may want to look into higher diverse or global candidates, pair teams together, and emphasize fresh perspectives.
Pro Tip: A way to achieve this could be to implement blind hiring practices in your HR department and work to eliminate any biases.
12. Lead by example.
Whether it’s meeting deadlines, clocking into work on time, or increasing productivity, expecting your employees to live up to standards you aren’t meeting yourself is unfair. You have to set a positive example for your staff. That means approaching new tasks with enthusiasm and doing your part to ensure the company meets its goals.
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and step in to help with tedious projects when needed.
13. Offer more helpful constructive feedback.
As a leader, you should feel comfortable giving feedback to employees so that they know when they’re on the right track and where improvements can be made. Check-in with employees and give frequent positive feedback and constructive criticism to guide them along.
Pro Tip: Instead of waiting for something to go wrong to give feedback or waiting until an annual review, schedule weekly check-ins and make a point to acknowledge great work as soon as you see it.
14. Improve employee relations.
At a time when many employees are working from home and not together in a single office space, fostering strong professional relationships can be difficult. Making it a leadership goal to improve relationships among employees can ultimately build a stronger team that is dedicated to moving the company forward.
Pro Tip: Schedule bi-weekly or monthly coffee chats or virtual games to build community within the company and to allow your employees time to get to know each other in a relaxing environment.
15. Improve decision-making skills.
Make it a goal to find a decision-making process that helps you make sound decisions in a timely manner. This will help your team get started on projects sooner and allow the company to meet more deadlines. That decision-making process may include consulting your team for their input.
Pro Tip: This is yet another example of why it’s important to delegate certain tasks. Having someone you can appoint as a person you can defer to for input on decisions can help lessen the stress of decision-making.
16. Become aware of your team’s personal strengths.
Understanding your team’s individual strengths and weaknesses will make it easier to designate tasks most effectively. Make a point to evaluate each individual’s strength and assign tasks that will utilize those strengths. Your team will feel appreciated and production will go more smoothly.
Pro Tip: Once per quarter, send out surveys to employees asking them to highlight their strengths and areas they’d like to improve.
No matter how long you’ve been a leader, you should always have specific, actionable leadership goals to work toward. Becoming complacent inhibits growth — both yours and your company's — so always reassess yourself and hold yourself accountable.