Strong leadership is a pretty good predictor of successful outcomes, growth, and progress. But what are the inherent qualities of a good leader? And how do we develop and evaluate effective leadership skills? These questions are frequently at the center of my work as a consultant for organizations who want to move their business forward. I have found it invaluable to help my clients clarify and assess their leadership styles as a critical first step to overall organization building.
This is first in a series of blog posts on assessing your leadership. At the end, you will have a clear understanding of how you lead as well as a better awareness of areas that may need to be strengthened and improved. Ultimately, understanding your leadership style will help to unlock the awesome attributes you and your organization have to catapult you onto the road to success. In the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Knowledge is Power!”
Let’s jump right in, shall we? The first question to ask yourself is: Are you setting the right goals?
This is the most important questions and requires a clear answer. I like to think of goals as your destinations on Google maps. The final destination is your long-term goal and “add a stops “ are your short-term goals — things you accomplish along the way that are necessary to get to your final destination. Goals give you focus and direction, and without them, you’re just out there wandering blind, not able to accomplish anything. Or equally frustrating, you’re following the lead of others and accomplishing what your organization or boss or someone else wants, but not actually addressing your own goals.
So, how does one set the right goals? First, the context of goals is important. You can set goals for your work activities, your professional development, your finances, your physical fitness, your family life, or anything else you want to achieve. For example, you can have work goals to complete a specific project, a professional development goal to take a training program to advance your skills, and fitness goals to run a 10k this year. All can be achieved!
The most important thing you can do is write down your goals. Write down specific goals that are measurable, achievable, relevant, and time sensitive (SMART goals).
Specific goals are direct, well defined, and provide a clear roadmap toward your goal. Utilizing the map analogy again, it would be nearly impossible to get to any destination without street names and notifications for when you need to turn left or right. If you wanted to go to “a place to have fun,” that would be very different locations if you liked to have fun at an amusement park, an international city, or a beach. Be specific!
Measurable goals are quantifiable, by dates, times, percentages, clients served, distances, etc. Measuring your achievements gives you an opportunity to track your progress and to assure you are headed in the right direction. Knowing the mileage between point A to point B informs you when you are getting close to a milestones or in some cases, if you headed in the wrong direction altogether.
Achievable goals are ones that you can actually accomplish, even if they are possibly challenging, creative and motivating! For example, if you’ve never run before, setting a goal of a marathon might not work for your timeline, but a 5k or 10k might work. When in doubt, though, pick a more challenging goal so you have to work to reach it.
Relevant goals are those that are connected to what you want to achieve. It’s easier than you might think to get off track. Well intentioned goals that are not directly related to what you want to achieve will be distracting and route you off in an opposite direction away from your final destination.
Time-sensitive goals give you a deadline, put you under pressure and can even propel you more quickly toward what you are trying to achieve. Knowing you’re on the clock helps keep you on track and motivated. If you have an estimate for how long it should take to get there, then you can also pick up the pace if you find yourself a little behind the mark or seek help if you get lost.
Setting the right goals – in any areas of your life you want to accomplish something! — is paramount to developing and being an effective leader. With the right goals, a leader can actually provide a clear direction and a focused path with solid supports to ensure success. What better way to demonstrate that than to set and accomplish goals in areas of your life that are important to you?
So, take the time to reflect upon your goals. Are they the right ones for you? And are they “smart”? Good leadership largely requires first setting the right goals to keep you and those you lead heading in the right direction and reach your destination.