New Year's Development Goals for Leaders

4 workers discussing a project challenge
GettyImages/Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury

December. For many leaders, it’s a time to reflect on accomplishments for the year and establish goals for the upcoming New Year. 

It’s also a good time to set leadership development goals, either as part of a formal development planning process, or just because it’s a proven way to continuously improve as a leader.

While leadership development goals should always be specific and relevant to the individual leader and linked to the organizational context, there are most likely a few common ones that most any leader could benefit from.

Here’s a list to choose from, based on my executive coaching work. While all of them are worthy goals, it’s best to focus on the one to three. Then, once sufficient progress is made, you can always go back and select a new goal or goals. You may also find that many of the goals are related to each other, which is often the case. The key is to pick the one that seems to be at the root cause.

For the upcoming New Year, my goals are to:

1. Delegate more. My unwillingness or inability to let go is causing me to work long hours, preventing me from having the time to be more strategic, and is retarding the development of my team. I’ll do some serious self-reflection, or work with a coach or mentor, to figure out  what’s causing me not to delegate. Is it my own ego? Is it a lack of confidence in my team? Once I get to the root cause, I will create a list of everything I do and make hard decisions on what to delegate, who to delegate to, how to do it, and by when.

For more on delegation, read 10 Things a Manager Should Never Delegate.

2. Be more strategic. I’ll improve my ability to see the big picture and take a longer range, broader business perspective. I’ll learn to step back from the day-to-day tactical details of my business and focus on the “why”, not just the “what” and “how.”

See How to be a More Strategic Manager for ten specific ways to do this. Delegating more should help in this area.

3. Be a better listener. I need to learn to pay attention and demonstrate to others that that I value what they have to say. I’ll use active listening, open-ended questions, body language, and eliminate distractions that get in the way of my ability to listen.

Here are a few articles from experts on how to be a better listener:

How to Be a Better Listener

Listening Skills


4. Micromanage less (or not at all). No one likes to think of themselves as a micromanager, but after having taken the quiz 20 Clues That You Might Be a Micromanager, I realized I have room for improvement. Delegating more will help, but it will be important to give my team members the freedom to do it their way, without me breathing down their necks.

5. Improve my financial acumen. I need to learn how to understand, interpret, and use “the numbers” to improve my business. I’ll start by taking an Excel course, then a “Finance for Non-Financial Managers” course.

See A Finance and Accounting Glossary for the Non-Financial Manager

6. Take action on chronic underperformers. I’ve been allowing one to two C-player employees to get away with underperformance for way too long.

It’s affecting my organization, my own performance, the morale of the rest of my team, and I’m not doing these underperformers any favors by covering up for them.

First read:

The Difference between Performance Problems and Pet Peeves

Then read:

How to Coach an Employee Out of a Job"

How to Deal With a Lazy Employee

Dealing With Difficult Employees

7. Be a better coach. For the rest of my team (the B and C-players), I need to spend more time coaching and developing them. I need to shift my leadership style away from always directing and telling and learn to guide and develop my direct reports. I’ll work with each of my direct reports to create their own individual development plans.


How to Utilize Informal Coaching to Improve Employee Performance

70 Awesome Coaching Questions Using the GROW Model

10 Powerful Ways to Develop Your Employees

8. Improve my work-life balance. My insanely long hours are having an impact on my performance, health, personal relationships, and I’m setting a terrible example for my employees. Delegating more will help, as well as micromanaging less. I’ll get a handle on where I’m wasting time, and shift my focus to more value-added activities. I’ll learn ways to work more efficiently and prioritize tasks.

Recommended book: Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative

9. Create my own succession plan. I’ll never get the promotion I want if I’m too indispensable in my current role.

Read: Why Every Manager Should Create their own Succession Plan

10. Improve collaboration. I need to improve relationships with my peers. I’ll be a better partner, strive to understand their goals and needs, and learn to work together to help achieve each other’s goals. If one of them is underperforming or struggling, I’ll offer my help.