Leadership goals are objectives and targets that a leader sets to guide their actions, enhance their skills, and drive their team or organization towards desired outcomes.
Leadership is difficult and requires a range of skillsets and abilities that need to evolve and develop over time. Through goal setting, leaders can reflect on what they need to improve upon and how to get there. Furthermore, by setting goal setting milestones, you will be able to see and measure progress as you develop your leadership skills.
Your leadership goals might relate to improving your communication skills, mentorship ability, capacity to oversee large projects, or finding ways to inspire and get the best out of your team. I’ll outline many more potential leadership goals you could set for yourself throughout this article.
How to Set Leadership Goals
It’s difficult to set any type of goal without a framework. The framework I like to use is the SMART goal setting framework. This will give you the structure you need to get pen on paper and start writing down your goals and intentions.
This framework is an acronym – S.M.A.R.T, referring to the five elements you need in a well-crafted goal. The acronym stands for:
- Specific: Your goal needs to clarify exactly what is expected, why it’s important, who’s involved, where it’s happening, and which specific constraints are in effect (Doran, 1981). By defining precise, clear, and detailed objectives, it leaves no room for misunderstanding.
- Measurable: Establishing quantifiable criteria allows for tracking progress and determining when the goal has been achieved (Donovan, 2008). This often involves numerical benchmarks, such as percentages, timeframes, or specific amounts (Locke & Latham, 2012).
- Achievable: Your goal needs to be achievable, meaning it is realistic and attainable. Here, you need to strike a balance between having a challenging goal, and having one that’s within reach (Latham & Locke, 2018). The goal should push you, but also be within your capabilities.
- Relevant: The goal should align with broader business objectives, ensuring the invested effort leads to the desired impact (Lunenburg, 2011). This step emphasizes the importance of choosing goals that matter and makes sure they are in line with other related goals and plans.
- Time-bound: Adding a timeframe creates a sense of urgency and prompts action (Doran, 1981). A clear endpoint (or set of time-bound milestones) can help you to track progress and adjust as needed.
SMART Leadership Goals Examples
Read Also: Examples of Mentorship Goals
Additional Goals Ideas
The following goals are written as single-sentence goals with the intention to be expanded into SMART goals, if you so choose.
Select from the following (even copy and paste!) then build them out using the SMART framework to match your needs:
- “Complete a comprehensive project management certification within the next seven months to enhance my ability to lead complex projects.”
- “Reduce the instance of overtime work in my department by 20% over the next year to ensure work-life balance.”
- “Implement an open-door policy in the coming two months to promote transparency and approachability.”
- “Increase the department’s customer satisfaction scores by 15% over the next fiscal year by enhancing client communication skills.”
- “Attend at least two sessions of leadership coaching every month for a year to polish my managerial skills.”
- “Delegate 25% more tasks over the next quarter to empower team members and free up leadership focus on strategic aspects.”
- “Implement a monthly recognition program in the team within the next three months to boost morale and motivation.”
- “Reduce email correspondence by 30% within two quarters in favor of face-to-face communication to improve clarity and rapport.”
- “Improve the onboarding process for new hires by implementing an onboarding satisfaction survey to be conducted after their first 90 days in the next four months.”
- “Successfully mentor one employee to a promotion within the next year to foster talent and development.”
- “Facilitate a team campaign that raises our brand’s social media engagement by 10% over the next six months.”
- “Rotate team roles once a quarter for the next year to foster cross-functionality and reduce skill gaps.”
- “Adopt a new technology or tool that enhances productivity within the next six months.”
- “Starting next month, take part in a local networking event at least once per quarter for the entire year to expand industry connections.”
- “Develop a comprehensive disaster recovery plan for the department within the next eight months.”
- “Achieve an employee satisfaction score of at least 90% in the next year’s end-of-year survey by enhancing team engagement strategies.”
- “Over the next six months, successfully implement a flexible working hours plan to increase employee satisfaction.”
- “Ensure a 100% team attendance in health and safety training within the next four months.”
- “Increase the team’s grant proposal success rate by 15% in the next fiscal year through providing grant writing training and resources.”
- “By the end of two quarters, ensure that every team member has attended at least one career-enhancement workshop or seminar to foster professional development.”
- “Introduce at least one innovative process change in the coming year to increase operational efficiency.”
- “Arrange and conduct weekly team meetings over the next 12 months to foster open communication and collaboration.”
- “Encourage and measure a 30% increase in the attendance of industry-relevant webinars by team members over the next six months to improve team knowledge base.”
- “Facilitate the development and implementation of one major project led by a junior team member within the next six months to foster leadership.”
- “Increase employee participation in decision-making by 50% within the next year to enhance employee engagement and ownership.”
- “Strategize and implement changes to cut cost expenditures by 10% within the next fiscal year.”
- “Introduce an effective system that reduces paperwork or documentation time by 30% within the next two quarters.”
- “Improve punctuality in the team by reducing late starts or overruns in meetings by 20% in the next six months.”
- “Invest in my physical wellness by regularly working out and reducing stress levels, with a goal to reduce sick days by 70% over the next year.”
- “Start a ‘Best Ideas of the Month’ recognition program in the coming quarter to foster creativity and innovation among team members.”
- “Increase team member participation in company-wide events by 50% in the next year to strengthen intra-organizational bonds.”
- “Ensure that all team members develop at least one new hard skill relevant to their roles within the next year.”
- “Aim to meet one-on-one with all team members at least once every quarter over the next year to discuss career aspirations and progress.”
- “Run a successful department-wide CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative over the next six months to instill a sense of social responsibility.”
- “Institute quarterly ‘self-learning days’ within the coming year, where team members dedicate their workday to learn something new related to their job.”
Types of Leadership Goals you can Set
It’s hard to come up with a goal to focus on – which is why I’ve written this article. Below are some categories of goals you can focus on:
1. Strategic Thinking
For example, as you step into a leadership role, you’ll find yourself focusing more on predicting oncoming threats, environmental factors, or economic conditions on the horizon. It might be your job to foresee and address these.
To address this, your goals could include:
- Identifying strategic threats within a certain timeframe
- Pivoting to protect from or address oncoming strategic threats
- Identifying strategic opportunities within a certain timeframe
- Positioning the team to benefit from upcoming opportunities
(To address strategic issues and integrate them into your goals, consider creating a SWOT chart, which will help clarify opportunities and threats, as well as strengths and weaknesses of the organization, team, or yourself).
2. Improving Soft Skills
Some soft skills you could frame your goals around could include:
- Communication skills
- Mentorship skills
- Questioning abilities
- Teamwork skills
- Time management skills
- Organizational skills
3. Technical Proficiency and Hard Skills
Technical and hard skills refer to the specific industry-specific skills you need to complete tasks.
For example, if you’re a leader within the finances sector, you’ll likely need strong abilities to interpret datapoints, create data, and synthesize a lot of financial information.
Some examples might include (depending on your sector):
- Data analysis
- Digital literacy
- Computer programming
- Negotiation abilities
- Analytical reasoning
- Copywriting for speeches
SMART Goals Template
Leadership goals should focus both on short-term and long-term changes and improvements that will incrementally make you a better leader and, simultaneously, support your team and organization. Browse through the examples above and select ones that resonate with you, copy and paste them, and adjust them for your own situation and context. Set milestones to help you bridge the gap between long-term goals and short-term actionable milestones.
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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]