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14 examples of effective SMART personal leadership goals

Last updated

19 December 2023


Chloe Garnham

Reviewed by

Warren Jonas ACC

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You’ve probably noticed that some leaders do things differently to others. Some of those things make them very effective in their roles. But can you pinpoint exactly what makes them such a successful leader?

Good leaders tend to be clear, cool-headed, inspiring, and supportive. Crucially, they are also effective at rallying a team around a common vision and mission. None of this happens by accident. Effective leaders tend to set themselves leadership goals to continually improve and give more value to their teams.

Setting objectives for improvement is an essential aspect of good management, and that’s where SMART goals come into play. SMART goals are achievable, clear, and time-bound for better, more successful leadership.

What are personal leadership goals?

Unlike business objectives and targets, leadership goals are goals managers set themselves to improve their communication, interpersonal relationships, empathy, motivation skills, and overall effectiveness as a manager.

This can help improve teams by encouraging them to perform better, achieve milestones, and produce better products or services. It can also foster a sense of empowerment in team members, strengthening their resolve and confidence to do their best work.

Ideally, goals set by leaders should cascade through the organization, ensuring the aspirations of top executives are aligned with the broader goals of the entire business.

What are SMART goals?

The acronym SMART can be used to set goals that are more specific and relevant. It can also motivate you to achieve those goals.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific: it’s important to be clear about what you want to achieve. Make sure your goal is clearly defined so you can easily work toward it.

  • Measurable: a goal should be measurable so you can determine whether you have achieved it.

  • Achievable: set goals that are challenging but not so big they cause you to feel overwhelmed.

  • Relevant: any goals you set should align with your values, interests, and long-term objectives.

  • Time-bound: it’s helpful to set a time limit on your goals to ensure you’ll stay motivated to achieve them.

Why are leadership SMART goals important?

It’s helpful to have yardsticks you can use to measure your progress when it comes to self-improvement. Setting goals that are too vague or have no time limit can lead to subpar results or forgetting the goals altogether.

SMART leadership goals can help you to:

  • Boost success: SMART goals stretch you but are achievable, meaning you’re more likely to actually succeed.

  • Have accountability: SMART goals are set out clearly without ambiguity, so you can easily tell whether you have achieved them. This can help hold you and your team accountable.

  • Stay motivated: setting a specific time limit on a goal can help you stay focused on the objective and determined to achieve it.

  • Assess effectiveness: SMART goals are measurable, so it’s easy to assess whether the goal has been effective and what changes you need to make in the future to boost the success of other goals.

How to set leadership goals

To set leadership goals, it’s helpful to follow a few key steps. These will ensure that your goals align with your personal views, that you are motivated to achieve them, and that you’re set up for success.

  1. Consider your values: your values impact you not just as a person but also as a leader. It’s helpful to consider what you personally care about, what matters to you most, and how you want to lead your team. This will help you set goals that align with your ideals.

  2. Hone in on improvements: we all have things we need to work on. It’s helpful to consider core areas of improvement so that your weaknesses can slowly become strengths over time.

  3. Break bigger goals into smaller steps: some of your leadership goals may involve a series of smaller steps. Breaking larger goals down into smaller ones can help you track your progress, keep you motivated, and make the big goal feel less intimidating.

  4. Set out a clear pathway: setting a goal is all well and good, but you need to decide exactly how you will achieve it. Defining the precise steps you’ll need to take to deliver on the goal will help turn an idea into actionable steps.

  5. Gain support: working toward goals on your own can be isolating. A trusted colleague, manager, life coach, or even a friend can help hold you accountable and provide the support needed to keep you motivated.

  6. Adopt a continuous improvement mindset: no one is perfect. Adopting a continuous improvement mindset helps you recognize that while you will always have shortcomings, you’re open to working on those areas for the team’s benefit.

Three types of leadership goals

Many leadership goals can help you improve your effectiveness. Some of the most common types include strategic thinking, boosting soft skills, and advancing technical know-how.

1. Strategic thinking

Having an overall vision and mission is critical, regardless of the organization you work for. Developing leadership goals related to strategic thinking can help you support that vision while helping your team get there, too.

Strategic thinking goals can also be related to making data-based decisions, adapting to trends and industry changes, continuous innovation, and problem-solving.

Any goal you set should support the business’s overall strategy to improve the work you and your team do.

2. Improving soft skills

Known as soft skills, your communication capabilities, empathy, interpersonal relationships, and teamwork can prove incredibly important as a leader.

Teams want leaders who understand their perspectives, can be motivating without being controlling or condemning, and can rally the team around a shared mission. These soft skills are more important than many might assume.

3. Technical proficiency and hard skills

Technical proficiency and hard skills are also essential for leaders. To boost your tech knowledge, taking courses, upskilling continually, and staying abreast of tech trends can be helpful.

Other hard skills such as project, business, and time management can help you perform your work to the highest standard.

SMART leadership goals: 14 examples

You might not know where to start when setting leadership goals. To help you, we’ve created a list of examples. Use these SMART leadership goal examples as inspiration to help you create your own.

1. Boost your emotional intelligence (EQ)

Example goal: within the next three months, boost your EQ skills to help improve communication and interpersonal relationships.

Specific: EQ encompasses a range of social skills, including empathy, self-awareness, healthy relationships, and self-regulation. Increase your EQ skills via an EQ course to learn more about the importance of EQ and how to implement it as a leader.

Measurable: completing the course means you have completed this goal.

Achievable: while challenging, increasing your EQ within three months via a course is achievable.

Relevant: being able to communicate effectively with teammates, recognize other people’s points of view, maintain composure during difficult situations, and engage in healthy colleague relationships are important capabilities for leaders.

Time-bound: complete this goal within three months.

2. Become more comfortable with delegation

Example goal: to delegate 20% of tasks to competent team members within the next six months. 

Specific: delegate tasks that wouldn’t normally be passed on to decrease workload and increase leadership effectiveness.

Measurable: the percentage of tasks can be measured with a project tracking tool.

Achievable: team members need to be capable of taking on certain tasks. If not, the team may need to upskill to boost their confidence and capabilities. 

Relevant: not delegating can result in stress, overwork, and burnout, which burdens the rest of the team.

Time-bound: this goal should be completed within six months.

3. Micromanage less

Example goal: minimize micromanaging to empower the team to do their best work. 

Specific: reduce team check-ins to once-weekly updates within the next three months to give team members more ownership over their work. 

Measurable: once-weekly check-ins can be measured via a tracking platform.

Achievable: the team is trusted to take on tasks without being micromanaged. While it can be challenging to give team members space, it empowers them to do their best work.

Relevant: it’s essential to allow employees the space and time to complete tasks. Micromanaging might reduce the perception of stress and give the impression of control, but it’s likely to result in low job satisfaction for the team.

Time-bound: complete this goal within three months.

4. Become a more active listener

Example goal: in the next six months, become a more active listener with colleagues.

Specific: to become a better listener, it’s helpful to eliminate distractions when speaking to colleagues, practice empathy by imagining yourself in that person’s shoes, and provide cues so the speaker knows they are being listened to and respected.

Measurable: ask team members to complete an anonymous survey before and after attempting this goal to see whether they feel more valued and listened to.

Achievable: with practice and learning, this skill can be developed in six months.

Relevant: it’s important for leaders to make a conscious effort to listen closely to their team. This ensures they understand any concerns the team may have, lean into their interests and skills, and thrive in their role.

Time-bound: complete this goal within six months.

5. Learn to accept constructive criticism gracefully

Example goal: over the next year, work to improve how you receive constructive criticism.

Specific: ask a manager or colleague to provide areas for growth from their perspective. Acknowledge emotions, but don’t react. Try to depersonalize the feedback and realize it’s not a personal critique. Instead, it’s helpful for the team as a whole.

Measurable: keep a note of your reactions after feedback meetings to see how your acceptance grows over time.

Achievable: while challenging, learning to accept feedback without reacting will gradually get easier.

Relevant: as a leader, it’s critical that you take on criticism and use it to improve the way you work. Leaders who struggle to accept criticism can be problematic and halt their own growth.

Time-bound: complete this goal within one year.

6. Be adaptable to growth and change

Example goal: to become more flexible and adaptable to change and to recognize that change is an inevitable aspect of business.

Specific: upskill in change management over 12 months via a remote online course.

Measurable: keep note of your reactions and emotions when change arises to see whether your reactions improve over time.

Achievable: improving adaptability over a year is challenging but achievable.

Relevant: new trends emerge, the economy fluctuates, and customer expectations continually increase. Being adaptable to these changes is crucial for effective leadership.

Time-bound: complete this goal within a 12-month period.

7. Own your mistakes

Example goal: make an effort to own up to your mistakes, whether the error is something small like a missed meeting or something larger like a campaign that didn’t go to plan.

Specific: make note of when mistakes occur and whether or not you take ownership.

Measurable: you can track progress over time by taking notes of incidents.

Achievable: while it can be challenging to confront your own shortcomings, owning up to mistakes is an achievable goal.

Relevant: a leader who can take ownership and recognize their weaknesses can be seen as more relatable, trustworthy, and comfortable to work with, rather than one who finger points or deflects.

Time-bound: assess this goal over one year.

8. Become a mentor

Example goal: support less experienced team members through mentorship.

Specific: start supporting two less experienced colleagues with bi-monthly check-ins throughout the year.

Measurable: keep note of check-in sessions with colleagues to track attendance success.

Achievable: it can be challenging and even intimidating to coach other team members, but as a senior employee, you can take on two mentees with bi-monthly check-ins.

Relevant: mentorship can help you support less experienced team members, enabling them to do better in their roles. It can also support your own growth by expanding your coaching, encouragement, communication, and teaching skills.

Time-bound: assess this goal over one year.

9. Lean into your team’s strengths

Example goal: get better at collectively understanding your team’s strengths to lean into stronger attributes and help them reach their maximum potential.

Specific: complete one-to-one sessions with all team members to learn more about their skills, strengths, and preferences. Make an action plan to help the team embrace their strengths.

Measurable: keep note of the one-to-one sessions as well as the detailed action plan.

Achievable: with some perseverance, you can learn about team members’ skills and apply them to projects.

Relevant: leaning into collective strengths will help the team make progress with key goals and help team members do work they care about and are good at.

Time-bound: complete this goal within three months.

10. Improve productivity

Example goal: boost productivity over the next three months to complete more tasks quickly.

Specific: use time-blocking (where tasks are allocated a specific time block in the day) to help you focus on one task at a time.

Measurable: track projects over the next three months and compare them to the previous time period to assess productivity changes.

Achievable: ask team members not to approach you at certain times to allow time for deep work and focus. The goal will be achievable with this approach.

Relevant: to avoid stress and burnout and become a more effective leader, it’s crucial to have high productivity levels.

Time-bound: complete within three months.

11. Practice mindfulness regularly

Example goal: practice mindfulness regularly over the next 12 months.

Specific: engage in mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes every day before work begins.

Measurable: keep track of successful days via a mindfulness app.

Achievable: incorporating mindfulness into your daily life can be challenging as a busy leader. However, including just 10 minutes per day is an achievable goal.

Relevant: mindfulness can be essential for leadership to reduce stress and increase focus. Numerous studies show meditation and mindfulness play a role in reducing workplace stress and increasing employee engagement.

Time-bound: complete over one year.

12. Take a business management course

Example goal: take a business management course to become a better leader and manager. 

Specific: attend a business management course over the next six months to expand your current business skill set.

Measurable: attending a course will be a simple goal to measure, but measuring whether it boosts your effectiveness as a leader will be even more useful. You can do this via project success metrics, productivity, and feedback from managers.

Achievable: completing a course within the next months may be challenging, but it’s possible. 

Relevant: extending your current management skill set can make you more valuable to your organization and team.

Time-bound: complete this goal within six months.

13. Improve your public speaking skills

Example goal: to feel more comfortable and be more effective when presenting in public.

Specific: to attend five sessions of Toastmasters to increase public speaking skills.

Measurable: measure and keep track of your Toastmasters sessions and review how comfortable you are with public speaking. You can use a numbered scale.

Achievable: many people find public speaking intimidating, but this goal is achievable with the right support and mindset.

Relevant: as a leader, being able to confidently address your team can help you lead them effectively.

Time-bound: to be completed within six months.

14. Boost your decision-making skills

Example goal: increase the accuracy of your decision-making to push the business forward.

Specific: move away from an assumptions-based mindset to data-led decision-making by implementing a data analysis tool.

Measurable: it’s simple to measure the implementation of a new tool and its use.

Achievable: adopting a data-based tool is a relatively straightforward process. The important part is having all relevant team members adopt the tool for unity and maximum impact.

Relevant: being informed by data increases the accuracy of your decisions since you back them up with evidence, not emotions. Data provides more clarity and accuracy, ultimately improving project success.

Time-bound: implement data-led decision-making within three months.

Getting the most from SMART leadership goals

Setting SMART goals could be the critical first step in becoming a game-changing leader.

By setting goals, you are helping to boost your personal growth, making you a more effective, confident, and empathetic leader. This will help increase your team’s success and enable them to do their best work.

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