Career Fortitude



Forming goals for leadership development that feed into your action plan is critical to your career path because it creates a vision of how a goal fits into your overall strategy of professional growth and the career advancement it supports.  Effective goal-setting is crucial for leadership development as it provides a roadmap for growth, guides decision-making, and fosters accountability.

Leadership development goals should be tailored to your individual needs and your organization’s objectives.  Here are areas to focus on as you begin forming goals for leadership development:

Skill-Based Goals

These goals focus on acquiring or improving specific leadership skills, such as communication, decision-making, conflict resolution, delegation, or strategic thinking.  For example, a leader may set a goal to enhance their data analysis skills to better identify performance trends and track the impacts of process improvement strategies.

By understanding what key metrics and data sets are needed to lead your team and identifying what knowledge gaps you currently have, you can create a plan to close those gaps through a skill-based goal.  The goal should include details on what specific training and learning is needed to grow the skill and how to introduce the new skill into your work to drive results.

Behavioral Goals

Behavioral goals target the development of particular leadership behaviors or traits, such as fostering a culture of collaboration, promoting diversity and inclusion, demonstrating resilience in the face of challenges, or practicing effective time management.  Leaders may set goals to exhibit more empathy in their interactions with team members or to provide more constructive feedback.

Taking time to better understand how your leadership is perceived by your team and what your focus should be to ensure you’re becoming the type of leader you want to be is a critical behavior-based goal.  Setting goals that include using feedback strategies such as 360-degree feedback, stay interviews, and developmental check-ins with your team creates structure and drives action.

Career Advancement Goals

These goals are centered around advancing within your career path or assuming greater leadership responsibilities.  This could involve setting goals to attain a higher leadership position, lead a larger team, or take on more complex projects.

Leaders may also focus on expanding their influence within the organization or industry.  A career advancement goal could be as small as becoming a subject matter expert in the field you are already working in to open up the door for advancement within the next year.  A larger goal like achieving multiple promotions within the next several years to obtain a C-level position is a more long-term goal that fits in with your 5 or 10-year plan.

Personal Growth Goals

Personal growth goals aim to enhance self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and overall personal development.  Leaders may set goals to improve their self-management skills, cultivate a growth mindset, or enhance their ability to handle stress and adversity effectively.

These goals contribute to a leader’s capacity to lead with authenticity and resilience.  A leader who finds themselves struggling with higher-scope tasks across multiple teams or the entire organization may need to use personal growth goals to improve their growth mindset to expand their business competencies.

Team Development Goals

Leaders often set goals related to building and developing their teams.  This may include fostering a culture of trust and accountability, providing opportunities for team members’ professional growth and development, or improving team cohesion and collaboration.  Leaders may also set goals to enhance their coaching and mentoring skills to better support their team members’ success.

Organizational Impact Goals

These goals focus on driving positive outcomes for the organization, such as increasing productivity, improving employee engagement and satisfaction, fostering innovation, or achieving specific business objectives.  Leaders may set goals to implement initiatives that contribute to organizational growth, sustainability, or competitive advantage.

Effective Goal-Setting

Forming goals for leadership development is crucial as it provides a roadmap for growth, guides decision-making, and fosters accountability.  By following the guidelines listed below, you can form effective goals for leadership development that propel you toward becoming a more effective and impactful leader.

  • Reflect on Your Current State: Before setting goals, take stock of your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement as a leader.  Reflect on past experiences, feedback from peers and superiors, and any assessments or evaluations you’ve undergone.


  • Be Specific and Measurable: Effective goals are clear, specific, and measurable. Instead of setting vague goals like “improve leadership skills,” define concrete objectives such as “enhance communication skills by delivering at least two presentations per month” or “increase team productivity by 15% within six months.”


  • Set Challenging but Attainable Goals: Goals should stretch your abilities and push you out of your comfort zone, but they should also be achievable with effort and commitment.  Avoid setting goals that are too easy or too ambitious, as they may lead to complacency or frustration.  Strike a balance by setting challenging yet realistic goals that motivate you to strive for excellence.


  • Align with Your Values and Objectives: Ensure that your goals align with your values, long-term aspirations, and organizational objectives.  Ask yourself how achieving these goals will contribute to your personal and professional growth as well as the success of your team or organization.  Aligning your goals with your broader purpose and vision enhances motivation and commitment.


  • Break Down Goals into Actionable Steps: Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks or milestones.  This makes the goals less daunting and allows you to track progress more effectively.  Create a timeline with deadlines for each milestone to stay on track and maintain momentum toward achieving your larger objectives.


  • Seek Feedback and Support: Share your goals with mentors, coaches, or trusted colleagues who can provide feedback, guidance, and support.  Soliciting input from others can offer valuable perspectives and help you refine your goals for maximum impact.  Additionally, having a support system in place can keep you accountable and motivated throughout your development journey.


  • Regularly Review and Adjust Goals: Goals are not set in stone; they should be reviewed and adjusted as needed based on changing circumstances, feedback, and new insights.  Schedule regular check-ins with yourself to assess progress, celebrate achievements, and identify any obstacles or setbacks that may require course correction.


  • Celebrate Achievements and Learn from Challenges: Celebrate each milestone and achievement along the way to maintain morale and motivation.  Take time to acknowledge your progress and recognize the effort you’ve invested in your development.  Similarly, view challenges and setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth.


Remember that leadership development is a continuous journey, and setting meaningful goals is the first step toward realizing your full potential.

Creating SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) is essential for leaders to ensure clarity, focus, and accountability in their leadership development journey.

  1. Specific:

Define your goals with clarity and precision.  Instead of setting a vague goal like “Improve leadership skills,” be specific about what skills you want to develop, such as “Enhance communication skills to deliver more effective team presentations.”

  1. Measurable:

Establish concrete criteria to measure progress and success. Quantify your goals whenever possible.  For instance, if your goal is to increase employee engagement, specify a measurable outcome like “Increase employee engagement survey scores by 15% within six months.”

  1. Achievable:

Set goals that are realistic and attainable given your current resources, capabilities, and constraints.  Consider your workload, available time, and potential challenges. It’s essential to stretch yourself, but goals should be within reach.  For example, if you’re aiming for a leadership position, set milestones such as completing relevant training programs or gaining specific experience.

  1. Relevant:

Ensure that your goals align with your overall objectives, values, and long-term aspirations as a leader.  Goals should contribute meaningfully to your personal and professional growth and support your organization’s mission and vision.  Avoid pursuing goals just for the sake of it; they should be relevant to your role and responsibilities.

  1. Time-bound:

Set clear deadlines or timeframes to create a sense of urgency and focus.  Establishing deadlines helps prevent procrastination and keeps you on track toward achieving your goals.  For instance, instead of saying “Improve leadership skills,” specify a timeline like “Work with a leadership coach to work through development action plan within three months.”

By understanding the types of leadership goals, how to create effective goals, and using SMART goals, leaders can effectively plan, execute, and evaluate their leadership development initiatives.   Using these strategies for forming goals for leadership development creates a roadmap for continuous improvement, enabling leaders to enhance their skills, drive meaningful outcomes, and excel in their roles.

Philip Hilt – Leadership Coach



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