Ready to lead in 2015? Here’s how to write resolutions you’ll keep

New Year's Resolutions

As an aspiring (or experienced) leader, you may be attracted to the idea of making a New Year’s resolution that helps you reach higher and shine brighter in the coming year. While some may scoff at resolutions as being cliche, when you get clear about what you want, you can be successful.

To help you craft a resolution you’ll stick with, we have a series of steps for you to follow: Define what you want, plan how to get there, and determine the goals you need to reach that spell “success.”

Define what you want

Get really specific about what success looks like to you. “I want to be a better leader” or “I plan to join an advisory board” is not enough. Vague resolutions tend to produce weak results, if any at all. Imagine shooting at a dartboard in the dark; without a destination point that you can see, your chance of success diminishes.

To tailor your possibilities and write a more thorough resolution, ask yourself these questions:

  • What kind of leader do I want to be?
  • Which characteristics of a leader do I already have? Which do I need to work on?
  • What leadership opportunities are a good match for me?
  • What training do I need to enhance my leadership/problem solving/conflict resolution/[insert need here] skills?
  • Which skills do I need to demonstrate to advance my career?

With the answers you collect, you will be much better equipped to craft a resolution that is specific, measurable, and outlines what you will be working towards in a clear, precise manner.

Discover how to get there

Declaring what you want is just a starting point. It won’t come to fruition without a plan (that actually gets implemented). Develop ideas for actions you can take to get to your resolution. To formulate them, ask yourself these questions:

  • How can I gain the skills I need to improve my capacity for leading a team? (take a class, get a mentor?)
  • What projects (at work or in a volunteer capacity) do I want to lead and are there opportunities available for me to do so?
  • Which events can I go to in order to enhance my leadership skills?
  • How (and when) will I talk to my boss to discuss my candidacy for a promotion?

Other questions may pop up regarding your leadership resolution. Your responses to all the questions will help clarify what you’ll need to do to achieve it. Next you will map out a plan of reachable goals to keep you on course and achieve your resolution.

Develop a plan by identifying reachable goals

Use the information you just outlined to plan reachable goals that help you stay on course. Sure, you’ve already defined your resolution (in other words, your overarching goal in regards to leadership), but don’t lose sight of the other goals you have to achieve along the way.

A great way to gain success in reaching a goal is to make sure it is SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. “I will find a leadership role at an organization in a month” is not specific and may not be achievable. So create your list of plans in terms of SMART goals. Use these examples as models:

  • “I will approach three nonprofits about my interest in serving on their board this week.”
  • “I will create a leadership portfolio and publish it online by March 1st. I will also add a new entry to it each month.”
  • “I will take a 10-week conflict resolution course in February and implement three new things in leading my staff in the first quarter.”

Be sure to indicate how each of these goals relate to your resolution, and what impact it will have in getting you there.

For example: “In 2015, I’d like to be promoted to VP of Community Affairs. In order to reach this position, I need more skills in conflict resolution. After completing the 10-week conflict resolution course and implementing what I learn in leading my staff, I will have more evidence of my candidacy for the VP of Community Affairs role.”

As your goals get moved to “achieved” status, you will have a real indicator of your progress.

Taking this approach, you’re likely to find yourself further along than you would be had you stopped your resolution statement at “I’m going to be a better leader this year.” Keep in mind that it’s okay if you need to tweak your plan and your goals, or define new goals as you make progress. It shows that you’re working your resolution and will get to it that much faster!

What are your leadership resolutions? Share them in the comments.

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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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