It’s typical of most of us to set goals and agendas for the coming new year, with a few resolutions thrown in that we hope aren’t forgotten by March. We all seem to start the year with the best intentions in an effort to improve ourselves, but many of us will fail to fulfill our own expectations.
Perhaps it might be more valuable and actionable to review the year you’ve just experienced and honestly examine the best and worst sides of it. This is especially true if you’re a leader, largely because your actions influence the daily work experience of so many others.
In examining the closing year, you may obtain a more precise insight into what you really need to improve upon and develop a deeper commitment to doing so next year.
Take a moment to consider to what extent you have demonstrated meaningful leadership qualities, the kind that create a workplace that people want to be part of. How have you served others: your team, your colleagues, your customers? Before establishing new resolutions, think about the degree to which you’ve lived these leadership qualities this year:
Accountability: Accountable leaders willingly accept responsibility for their own work and that of their team. They require employees and co-workers to deliver on expectations and promises, rather than asking others on the team to take up the slack for poor performers. How accountable have you been this year?
Advocacy: High-quality leaders support the development of talented team members. They advocate for capable employees when promotional positions or developmental assignments become available. Above all, they view the people on their team as part of the corporate “brain trust” and enthusiastically support promotions into and out of their own departments. For whom are you an advocate?
Intellectual curiosity: Great leaders have a voracious appetite for learning, which requires open-mindedness and a willingness to explore new ideas and perspectives. More importantly, such leaders recognize that valuable insights can come from every level in the organization, so they don’t wait for ideas to be brought to them. They seek them out by personally interacting with members of the organization from entry level to senior staff. What new ideas are intriguing to you?
Inclusiveness: Demonstrating strong cultural competency skills is a critical leadership capability in an economy where success requires navigating a variety of countries, cultures and identities. If everyone on your team looks like you and shares a similar life experience, the diversity of thought on your team will suffer, as will the quality of the products or services your organization offers. Are you working to build a truly diverse team?
Commitment to brand and customer: Unfailing commitment to the promise of your company’s brand and a focus on the customer are leadership qualities that you want to see replicated throughout your team. That only happens if you demonstrate behaviors and make decisions that align with what your company says it stands for. Your employees will be the first to recognize it when they don’t. Have you consistently “walked the talk” this year?
Contemplative thinking: Successful leaders have a profound capacity for reflection and meaning making. They stay present and focused throughout their day and are intentional about taking time to quietly reflect on work experiences, mining for what they have learned about themselves through those events. If you want to excel in developing others, begin first by understanding yourself. What is your practice for reflection?
Transformative mindset: Innovation is the substrate of continued success. Accomplished leaders appreciate that innovation is messy–fraught with rough starts, mid-project delays, and mistakes. Yet, they recognize that true breakthrough ideas are erected on the shoulders of past failures. To foster innovation on your team, view mistakes as learning opportunities, rather than using them as an instrument to berate those who made them. Are you celebrating what your team learns through both success and failure?
Passion: One word that is seeping into the cultural dialect of many organizations is “passion’, yet few leaders understand what that means on a personal level. Your ability to inspire passion on your team is directly linked to defining and expressing your own passions, understanding your strengths and vulnerabilities, and managing them. When you do, the energy of those passions is infectious. The team around you can see that your work is a positive extension of your life and you become emblematic for what is possible in their own relationship with work. Are you the passionate leader that people what to work for?
If you’ve been honest with yourself as you’ve examined these qualities, you may find that a better next year will require much more than a gym membership. Perhaps it’s time for a few leadership resolutions that you’ll vow to keep.