Business Leadership Today

Leadership Development Goals: A Pathway to Success


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

In the rapidly evolving business landscape of the 21st century, the importance of effective leadership cannot be overstated. Leaders are the driving force behind the success of any organization, steering the ship toward its strategic goals while navigating the turbulent waters of market competition and economic uncertainty. 

However, becoming an effective leader is not an overnight process; it requires continuous learning, self-improvement, and a clear set of development goals. This is where the concept of leadership development goals comes into play.

Leadership development goals are the stepping stones that guide an individual’s journey from being a good leader to a great one. They are the objectives that help leaders enhance their skills, broaden their knowledge, and ultimately increase their leadership effectiveness. 

In today’s business world, these goals are not just important; they are essential. They ensure the sustainable growth of the organization by preparing future leaders, fostering innovation, and maintaining a competitive edge.

The purpose of this article is to delve deeper into the concept of leadership development goals, understand their significance in today’s business world, and provide a guide on how to set and achieve these goals.

Understanding Leadership Development

Leadership development is a systematic process that involves expanding the capacity of individuals to perform leadership roles within organizations. These roles include making sound decisions, inspiring others, driving organizational success, and creating a vision for the future.

The role of leadership development in an organization is multifaceted. It helps to identify and nurture potential leaders, ensuring a steady pipeline of leadership talent for the future. 

It also fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement, encouraging all members of the organization to develop their leadership skills. Moreover, it contributes to increased productivity, improved employee satisfaction, and the overall success of the organization.

The process of leadership development typically involves several key components:


Training is often the first step in leadership development. It provides leaders with the knowledge and skills they need to perform their roles effectively. This can include formal training programs, workshops, seminars, or online courses.


Coaching is a more personalized form of development. It involves a one-on-one relationship between the leader and a coach, who provides feedback, guidance, and support as the leader works to improve their skills and overcome challenges.


Mentorship involves a relationship between a less experienced leader (the mentee) and a more experienced leader (the mentor). The mentor provides advice, shares experiences, and helps the mentee navigate the challenges of leadership.

Understanding leadership development is crucial for any organization aiming to thrive in today’s competitive business environment. It is an ongoing process of learning and growth, requiring commitment, effort, and the right strategies.

The Importance of Leadership Development

Effective leadership is the cornerstone of long-term, sustainable organizational success and is crucial for organizations for a number of reasons

Effective leadership is the cornerstone of long-term, sustainable organizational success. Leaders set the strategic direction, make critical decisions, inspire and motivate employees, and drive change. Therefore, investing in leadership development is essential for any organization aiming to thrive in a competitive market.

Leadership development helps in building a strong leadership pipeline, ensuring business continuity, and driving organizational growth. It also plays a significant role in retaining top talent. High-potential employees are more likely to stay with an organization that invests in their growth and development.

Moreover, leadership development contributes to improved organizational performance. Effective leaders are able to drive productivity, foster innovation, and create a positive work environment.

The Benefits of Leadership Development

Leadership development offers many benefits, both for individuals and organizations. 

For individuals, it provides a clear pathway for career advancement, personal growth, and increased job satisfaction. It equips them with the necessary skills and knowledge to take on leadership roles, make informed decisions, and effectively manage teams.

For organizations, leadership development is a strategic investment that yields significant returns. 

One of the key benefits of leadership development is improved employee engagement. Leaders play a crucial role in creating an engaging work environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and committed to the organization’s goals.

Leadership development also plays a significant role in talent retention and attraction. By investing in leadership development, organizations send a clear message to their employees that they value their growth and development.

Leadership can profoundly impact a business’s profitability due to the many ways that leaders affect the employee experience. Good leaders guide employees, model core values that reinforce more of the behaviors employers want to see in the organization, and prevent work environments from turning toxic. 

This can result in high-performance teams of engaged, motivated employees who are loyal, culturally aligned with the organization, and united by a shared sense of purpose in their work.

Leadership development is not just an individual’s journey toward becoming a better leader; it’s a strategic tool for organizational success. It’s about creating a culture of learning and growth, where everyone is empowered to lead, innovate, and make a difference.

Examples of Leadership Development Goals

Leadership development goals are a critical tool for personal growth and organizational success. Understanding how to effectively set and achieve these goals can significantly enhance a leader’s impact on their organization. 

Here are some examples of leadership development goals:

Building Relationships

Leaders need to build strong relationships with their team members, peers, and superiors. This involves improving communication skills, showing empathy, and understanding the needs and motivations of others.

Exploring Mentorship Opportunities

Leaders can benefit greatly from both being a mentor and having a mentor. Being a mentor allows leaders to share their knowledge and experience, while having a mentor provides them with valuable insights and guidance.

Learning to Coach

Coaching is a key leadership skill. Leaders need to learn how to guide their team members, help them improve their skills, and support them in achieving their goals.

Developing Team Members for Their Own Leadership Roles

One of the key responsibilities of a leader is to prepare their team members for leadership roles. This involves identifying potential leaders, providing them with opportunities to take on leadership tasks, and supporting them in their development.

These goals can help leaders grow and succeed in their roles. For example, building strong relationships can lead to improved team performance and morale. Exploring mentorship opportunities can provide leaders with new perspectives and ideas. 

Learning to coach can help leaders support their team members in achieving their potential, and developing team members for leadership roles ensures the organization has a pipeline of future leaders.

Setting Leadership Development Goals

Setting leadership development goals is a critical step in enhancing one’s leadership capabilities. Here’s a guide on how to set your own leadership development goals:


Self-assessment is the first step in leadership development, helping you understand your strengths and areas for improvement. It can be done through self-reflection, where you question your leadership style and interactions with your team. 

Feedback from peers and subordinates provides a rounded view of your skills, highlighting unnoticed areas and offering constructive criticism. Formal assessments, like personality tests and 360-degree feedback, provide structured insights into your capabilities. 

The goal is not self-judgment, but understanding your abilities and identifying growth areas, setting the stage for effective leadership development.

Identify Key Areas

After self-assessment, it’s vital to pinpoint areas for enhancement. This includes:

Skills: Abilities needed for tasks, such as communication and decision-making.

Behaviors: Actions in response to situations, like motivating others, adaptability, and resilience.

Knowledge Areas: Expertise relevant to your role or industry, like understanding the latest technologies or financial regulations.

Identifying these areas helps create a targeted development plan, maximizing strengths, addressing weaknesses, and fostering effective leadership.

Set SMART Goals 

Setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals is a strategic approach to achieving your leadership development objectives. Here’s how you can expand on this concept:

Specific: Your goals should be clear and specific. Instead of saying, “I want to improve my communication skills,” specify what aspect of communication you want to improve. For example, “I want to improve my presentation skills.”

Measurable: It’s important to have measurable goals so that you can track your progress and stay motivated. Using our example, you could measure your goal by the number of presentations you deliver successfully.

Achievable: Your goals should be realistic and attainable. This doesn’t mean they can’t be challenging, but they should be within reach. For instance, attending a communication skills workshop is an achievable goal.

Relevant: Your goals should be relevant to your career and personal growth. Improving presentation skills is relevant for a leader as it enhances team communication.

Time-bound: Your goals should have a deadline. This creates a sense of urgency and prompts action. For example, “I will attend a communication skills workshop by the end of the quarter.”

An example of a SMART goal based on these principles would be: “I will attend a communication skills workshop by the end of the quarter and implement the learned techniques in team meetings.” 

This goal is specific (attend a workshop and implement techniques), measurable (by the end of the quarter), achievable (attending a workshop is feasible), relevant (improves leadership skills), and time-bound (by the end of the quarter).

Create an Action Plan

After setting SMART goals, create an action plan. This includes identifying relevant training programs, seeking mentorship, reading books related to your goals, practicing new skills, and regularly reviewing your progress. 

For instance, if your goal is to improve presentation skills, you might attend a public speaking course, seek guidance from a mentor, read books on effective communication, practice presenting to a small group, and track your progress over time. 

This plan should evolve as you progress toward your goals.

Seek Support

Sharing your leadership development goals can foster growth. 

Supervisors can provide feedback and align your goals with the organization’s objectives. Peers can offer perspectives, share experiences, and provide encouragement, while mentors can offer personalized guidance. 

Seeking support is a strategic move toward effective leadership development, leveraging others’ knowledge and experience to accelerate your growth and leadership effectiveness.

Leverage Technology

Leveraging technology can greatly enhance your leadership development journey. 

Online platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer a variety of leadership courses. Leadership apps such as Headspace and Elevate can help develop crucial skills. Digital mentorship platforms like Everwise provide personalized guidance, while online communities like Reddit offer a space to connect with other leaders.

Additionally, countless e-books and podcasts available online provide valuable insights into leadership. It’s important to apply what you learn in real-world situations. Practice is key in leadership development.

Embrace Diversity

Embracing diversity is key to effective leadership. It involves understanding and valuing diverse perspectives, fostering an inclusive environment, and leveraging diversity in decision-making. This includes recognizing each individual’s unique perspective, creating a space where everyone feels valued, and using diverse viewpoints to enhance decision-making. 

In today’s globalized world, cultural competence is crucial for improving communication and collaboration in diverse teams. Embracing diversity also requires continuous learning and challenging one’s own biases. 

Diversity is not just about race or gender but also includes age, socio-economic status, education, and more. Embracing diversity can enhance your leadership capabilities and contribute to a more inclusive and effective team.

Practice Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a key leadership skill involving the understanding and management of one’s own emotions and those of others. It encompasses self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. 

Self-aware leaders understand their emotions and how they affect their behavior. Self-regulation involves controlling impulsive feelings and behaviors, while motivation refers to the willingness to defer immediate results for long-term success. Empathy, a crucial element of EI, is the ability to identify with and understand others’ wants, needs, and viewpoints. 

Social skills, particularly communication, are vital for leaders to draw followership and foster better teamwork. By practicing these skills, leaders can enhance their effectiveness and build stronger team relationships.

Maintain Work-Life Balance

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial for effective leadership. 

This involves setting clear boundaries between work and personal life, prioritizing self-care, engaging in personal interests, seeking support when needed, and practicing mindfulness and reflection. 

A healthy work-life balance isn’t just beneficial for you, but it also sets a positive example for your team. When leaders prioritize work-life balance, it encourages team members to do the same, leading to a healthier and more productive work environment.

Review and Adjust

Because leadership development is an ongoing process, it requires regular review of your progress. 

This involves celebrating even small successes to boost motivation, learning from failures by analyzing what went wrong, and adjusting goals as you evolve as a leader. The aim is continuous improvement and growth. 

This process fosters adaptability, responsiveness to change, and a commitment to learning. It’s not a one-time activity but requires ongoing commitment, effort, and flexibility. Regular tracking and reassessment of your goals ensure focus and growth in your leadership journey.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Leadership Development Goals

Setting leadership development goals is a crucial step in personal growth and organizational success. However, there are common mistakes that leaders often make during this process. Here are some to avoid:

Setting Unrealistic Goals

Stretch goals can be motivating, but if they’re out of reach, they can become demotivating and may even lead to unethical behavior to achieve them.

Setting Too Many Goals

Having too many goals can be overwhelming and may result in a lack of focus and progress.

Setting Goals and Then Walking Away

Goals require regular review and adjustment. Leaders should monitor progress, provide feedback, and make necessary adjustments.

Setting a “How” Goal Instead of a “What” Goal

The focus should be on what you want to achieve, not just how you plan to achieve it.

Excluding Employees from the Goal-Setting Process

Goals should be a collaborative effort between the manager and the employees.

Avoiding Feedback

Open communication is key to growth, performance, and employee retention.

Failure to Recognize Failures

Leaders must not be afraid to recognize their own failures. Learning from our mistakes helps us grow and makes us stronger.

Setting Goals Without Proper Planning or Preparation

Goals should be set with a clear plan and preparation.

Effective goal setting is a dynamic process that requires continuous learning, adjustment, and collaboration. Avoiding these common mistakes can help ensure that your leadership development goals are realistic, achievable, and aligned with your personal and organizational objectives.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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