Leaders: It’s Not Too Late To “Resolutionize”

by | Mar 1, 2018

7 New Year’s Resolutions for Leaders

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” Douglas MacArthur

Your organization’s success and reputation hinge upon your leadership. Five-star general and world-famous leader, Douglas MacArthur, described leadership as a multi-faceted ability.  Whether you lead a military establishment, a startup company, or a non-profit organization, succeeding as a leader requires you to hone your leadership skillset and identify what really matters to your organization.


What are the key behaviors that leaders should exhibit in 2018?

The first step is to identify the key behaviors that account for the overwhelming majority of successes for people in a leadership role.  Researchers have isolated four leadership behaviors that account for 89% of leadership effectiveness. By focusing on the four leadership behaviors below during the new year, you can bolster your success as a leader.

  1.   Solve problems effectively
  2.   Consider the perspectives of others
  3.   Support the people around you
  4.   Adopt a results-oriented approach

What New Year’s resolutions will help you adopt these behaviors?

After identifying the behaviors that have the greatest leverage for your leadership effectiveness, it is time to develop some actionable resolutions that will help you develop the four behaviors outlined above. Below are seven New Year’s resolutions that will make you an unstoppable leader in the year to come.

1) Vow to gather more information before making decisions.

Impulsive decision making can hinder your ability to produce desired results and generate solutions to problems.  By resolving to wait until you have the relevant facts before you make decisions, you can avoid this leadership pitfall.  UMass Dartmouth highlights the importance of gathering information and carefully identifying the most desirable alternative in their helpful guide, Seven Steps to Effective Decision Making:

“Using a step-by-step decision-making process can help you make more deliberate, thoughtful decisions by organizing relevant information and defining alternatives. This approach increases the chances that you will choose the most satisfying alternative possible.” – UMass Dartmouth

2) Strive to over communicate your vision.

Communicating your vision is essential to adopting a results-oriented approach to leadership. This resolution may prove to be difficult for even the most seasoned leaders because they must learn how to translate the same message to many organizational teams with different needs and perspectives. Leading communication experts Ben Decker and Kelley Decker outline a few simple tips to keep in mind to ensure that you always communicate your vision:

  • Consider the needs and concerns of your audience
  • Target your message to ensure that it is relevant to your audience
  • Identify measurable goals
  • Show your audience exactly how they will benefit from your vision

3) Never make a major change without seeking input from key stakeholders.

“Stakeholders have unique insight into issues. They can secure resources to assist you with your decisions or project. Involving stakeholders can build trust, which can ultimately lead to increased consensus for your project or final decision. It can also increase transparency and lead to better decision making.” Mark L. Ryckman, MPA, City Manager & Director of Public Safety, Corning, NY

Seeking input from key stakeholders is especially important for leaders who hold political office and those who are appointed to lead a large city or state department. By soliciting input from stakeholders before implementing a major change, leaders effectively show support for stakeholders and constituents while considering the perspective of others.

4) Prioritize your daily tasks according to value.

This New Year’s resolution will help you effectively resolve problems and maintain your results-oriented style of leadership. Leaders can effectively prioritize their tasks by following some of the prioritization tips outlined by leadership expert Cary J. Green, Ph.D.:

  • Know the required steps to complete a project and allow enough time to finish your task on time
  • Do not allow busy work to prevent you from completing more meaningful tasks
  • Remember that an urgent task is not the same thing as a high priority task
  • Do not allow other people’s priorities hinder you from systematically addressing your priorities
  • Remember that productive people and unproductive people all have the same amount of time

5) Strive to be an active listener.

Superb active listening is one of the most powerful tools in a leader’s arsenal. Exhibiting active listening skills is an effective way to show support, seek unique perspectives, and resolve challenges. As a former President of the National Contracts Management Association (NCMA), Olessia Smotrova-Taylor outlines how active listening skills helped her win $20 billion in government contracts throughout the course of her career:

“You will have to practice your active listening skills….Your goal is not to sell yourself and your company; your goal is to become their trusted advisor.” – Olessia Smotrova-Taylor, CF.APMP

Active listening skills are essential for leaders to earn the trust and respect of clients and employees alike. Here are a few specific ways that leaders can exhibit active listening skills:

  • Verbally acknowledge the requests and needs of employees and clients
  • Focus exclusively on the conversation at hand instead of focusing on multiple conversations
  • Respect employees, peers, and clients by always allowing them to finish speaking
  • Paraphrasing the client’s needs to ensure that both parties are on the same page

If you wonder whether you are truly a good listener, you can ask yourself questions contained in a tool developed by the International Listening Association to assess whether you are practicing active listening. Here are the first five questions referenced in the tool:

  1. Are you giving the speaker 100% of your attention?
  2. Are you listening to understand, rather than listening to respond?
  3. Have you opened your mind to receive what is being said?
  4. Have you rejected the temptation to prepare your response while the other person is speaking?
  5. Are you open to changing your mind?

 – International Listening Association

6) Build a more diverse team of professionals.

Creating a diverse team of professionals is a resolution that will help leaders become masters of all four behaviors above. In addition to creating a more supportive environment for employees, organizations run by diverse leadership teams deliver better results. For instance, research by McKinsey&Company indicates that diverse companies were more likely to outperform nondiverse businesses while a study by Economic Geography found that diverse teams were more apt to develop new products than businesses with homogenous teams. Here are a few ways to begin building a more diverse team today:

  • Establish unbiased recruiting and employee selection methods and train team members in their use.
  • Challenge your staff to invite team members who bring diverse perspectives, skillsets and backgrounds to participate in projects.
  • Consider formal diversity and inclusion training programs, if appropriate for your organization’s size and stage of development.

Remember, when you do not make an effort to intentionally include people, you may unintentionally exclude them.

7) Vow to master the art of follow through.

“Leaders are responsible for making things happen, on-time and as scheduled. Superiors and subordinates don’t want excuses from their leaders, they want results.”  Vernon Myers, Author and Founder of 100LeadershipInsights.com

As outlined by Vernon Myers, follow through is vital to establishing a leader’s credibility and ability to keep commitments. It is virtually impossible to achieve consistent results or resolve problems effectively without follow through.  Conversely, if you follow through as a leader, you model for subordinates how to complete their tasks in an efficient manner.

The Bottom Line

Becoming a more effective leader in 2018 helps both you and your organization perform better.  Adhering to the seven New Year’s resolutions above will help you solve problems, support people, make decisions and ultimately deliver superior results.  Commit to refining your leadership skills in 2018 and you will prime your organization for success in the coming year.

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