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Employing leadership by design to achieve targets


Akindotun Merino

Few people are actually born to leadership. Most people have to learn how to become good leaders. One important aspect of good leadership is knowing what you are trying to lead others to. This involves careful consideration beforehand.

Having a plan means that you know what the end result should look like. This can apply to your work environment, the culture, or what you expect from your employees. By having clear idea of what you want from your employees and what you want from yourself, you put yourself in a better position to plan how to meet your goals.

In addition to company-wide goals, each leader of a team should have specific goals for their team that complement the company’s goals. These goals can inform how you make policy and what kind of team culture you foster. If you have ever been involved in meetings or team building exercises that have seemed to be fun but ultimately pointless or a waste of time, you can understand the need to have clear goals to strive for. Then activities such as meetings, exercises, or other activities assume a greater importance. In order to be effective at setting and reaching goals, it is helpful to use the S.M.A.R.T. acronym:

• Specific. When you establish specific goals for your team rather than general goals, you are far more likely to follow through.
• Measurable. One of the reasons for making a goal specific is so you can measure what the successful completion of that goal looks like, an important aspect of beginning with the end in mind.
• Achievable. If a goal is too easy, it can also be easy to justify giving up on it because it’s not important enough. Make sure you set goals for your team that are challenging but achievable.
• Realistic. While being ambitious can help you to achieve large goals, being too ambitious can often lead to rebellion, both in your team and in yourself.
• Time-targeted. When you decide on setting a goal, you must also decide on when you expect your team to achieve that goal. You must be specific. This allows you to organize your goal-achieving behavior with a deadline.
In addition to being SMART about goal setting, there are some other steps you can take that will help you remain committed to achieving your goals.
• Tell someone else about your goal. This will help to keep you accountable and committed.
• When appropriate, divide your team goals into smaller milestones. When you collectively reach a milestone, reward your team. Small rewards can help your team to stay enthusiastic.
• If your team fails to meet a milestone, don’t use this as an occasion to beat them or yourself up or to give up. Instead, determine where and how you failed and how to avoid doing so in the future. Most importantly, don’t give up.
• Perhaps the single most important step is to choose a goal that is meaningful to you, your team, and to the company.

Setting goals for yourself, your team, and in some cases your company are important aspects of developing a plan for your leadership. However, on another level, these goals are actually not as big picture as you can get. To really understand how you can lead others, you must account for your own values and the company’s values as well. When you have a good grasp on what is important to you, this can clarify when to stand your ground and when to relent when you disagree with others, which is a position you will find yourself in often as a leader.

Values are not the same as morals and ethics. In fact, what you value is both unique to you and can change over time. How can you know what you value? The following steps can help:
• Identify one of your happiest moments in your life. Who were you with? What were you doing? What factors contributed to your happiness?
• Identify one of your proudest moments in life. Was this a shared experience? With whom? What elements in the experience made you feel proud?
• Identify one of your most fulfilling moments. Rather than a happiest moment, this would be when you felt the greatest sense of satisfaction. What need was fulfilled?
• When you work on determining your core values, identifying anywhere from five-10 values should be sufficient. More than 10 can make decision making too confusing.
• When values are in conflict, identifying which ones take precedent can help clarify your thinking in these moments.
• Since your values can change, reassessment on a regular basis can help you to determine if these values still apply. Ask yourself if you are proud, happy, and fulfilled by these values. Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable identifying your core values to another human being. If the answer to either of these questions is no, then you should probably reassess.
• While it is both possible and likely to value other people, this may not be as helpful as valuing abstract principles, which exist outside of individuals. Principles such as honesty, adventurousness, etc., can serve as signposts for your behavior and decisions throughout your life.

Develop a leadership mission statement. Imagine you are somehow able to listen in at your funeral. What will everyone say about you? What would you like to be said about you? Now that you have taken the time to identify some specific goals and some core values, the next step is to write out a mission statement. Think of the mission statement as a kind of personal constitution. Just as the US government uses the US Constitution as a guide toward decision-making, this mission statement can help to serve as your guide. This can be your own personal mission statement, but it is also helpful to work out a mission statement with your team. However, the most important step in making these mission statements is that you have identified what you truly value and understand why you have set the goals that you have set, both for your team and for yourself. Keep in mind that the activities in this module are first steps, and a mission statement that is of any true worth takes more than just a week to put together. So use these worksheets as beginning points in developing your goals, your values, and ultimately your mission and purpose, both professionally and personally.
*Prof. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology and a Mental Health Commissioner in California.
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Akindotun Merino
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