8 Resolutions to be a Better Leader in 2014

January is just around the corner, and New Year’s resolutions are in the air!  If you’re a dedicated resolution-maker, I bet you already have some ideas about what you might do differently in 2014.

Excited about getting in shape?  Time to try out that new diet or workout routine.

Committed to saving more money?  Create some new habits around budgeting and spending.

And what if you aspire to be a better leader in 2014?  What are the regular actions and behaviors you can put into place to increase your leadership effectiveness in the New Year?

Leadership isn’t something we typically think to practice, but our every day actions (whether they’re conscious or unconscious) affect how we show up as a leader and the impact we have on those we lead.

Want to show up as a better leader next year?

Here’s a list of 8 resolutions that will make you a healthier and more effective leader in 2014:

1. Notice your reactions

What absolutely sets you off?  You know, someone says or does that thing that drives you crazy, and in an instant you’re catapulted into an emotional reaction.  The response is so instantaneous and unconscious, that by the time your conscious thought catches up, it feels like you had no choice in the matter – the knee-jerk response was out of your control.

This too is a practice – an unintentional, default practice.  And chances are you’ve had a lot of practice reacting this way, so you’re really good at it (that’s why it comes so naturally).  The first step to changing these ingrained practices is to become aware of your default reactions.  When you sense that surge of emotion, notice what’s set you off and how you react.  Make a new practice of noticing your reactions.  By building this awareness muscle, you interrupt your normal course of action, and become more powerful to make a conscious choice about how you respond next time.

2. Ask for regular, direct feedback

What impact do you strive to have on the people you lead and support?  Do you know if you’re achieving your intended impact?  The only way to be sure is to ask.  Receiving direct feedback from your co-workers helps to acknowledge and reinforce what you’re doing really well, and to become aware of any behaviors that aren’t serving you as leader.

Receiving feedback at your annual performance review is not frequent enough.  Make a habit of asking your coworkers how they think you’re doing.  This creates a culture of feedback, and allows you to make regular course corrections rather than operating blindly and getting way off track.

3. Give regular, direct feedback

For all of the same reasons listed above, your co-workers deserve to hear regular, direct feedback from you.  Make it a structured practice by including it as an agenda item in your one-on-one meetings with those you lead.  Remember that the purpose of feedback is to help your co-workers improve their performance.  Be specific and constructive, and be willing to work through your own discomfort in service of others’ growth and development.

4. Make mistakes, and own them

For all of you perfectionists out there, you’re going to have to practice extra hard at this one (for the record, I’ve been at it for years).  If your default is to polish, re-write, rehearse, re-calculate, then practice being messy.  If this is a new practice, then start with something small and low-risk.  When I started my messy practice, I began with my writing.  I stopped the practice of re-writing every sentence 5 times before moving on, and I just let it flow, no matter how messy it read.  Find something that doesn’t feel too scary, and start your practice there.  Then as you build your messy muscle, take on bigger opportunities to be imperfect.

Your willingness to try and get something wrong sends the message that it’s OK to take risks and fail.   It also shows that you’re human, and as it turns out, people can relate to that.  As the inspirational speaker, author, and Brené Brown said, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

5. Share your fears and struggles

We all know it can get lonely at the top.  Even with the full support of your co-workers, there are limitations to those relationships, and most likely you won’t be able to share your biggest, most personal leadership struggles in the office.  Keeping hold of those fears will weigh you down and wear you out over time.  Develop a practice of sharing your problems with the people you trust the most.  You may rely on your family, friends, partner, and mentors.  Build your support team and make a habit of calling on them regularly to seek grounding, support, and perspective.

6. Make time for you

When time isn’t on your side, it’s easy for the days, weeks, months to pass by without  making enough time for you.  “I don’t have enough time,” might seem like reality, but it’s actually a perspective you hold, and you have the power to make more time for you.  Developing a regular, structured practice for your own well-being is essential to staying healthy in mind, body, and spirit.  Stay committed by scheduling a certain amount of time for your practice every day or week.  You might spend the time exercising, reflecting, or working with a coach or support group.  If you’re giving more time to yourself, you need to buy the time from somewhere.  Get into the habit of saying no to things that aren’t a priority to you or your organization, or could be delegated to another member of your team.

7. Invest more in your team 

Your effectiveness as a leader relies strongly on your ability to relate to others and enhance their own performance and abilities. Develop a practice that is giving of your time and energy for the development of your team.  Hold regular meetings with your employees that help them learn, solve their own problems, and develop as leaders themselves.  Take advantage of opportunities to delegate meaningful tasks and share some of your greatest responsibilities with others.  These practices are critical to bringing out the best in people, and keeping those great people on your team.

 8. Keep your vision in vision

One of the core requirements of you as a leader is to communicate a clear and compelling vision for where your organization is going.  This goes well beyond the task of developing a written vision statement and calls on you to bring your vision into vision on a routine basis.  Open and conclude meetings by relating your current work to the longer-term vision for where you’re heading.  Explain organizational change as an essential pivot in pursuit of your vision.  Invite others to engage with and shape the vision by encouraging questions and new ideas – as a matter of practice.

Now, I want to hear from YOU!   Are you ready to become a healthier and more effective leader in 2014?  What leadership practices are you committed to in 2014?   Why not start your intention NOW by stating it in the comments section below?

Thank you, as always, for sharing.  Here’s to a great 2014.


PS:  I just added social share buttons to my blog posts, so if you found this article useful, please share it with your friends!  It means a lot to me, thanks :)