Developing Your Leadership Skills List as You Head Into 2017

Learn a process for developing a leadership skills list that can help hold you and your management team accountable to achieving success in the year ahead.
January 03, 2017

As a leader in your company, you can set the tone for how you will move forward into this new year. One way to prepare yourself for success is by developing your own leadership skills list that can focus your efforts on one of few things that you can control—your own actions.

My team and I went through this process ourselves, and we now have a blueprint that we can hold each other accountable to going forward. As a team leader, it was worth the 60-minute time investment because I now feel confident in my ability to execute.

Developing a Leadership Skills List

The first step in developing a leadership skills list for the next 12 months is to reflect on your own development from the previous year. Four probing questions you may want to ask yourself are:

  1. What business accomplishments are you most proud of this past year?
  2. What did you accomplish?
  3. What is the one thing you learned that was incredibly important?
  4. What's the one thing that you would do differently?

When answering these questions, try not to take no more than 15 to 20 minutes. Be honest with yourself and articulate the first answers that come to your mind. By reflecting on your past, you can surface your leadership strengths and weaknesses within the context of what you achieved for your business. Making this link can be important because you can now channel that energy into the next year.

By reflecting on your past, you can surface your leadership strengths and weaknesses within the context of what you achieved for your business.

The second step in developing your leadership skills list is to envision how you want the new year to turn out. These following questions can help guide your thinking:

  1. As you think about the end of next year, what would you like to look back and be able to say to yourself about your business?
  2. What do you want for yourself in 2017 that you can achieve through your business?
  3. What would you like to feel and think about your business by the end of the year?
  4. What would you like all those people who will interact with your product or service next year to have as the best memory with your company?

Again, try to leave yourself 15 to 20 minutes to answer these questions. If you surprise yourself with some of the answers, you are on the right track. Remember, transparency and honesty matters.

The third step in developing your leadership skills list is to put it all together. Armed with your responses and insights, you may probably recognize several consistent themes. You can now identify what you should focus on, and this effectively becomes your leadership skills list.

What My Leadership Skills List Looks Like

As an example, I developed the following leadership skills list as a result of this process:

Put the right people in the right places. I found that it's not enough to simply delegate. I must delegate the right responsibility to the person who can excel at the task. I think having the right person in the proper position to help move the business forward is paramount.

Invest in self-care. When I eat right, sleep enough and exercise routinely, I have enough energy to go above and beyond over a long period of time. The Atlantic's January 2017 “How to Sleep" article highlights that sleep deprivation is one of the most common causes of health problems. When I invest in self-care, I can be healthy and imbue positivity.

Stay abreast of the changing market. With the continuous movements in technology, signs pointing to a higher U.S. interest rate environment and a new U.S. President-elect (as well as upcoming elections around the globe), I have to prepare my business to adapt to a changing market. If not, I may not garner the respect of clients nor motivate my employees to push the boundaries of what is achievable.

Play the fool for a little bit. I must have the courage to make strategic decisions that are unpopular and may not reach full consensus among my team. Time will tell whether my decisions will be right. In the meanwhile, I have to take the risks that I believe will garner a high return, even if I look like a fool for a period of time.

Seek objective outside advice. I don't know it all. Whether I continue to utilize a career coach or hire an external consultant for my business, I know the value of having a trusted advisor who has a degree of objectivity and will use their experiences to help inform my judgment.

While these are examples from my own process, you can borrow them if they are applicable to you, too. Notice that each of my leadership skills involves a verb, which means that I can put the qualities that I want to espouse into action.

When you go through the exercise for yourself, however, you may develop a tailored list just for you. Consider asking your fellow management team members to undergo the same process, compare notes and then hold each other accountable. With the new year here, your team may be able to achieve some early wins by reflecting on the previous 12 months, figuring out what is critical for the year ahead and then developing an actionable leadership skills list.

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