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Leadership Development

Step-By-Step Process: SMART Goals for Leaders and Managers


Set SMART goals to improve management skills and Develop leadership

Many managers and leaders set out to improve without clearly defining how or what they hope to achieve. SMART goals, attributed to Peter Drucker's management by objectives concept, are a time-tested way to measure a business objective.

Before you start, you must decide what you want to accomplish and think about how you can apply SMART criteria to your desired goal.


As a manager, your goals must be clearly defined or identified. SMART goals for managers will be specific in their intentions and values.

For example: you could set a goal to become a better manager by giving more feedback. This goal states your intention (to become a better manager) and the path you will take to that goal (by giving more feedback).

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace research shows that employees who receive feedback report significantly higher engagement at work, regardless of whether the feedback is positive or negative. When no feedback is given, 98% of employees are disengaged or actively disengaged!



Setting measurable goals is important to help you quantify success, giving you concrete milestones to hit as you progress toward your goal.

For example, if your goal is to become a better manager by giving more feedback, it’s important to quantify how much feedback you mean by ‘more.’ If you give little to no feedback now, a measurable goal would be to increase feedback by giving 3 pieces of feedback to each employee daily.

One way to do this is to consider a 360-degree assessment, like The Leadership Practices Inventory® 360. By benchmarking how many leadership behaviors you exhibit at before and after you set your goals, you are able to see improvement and areas where you need to focus more closely.



Goals that shoot for the moon are great if they are reached, but for leadership development and improvement in skills it is best to be realistic with your time frame and resources. If you set goals that are unattainable, you may find yourself discouraged and have trouble making progress.

For example, would your goal be more realistic if it were to become a better manager by giving 3 pieces of feedback to each employee daily or by giving 300 pieces of feedback to each employee daily? If you tried to do 300 pieces of feedback, you might spend more time giving feedback than doing anything else your job requires!

Leadership is an ongoing journey and once you achieve one goal, you can easily set another and continue your growth to the next level. 



When creating a goal, it must be linked to the values and needs of the manager, team, and organization. A goal that is irrelevant will not help drive business success or develop the leader working to achieve his or her goal.

For example, a relevant goal would directly correlate with the organization’s business success. A good manager who provides regular feedback to employees increases employee engagement, which in turn increases employee productivity and retention.



For a goal to be truly SMART, it must include a deadline or time frame in which it should be achieved. It’s easy to set goals that will be achieved at a hazy point into the future, but these goals are often forgotten or put aside when pressing concerns come up.

For example, a complete SMART goal would be the following: To become a better manager by giving three pieces of feedback to each employee daily for the next six months.

S To become a better manager

M by giving three pieces of feedback

A to each employee

R daily

T for the next six months


Approaching good management skills and leadership development as a SMART goal entails being clear about your intentions, measuring something specific, documenting milestones and achievements, and giving leaders a time-frame in which to develop themselves. When your goals are SMART, you are well on your way to being a better leader and manager.



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Lauren Parkhill

Lauren Parkhill leads the marketing team in creating creative content that helps organizations develop their leaders and teams.