Setting Development Goals, Objectives, and Actions

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In the first stage of creating a leadership development plan, you assess yourself and your environment, establish your vision, and plan to overcome obstacles. In the second stage, you determine how to achieve your vision. To do this, you’ll need to set goals, objectives, and actions.

  • Begin the process by asking yourself, “Where do I need to be and what do I need to be doing a year from now in order to be on track for achieving my vision?” These milestones are your long-term goals. Goals are broad-based statements of intent. They tell what you intend to do.
  • Next, consider each goal. Ask yourself, “What must I do to reach this goal? What new skills or knowledge are required?” These questions identify your objectives. Objectives are short-term, specific, and actionable statements that tell what, when, and how.
  • Finally, determine what actions are required to meet your objectives. These development actions become the basis for your leadership development plan.

Goal statements can help you, but it’s your objectives that really drive you toward your vision. Objectives tell you what you must do, how you must do it, and sometimes when you must have it done. Objectives have two important characteristics:\

  • specific – Objectives use action words such as identify, list, perform, demonstrate, show, or calculate.
  • challenging – If you don’t stretch, you can’t grow. Objectives should make you stretch, but they should also be attainable.

Your goals and objectives form the outline of your development plan. Next, you identify the development actions you’ll take to meet your objectives. These actions usually make up the greater part of the leadership development plan itself. Development actions are composed of a variety of formal, informal, directed, and self-directed tools, techniques, approaches, and methods

  • reading and using resource materials – Reading is one of the best ways to keep up with your area of expertise, to learn more about leadership, and to keep yourself inspired. Develop the habit of reading books, professional magazines, and journals. Broaden your mind.
  • participating in training sessions, programs, courses, and internships – Formal training sessions, programs, and courses are an efficient way to gain skills and knowledge.
  • hands-on practice – You aren’t likely to retain what you learn by reading without some form of practice. Experience is the best teacher.
  • journaling – Journaling is a tool for examining and evaluating your thoughts, actions, and reactions.
  • volunteering – You can’t always get the leadership experiences you need when you need them.
  • consulting with peer groups, role models, mentors, and coaches with expertise in areas where you want to grow. You should also address your need for role models, mentors, and coaches.

The process of identifying actions and people for your development plan is a big job, but it yields a valuable by-product – you will gain skills needed to be a self-directed learner. This means you’ll be able to evaluate your needs, identify how to meet those needs, find the training and experiences needed to build new skills, and integrate new skills and knowledge into your existing skillsets. Self-directed learning is something that will serve you well in your career, and for the rest of your life.


To choose the right actions for your plan, start with your goals and objectives. Well-crafted objectives will suggest the actions you must take to fulfill them. A leadership development plan is a living document. You must tend to it every day, as you would any other project plan. To help you do this, you can use a number of techniques and tools

  • daily reminders – One easy and effective way to stay focused on your plan is to write daily reminders on sticky notes and put the notes where you’ll see them.
  • symbols – Symbols also make good reminders. If you imagine yourself as an eagle in your leadership journey, find an eagle figurine for your desk or use an image of an eagle as a screen saver on your computer.
  • activities – A third way to stay focused is with activities that you do every day. Running, exercising, yoga, or meditation provide an excellent opportunity for reflecting on your journey, your plan, and yourself.
  • back-up plans, support, and reinforcement – At various points on your journey, you’ll encounter dead-ends and obstacles that you didn’t anticipate, so be prepared.
  • rewards – Every achievement deserves a reward, no matter how small. Rewards keep you motivated and moving forward.
  • self-reflection – Remind yourself of your key objectives every day. Repeat them to yourself until they become part of you.

The second and third steps in putting together your leadership development plan are to set goals, objectives, and actions; and plan to sustain your development. Begin with goals, broad-based statements of intent. Break your goals into specific and actionable objectives. Then define the actions you must take to meet your objectives.


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