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Setting Development Goals for Leaders: Best Practices


Setting effective development goals for leaders is vital to the overall success of a team. Setting obtainable goals and reaching them provides higher morale and greater performance organization-wide. Learn why development goals are important, key factors for consideration and list a step-by-step guide on setting them for leaders within your business.

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Why are development goals important?

Development goals place a significant focus on learning. Both leaders and employees further develop their skills by setting and meeting development goals, improving performance organization-wide. Achieving these goals increases employee satisfaction, morale and promotes overall success.

Related: How to Reduce Employee Turnover

Key factors for development goals for leaders

The following list defines several key factors for development goals for leaders:

Long-term focus

All development goals for leaders should have a long-term focus. Impactful change is often gradual, requiring necessary lengths of time to reach. Short-term goals only get through immediate problems, leaving the future of leadership and a company as a whole at risk. Goals need to account for changes that may come and determine how to consistently adapt with them toward the future.

Few and simple

Development goals should also be few in number and simple in nature. Complex goals are more difficult to reach and the requirements for doing so are harder to keep track of. Keep your goals simple, but effective and you’re more likely to achieve them.

S.M.A.R.T. goals

Consider S.M.A.R.T. criteria when creating development goals. If your goals meet these criteria, they’re almost guaranteed to be successful. S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Which development goals are important for leaders?

The following list defines development goals that are most important for leaders:

Delegating more tasks

It’s common for many leaders to hold onto specific responsibilities that can be delegated to others. Inability or unwillingness to let go of specific tasks causes additional stress, longer work hours and often poor performance. It also prevents you from spending time with your team and offering strategic solutions to problems that arise. Learn to delegate tasks, freeing up more time for you to focus on leading your team.

Offering additional strategic options in meetings

Set a goal for yourself to be more engaging during meetings, offering at least one strategic option for every problem that arises. When your team is unable to come up with a solution, it’s your job to reflect on your previous experience and find a new solution.

Taking more opportunities for personal coaching

There are times when specific team members may struggle with their role or a particular problem. As their leader, it’s your duty to aid them. Provide helpful knowledge and offer additional time for training, if available. Propose new methods for the individual and congratulate them when they discover a solution. This builds morale within the team who places more confidence in your leadership.

Related: Benefits of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Three crucial concepts

The following list defines three of the most important concepts for development goals:


Strategic-thinking is the use of creative methods for handling specific issues. It also applies to development goals, devising unique solutions for achieving them. Consider and apply your combined history of education and experience and create competitive advantages in every situation.


Providing effective strategy taking initiative is great for leading a team, but they also need to be heard. You may have a large amount of experience, but your team is also capable of developing unique ideas. Their ideas apply to both specific business options and general feedback for you as a leader. Take time to listen to what they have to say and apply their ideas.


Coaching is one of the main functions of a leader. It’s a form of development in which you support your team or a specific team member in achieving a goal. The success of your team is dependent upon the skill level of each individual person. If someone struggles with a project, provide coaching and training and help them find a solution to their problem.

Related: Employee Satisfaction Surveys: What They Are and Why They’re Important for Your Business

How to set development goals for leaders in your organization

The following list of steps outline how to set development goals for leaders within your business:

  1. Take a training course
  2. Research the industry and understand your projects
  3. Set small goals, supporting large goals
  4. Provide rewards upon reaching each goal

1. Offer a training course

Offer training courses on leadership to all levels of your organization. Ensure every individual within a management position knows how to set effective goals, how to coach and manage their teams and how to delegate tasks successfully. The success of a team is extremely dependent upon the success of its manager.

2. Research the industry and understand your projects

Whether you’re the newest owner of the business or need to better understand the functions at every level, conduct additional research. You can look up resources on your industry or meet with leaders at every level of your organization. Take note of their needs, functions and work preferences.

3. Set small goals, supporting large goals

One of the best ways to reach long-term development goals is to set smaller goals along the way. Long-term goals, on their own, are challenging. If they take a significant time to reach, morale drops and the chances of achieving it decrease. However, if you set smaller goals that support the large goal, it feels more achievable. Teams and their leaders reach smaller goals faster, creating a sense of progression they wouldn’t have otherwise.

4. Provide rewards upon reaching each goal

Along with setting short-term goals, provide rewards for each goal obtained. Rewards create a further sense of accomplishment and boost morale toward the next goal. Rewards can include small monetary bonuses, gift cards or even a team lunch. Upon reaching larger goals, offer even greater rewards relative to the size of the goal. For example, if a team succeeded in completing one of the company’s biggest contracts, offer additional paid vacation time, if that is within the organization’s reach.

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