If you want to achieve something differently, you have to do something differently. There’s no time like the New Year to pause and take stock of what’s working, what’s not, and what you’d like to change. Call it a resolution, an intention, or an inspiration, we can all benefit from sharper focus on our goals.
A sharper focus is especially valuable for leaders. Leaders set the tone for the people around them. Numerous studies have shown that emotions are contagious, and the emotions of leaders are the most infectious of all. Great leaders are emotionally intelligent, and a key attribute of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Becoming aware of one’s own beliefs and behaviors is essential to growth; after all, you can’t change what you don’t notice.
Great leaders are great learners. They’re less concerned with who came up with the idea, and more concerned with implementing the best ideas to get the best results. To that end, here are six leadership resolutions from six exceptional thinkers. May their ideas be inspiring food for thought.
1. Bring Energy
Alisa Cohn, Executive Coach and author, From Start-Up to Grown-Up explains, “We are in a time of mental fatigue, burnout, and rough headlines. Remember that in times like these the role of a leader is bring energy. This doesn’t mean fake (and toxic) positivity, but you have to remind your team (and yourself!) of the things that are going well and that there is a path to winning. Do this with a simple ritual asking your team to articulate their weekly wins and take time to check in and point out the achievements of others at the beginnings of meetings. As a leader, remember that you can frame challenges as frustrating problems or interesting puzzles to solve. This attitude will translate to your team, so choose wisely.”
2. Practice Self-Forgiveness
Jim Kerr is a leadership coach and management consultant at Indispensable Consulting. Kerr has been coaching leaders for nearly three decades. As Kerr shares, “I know how challenging it can be to forgive oneself when someone lets us down. We often do a number on ourselves when others fail to live up to our expectations. But, we should not! After all, feeling badly about someone else’s behavior simply means that we thought they wouldn’t act in this way!”
Kerr continues, “I work with clients to put this into action by reminding them to give themselves permission to make mistakes in their expectations of others. When we work to recall that we are not infallible, we can practice self-forgiveness, too.
Indeed, people will not always live up to our expectations. We must decide to choose to forgive ourselves for feeling badly when they don’t behave as we expect. In the end, how we react is our choice.”
3. Look For the Positive
Professor Sanyin Siang is the founding Executive Director of Duke University’s Coach K Leadership & Ethics Center at its Fuqua School of Business, and recognized as a Thinkers50 Top 50 Global Thought Leader. Siang explains, “How we see the world and ourselves is shaped by what we intentionally seek and choose to see. In a period of uncertainty, we can default to seeing all the negatives and act out of fear. Or we can also choose to see the good. There are moments of goodness, courage, generosity and empathy every day.
I’ve been moved by these moments – from a teacher donating a significant portion of her salary to help a fellow teacher who is on a leave of absence, to the garbage collectors, who throughout the duration of the pandemic, show up without fail every Thursday, to the student who is investing time to help a classmate land a dream job. So, my new year’s resolution is to intentionally look for and see these acts of positive humanity. They help me see the world with greater hope. And they inspire me to be better at making a positive difference and to live more meaningfully.”
4. See Talent Differently
Nancy Halpern is the Founder of Political IQ. Halpern shares that in 2023, “I will challenge myself to think differently about talent. I’m not going to let myself get all tied up and distracted by back to the office versus remote versus hybrid. I’m not going to focus on the number of hours my people work nor how often they email me during their vacations or weekends. Instead, I’m going to concentrate and celebrate what they accomplish, how they help me and the business exceed goals, and the role model they are for their people. Bonus points for those who walk the talk about diversity by embracing divergent ways of thinking to create new solutions and break down obstacles while creating alliances and lasting relationships.”
5. Positive Mindset
Ebony Travis Tichenor is the Director of Global Well-Being and HR Employee Policies for Boston Scientific. When it comes to focusing on the new year, Tichenor explains, “As a leader focused on well-being, New Year resolutions are more about embedding new habits for growth and change both personally and professionally. The lifelong commitment I make in my life revolves around mindset.
I believe that the most significant change occurs within us when we change how we view ourselves and how we behave. If we are motivated to focus on ourselves, that motivation should contribute to our positive mindset, grit, or optimism. One can always work on one’s mindset throughout the year since it plays an essential role in our ability to cope with life’s ups and down moments. Throughout the year, I strive to always maintain a positive mindset in order to lead a happy and fulfilling life both personally and professionally.”
6. Have More Fun
Sally Helgesen is the author of the bestselling book, How Women Rise, as well as the forthcoming book Rising Together. Helgesen spent this New Year’s Day snowed in with no internet nor cell service. It gave her time to take an honest look in the mirror and reflect on last year.
Helgesen shared, “One thing was clear as the new year began. I have been working too hard for too long. Five years flat out, mostly 6 or even 7 days a week, with no vacation or time off since the pandemic began. When my speaking work switched from in-person to virtual starting in April of 2020, I assumed that not being on the road would result in increased leisure, but the opposite has proved to be true. Working from my home office, it’s easy to schedule yet another program on a day that is already booked: I can be in Lagos in the morning and Sao Paulo in the afternoon. By the close of 2022, fun was scarcer and my to-do lists were longer, making many days feel like something-to-be-gotten through.”
Helgesen continued, “The result of this new way of working, along with the pressure of writing another book, resulted in a tsunami of exertion. This year, I refuse to let this happen. I am returning to travel, though more limited, and want to retain my sense of adventure – exploring and spending all the time I can with people. I’m going to play more music when I work. I’m going to get up and dance when I feel like it. I’m going to take my own advice and make a “to-don’t list” as well as a to-do list. I’m not going to let the tyranny of the to-do’s keep me from being spontaneous and saying a joyful yes when my list tells me I should say no.
When it comes to choosing new leadership resolutions, there are many great ideas to choose from. Which idea you choose isn’t nearly as important as the commitment you have to that choice. The key to success is to take consistent, daily action. It’s what separates the talkers from the doers.
The actions don’t have to be complicated to work. In fact, a key to successful behavior change is to start small. Pick something simple to do that fits within your current systems that you can really commit to doing. Then, when you do it, celebrate the new behavior. This is how new habits are born, and how great leaders grow.