The popular image is that of the hard charging leader, making it up as he goes along.  Every decision is from the gut, and every decision is correct.  The reality is that real leaders actually have a plan, with a backup plan and then an alternate plan.  Plans are built around goals.  And goals are set by leaders before the plan gets laid.

One of the key leadership characteristics is not only to set goals, but to have all the members of his or her team participate.   The old way of leadership was to gather everyone together and tell them their goals.   Now, some goals do have to be set by the organization, just because the view is broader from the top.  But even at that, leaders up and down the organizational chart can have their individual teams set goals, along the way to the imposed goals.

Goals are not just vague dream, spoken or written.  True effective goals have these 5 characteristics:
1. Specific.  You must be able to know when you have reached your goal.  Vague goals are usually simply expressions of a motivation. “To improve office morale” is the motivation.  The goal is “Reduce employee turn-over by 10%” is a goal.
2. Measurable.  This requires the property unit of measure and the proper measuring tool.  “Employee turn-over” may not be the proper measure for office morale if your employees are talented and attractive to competitors.  “Office morale” may be better measured by “days off” or just watching the number of outings employees take with each other.
3. Attainable.  The goal must be not only within human ability to achieve, but also your ability to achieve.  A goal of “make everyone in the office happy” is not attainable.   The goal of “improve office morale” may not be attainable by you as office manager if headquarters is laying people off without notice or preparation.  In this situation, the attainable goal might be to meet with your team a specific number of times, one on one.
4. Realistic.  Many organizational goals are not grounded in reality.  “Sell 10 unicorns a month” sounds pretty, but is not realistic.  This is different from the measure of attainability, in that attainability assumes a grounding in reality.  The goal of “improve internal satisfaction scores by 15%” is a realistic goal.
5. Timely.  This actually means “oriented to time and space.”  The goals must be achievable within a timeframe that makes sense for their achievement.  Improving the office morale after everyone leaves is not timely.
Plans are the steps to achieve a goal.  A goal has the 5 characteristics above.  A leader assists his or her team in executing the plan, always measuring the progress toward the goal.  Real leaders are not afraid to change the plan or the goals, if circumstances require.  For example, let’s say the goal is “drive the unicorn to 101 W. Main Street by noon on Thursday.”  And on Wednesday, 101 W. Main Street burns down.  The goal is obviously not attainable.  The plan needs to change.  So the leader gets the new address and time.  

 An even better leader, though, would know (or find out) why that address and that time is important. The plan and goal would be altered accordingly.  For example, let’s say that Mr. Mustard wanted the unicorn, and just happened to be near 101 w. Main Street at noon on Thursday.  Knowing this, the effective leader would change the goal to “deliver the unicorn to Mr. Smith” and change the plan to wherever Mr. Smith will be.  This ability to set effective goals and having the courage to change them are 2 important leadership characteristics.

Being a leader in this way reduces the stress on your team and on you.  Having a comprehensive system that includes setting and changing goals is vital to controlling your stress.   Most people have a “system.”  These systems are usually come cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all package from a high-priced “consultant.”   The key is to develop the system that works for you personally.   Martial arts like karate and judo teach specific moves and holds, but a black belt will combine those teachings into the system that is personal.   Using the tips in this article, combined with the skills and knowledge that you already possess, can help you create your personal system with real leadership characteristics.

STRESS JUDO COACHING is designed to be that comprehensive system.  The Yellow belt level is focused specifically on taking control of stress.  Designed around the exclusive progressive belt training system, this unique training and coaching program can be personalized, for you to reach your black belt potential. Just JOIN THE COMMUNITY using the box to the right (-->) and welcome!