Leadership SMART Goals Guide + Examples

Leadership SMART goals allow you to set attainable goals to start being the leader you want to be.

Are you a leader who’s tired of setting goals and not achieving them? Common reasons goals aren’t completed is that they’re too broad, unmeasurable, unachievable, irrelevant, and not timely. So, what’s the solution? SMART goals.

If you want your goals to be attainable, you need to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals. So, keep reading to learn how to set leadership SMART goals to start being the leader you want to be!

What are leadership SMART goals?

SMART goals are attainable goals made possible because we set out the steps needed to achieve them The first known person to use SMART goals was George T. Doran in 1981 after his experiences with executives setting broad and unrealistic goals for their direct reports. As a result, Doran published an article in “Management Review” that outlined the key objectives of SMART goals; “there’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives,” he wrote. And with that, SMART goals came to life.

The SMART in SMART goals stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Let’s look a little closer at each of these:

🎯 SPECIFIC: The specificity of a goal is important. This step involves narrowing down specific and clear goals that your team can follow through with to avoid broad objectives.

📏 MEASURABLE: This step involves attaching a metric to the goal. This step is important because it helps your team understand what they’re being asked to do, and ensures there’s no confusion regarding what they’re expected to accomplish to hit this goal. 

🚀 ACHIEVABLE: Unattainable goals are a waste of time. This step ensures your goals are achievable. Remember, goals don’t have to be easy, they just have to be realistic.

👀 RELEVANT: The relevancy of the goal answers the why. Why are you setting this goal? How will this goal impact the company? Irrelevant goals are simply a waste of valuable time. 

⏰ TIME-BOUND: This step involves setting a specific time frame in which the goal should be completed. Oftentimes goals get pushed to the sidelines and, soon thereafter, are completely forgotten about. So, setting a timeline ensures the goal is prioritized. 

By now, you should have a basic understanding of SMART goals. So, let’s take this one step further and apply these to leadership (a.k.a. leadership SMART goals). 

Leadership SMART goals are attainable goals that relate to leadership—for example, increasing employee participation in social events by 60% by the end of the month. In this example, we have a specific goal of increasing employee participation in social events, a measurable goal of a 60% increase, an achievable goal, a relevant goal as increased participation in social events creates a more positive workplace, and a time-bound goal because a deadline is set for the end of the month. 

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Why are leadership SMART goals important?

Leadership SMART goals are important because they help leaders keep track of their wide range of responsibilities and be a better leader. Leaders have a lot on their plate, and balancing their responsibilities can be very challenging and exhausting. However, leadership SMART goals help leaders achieve their goals by encouraging them to create specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. 

“First, a S.M.A.R.T. goal helps to give you an objective. Second, a S.M.A.R.T. goal provides motivation to succeed. Third, a good S.M.A.R.T. goal, while attainable, will also be challenging and force you out of your comfort zone. Ultimately, the S.M.A.R.T. goal is a useful tool to remain focused in attaining a goal.” – Kimberlee Leonard & Rob Watts, Forbes Contributors. 

How to set leadership SMART goals

1 Determine what you want to achieve with your goal 

The first step in setting leadership SMART goals is determining what you want to achieve with your goal. Start by listing leadership skills you want to develop or improve on. For example, facilitating employee participation, listening actively, thinking strategically, working on self-development, and communicating openly are just a few leadership skills. Once you’ve decided on a broad leadership skill you want to develop or improve, narrow it down to a specific goal. For example, to narrow down your goal of facilitating employee participation, you may set the goal of increasing employee participation in meetings by X%.

2 Determine how you’ll achieve your goal

The second step to setting leadership SMART goals is determining how you’ll achieve them. This includes setting a metric for each goal. For example, increase employee participation in meetings by ensuring that 60% of meeting attendees participate in the meeting by asking questions and encouraging others to ask theirs, and by bringing up engaging talking points. 

3 Make a timeline 

The final step to setting leadership SMART goals is creating a timeline. This ensures that your goals are time-bound, meaning they have a time frame in which they must be completed. Again, this ensures your goals are prioritized rather than pushed aside. For example, increase employee participation in meetings by ensuring that 60% of meeting attendees participate in the meeting by the end of the quarter by asking and encouraging questions and talking points. 

It can also be useful to set smaller goals within the larger SMART goal. These sub-goals can serve as milestones that will help you reach your final SMART goal without feeling overwhelmed with where to begin. 

When to use leadership SMART goals?

Leadership SMART goals are best used when you have a leadership skill you want to improve on. When we create goals, we often either forget about them, prioritize other things over them, or set unrealistic ones that we cannot achieve. So, SMART goals help people prioritize their goals and ensure they’re achievable.

Leadership SMART goals are also helpful for new leaders who are trying to balance all of their responsibilities. Rather than trying to be the best leader and feeling overwhelmed as a result, use SMART goals to take it one step at a time.

10 examples of SMART goals

1 Example #1: Hold bi-weekly one-on-ones 

Complete bi-weekly 30-minute one-on-ones with each of my employees by setting recurring bi-weekly meetings for the next 4 months. After 4 months, reevaluate and see if bi-weekly or bi-monthly is a better fit for my team. 

S: The goal is to complete bi-weekly meetings with employees.

M: The measurable action is having bi-weeky one-on-ones for the next 4 months.

A: The 30-minute meetings are achievable by the leader.

R: One-on-ones help the employees and the success of the overall company.
T: The leader has 4 months to complete these meetings bi-weekly. 

2 Example #2: Improve the retention rate

Improve employee retention score by 15% by the end of the year by implementing more team-building activities and updating the employee benefits.

S: The goal is to improve employee retention rates.

M: The measurable action is to improve employee retention score by 15%.

A: Implementing more team-building activities and updating the employee benefits is achievable. 

R: Improving the retention rate helps the company and creates a positive environment for employees.  

T: The leader has until the end of the year to increase the retention rate. 

3 Example #3: Improve meeting and presentation skills

Improve meeting and presentation skills by using a meeting agenda to decrease meeting time by 30 minutes each week for the next 2 months. 

S: The goal is to improve the leader’s meeting and presentation skills.

M: The measurable action is decreasing meeting times by 30 minutes each month.

A: The goal is attainable since only 30 minutes need to be shaved off per month.

R: Reducing meeting time saves employees valuable time. 

T: The leader has 2 months to complete this goal.

4 Example #4: Increase communication skills

Reply more in online communication channels by setting aside one hour at the end of each week to reply to emails and notifications. 

S: The goal is to improve online communication skills. 

M: The measurable action is one hour each week.

A: The goal is attainable because it only requires a one-hour commitment each week.

R: Setting aside time for communication increases good communication skills. 

T: The leader needs to set aside one hour each week. 

5 Example #5: Enhance the onboarding process

Revise the onboarding process by asking for feedback from 100% of new hires in the last 6 months by the end of the month.

S: The goal is to revise the onboarding process.

M: The measurable action is asking for feedback from 100% of new hires in the last 6 months.

A: A short feedback form is doable for 100% of the new hires in the last 6 months.

R: Feedback helps leaders understand whether the onboarding process is effective. 

T: The leader has until the end of the month to complete this goal.

6 Example #6: Implementing new software staff training 

Get 100% of staff trained on new software in the next 2 weeks to ensure smooth transitions to new processes. 

S: The goal is to get all employees trained on new software.

M: The measurable action is 100% of employees trained in the next 2 weeks.

A: The goal is attainable because it provides 2 weeks to get all employees trained.

R: Ensuring all employees are trained on new software means there will be a smooth transition.

T: The leader has 2 weeks to complete this goal.

7  Example #7: Participate in more industry events

Go to one networking event each quarter to build more professional relationships and recruit new employees.

S: The goal is to go to more networking events.

M: The measurable action is one event each quarter. 

A: The goal is attainable because it gives the leader flexibility of attending one event every 4 months.

R: Going to networking events expands connections and makes someone a better leader

T: The leader has one year to complete this goal every quarter 

8  Example #8: Ask for feedback regularly

Ask for feedback after 80% of team meetings by sending feedback forms in the next month.

S: The goal is to get regular feedback on meetings.

M: The measurable action is asking for feedback on 80% of the meetings.

A: Using a short feedback form will make it doable to get feedback after 80% of team meetings. 

R: Receiving feedback about team meetings allows the leader to alter the meetings to be more productive. 

T: The leader has one month to complete this goal.

9  Example #9: Organize a hackathon for the team

Organize one hackathon each quarter that 80% of the company participates in.

S: The goal is to organize one hackathon each quarter.

M: The measurable action is to organize one hackathon each quarter with 80% employee participation.

A: Each quarter is enough time to plan for a hackathon.  

R: Hackathons encourage employee bonding and prompt creative thinking. 

T: The leader must complete one each quarter.

10 Example #10: Hold open office hours

Hold 2 hours of open office hours per week for the next 6 months to improve team relationships, and revisit this idea after 6 months to possibly extend for longer. 

S: The goal is to improve team relationships.
M: Provide 2 hours of open office hours per week on Mondays and Thursdays.
A: Provide a safe space for employees to come to and share what’s on their minds.
R: This will increase relationships and increase trust between the leader and employee.
T: Hold 2 hours of office hours every week throughout 6 months of the year and revisit afterwards to revise cadence.

SMART goal setting meeting agenda 

Try out this SMART goals meeting agenda to level-up your next meeting!

Parting advice

“Without concrete goals, you are essentially shooting in the dark trying to improve. S.M.A.R.T. goals are useful because they contain five aspects that help you focus and reevaluate goals as needed.” – Leonard & Watt

Whether you’re a new or experienced leader, everyone has goals; setting leadership SMART goals is a great way to kick-start your goals so you get positive outcomes!


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About the author

Hannah Sheehan

Hannah Sheehan is a Content Marketer at Fellow.app, as well as a Communication and Media Studies student at Carleton University. Past experience includes writing for The Charlatan Newspaper and Sens Nation Podcast. Her areas of interest are personal development and creative writing. In her free time, she is usually watching her favourite tv show, Friends!

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