Define Your Leadership Vision: 4 Steps

Ongoing growth is essential for professional success, and developing a personal leadership vision is the North Star that can guide you now and into the future. Informed by your past, focused on the future, and relevant in the present, your leadership vision represents who you are and what you stand for–and helps you put those values into everyday practice.

Step 1: Reflect on the past

Think about what you’ve observed in others. What are the behaviors of the leaders you’d like to emulate? When did people with authority miss the mark–and why?

Next, take a look at your own past leadership experience. What are your proudest moments? When did things go awry? What feedback have you received–both from those you lead and your peers? Zero in on the specific beliefs and behaviors behind both your successes and stumbling blocks.

Step 2: Envision the future

Use your reflections to sketch out a picture of the leader you want to be. Consider what drives you–what are your values, and how will they show up in practice?

Be as detailed as possible regarding:

  • The behaviors you want to exhibit
  • The kinds of relationships you want to have
  • How you want others to see you
  • The skills–including soft skills–you need to perfect

Take 15-30 minutes of uninterrupted time to write out your personal leadership vision:

  • Summarize in 1-2 sentences what being an excellent leader means to you
  • List 3-5 core values that drive your leadership
  • List 5-7 specific behaviors that will show that leadership in action

Step 3: See where you stand

Take a good, hard look at how your leadership in this moment stacks up against the ideal you’ve captured in your vision. Note where you see alignment in your beliefs, values, and behaviors–and be brutally honest about where you could stand to grow.

Ask yourself:

  • Where do you see gaps?
  • What skills do you need to develop?
  • What behaviors do you need to practice,
  • What relationships do you want to build?
  • How do you need to shift your perspective to fulfill your vision?

Step 4: Plot your course forward

Now that you have a clear vision of your ideal leadership-self and sense of where you are now, write down 3-5 SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) that you can work toward over the next six months.

Make a concrete plan for working toward each goal. Some may be actions you can take this very minute, like reaching out to a colleague with whom you need to strengthen your relationship or implementing a simple behavior like giving kudos to others for a job well done. Other goals might call for longer-term planning, like taking a skill-building course or engaging a leadership coach.

Place your leadership vision and goals in a prominent location, and refer to them as a daily guide. No matter where you are in this moment, your leadership vision can plot a clear path into the future–not only for professional achievement, but for a sense of meaningful, values-driven success.

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