This years checklist for leaders

The year is flying by. To make your goals, your dreams, or resolutions count, this year let’s focus them on greater productivity, broader success, and happier life at work and at home. Here’s a ten-item to-do list geared toward making 2020 all it can be.

1. Discover Your Personal Leadership Style

At the beginning of the year, and again in December, get a neutral appraisal of your leadership style through a widely used assessment tool. You might be surprised by what you learn, and even moreso by the changes you experience over the course of a year.

Popular assessments for this purpose include:

  • The DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance) profile describes people’s behavioral characteristics.
  • The John Maxwell Leadership Assessment measures leadership qualities at various career stages.
  • StrengthsFinder 2.0 is expressly designed to help people uncover talents, skills, and positive qualities they may be undervaluing.

The full versions of these assessments can cost some money, but your HR department may be able to help lower or eliminate your personal expenditure. Otherwise, you can take this 2-minute leadership style quiz that can give you a quick snapshot to start.

2. Choose This Year’s Role Models

To keep those resolutions in perspective, take some time to identify two or three role models whose best characteristics you’ll emulate this year. We learn most effectively when we study others, and we keep learning from them throughout our lives. Choose your role models wisely, and you’ll have steady sources of inspiration throughout the year, encouragement to act when the wind has left your sails, and a sense of acknowledgement when you achieve even the most modest goals.

It’s not always easy to choose a role model, but they’re all around us. Role models can be close friends, professional acquaintances you only see every so often, or even historical figures you can only read about. If you’re having trouble, choose two or three of your core values, then consider the people in your life (or your bookshelf) who most clearly exemplify them.

3. Read!

Speaking of bookshelves, plan to read at least two books per month in 2020. If that seems like too many, remember that most CEOs read a book a week. Make a diverse list of 25 books toward the beginning of the year, making sure to include fiction and nonfiction titles on a variety of subjects. A quick tip is to try audiobooks if you are a music lover or listen to radio on your daily commute. Trading music for a good book during your travels around town can make adding a book an easy trade-off when it comes to time management. Either way, you’ll learn quite a bit, and your concentration, mental stamina, and ability to connect ideas will improve.

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4. Master a New Skill

When we focus too much on work, burnout isn’t the only looming danger. Our thinking can become too narrow when we confine ourselves to a single role, and our skillset can go stale. To keep your mind nimble and your skills fresh, make a plan to develop a skill you’ve always wanted to master but haven’t gotten around to. You might learn a new musical instrument or language, take up a new sport, or finally address your fear of public speaking. Whatever you choose, you’ll be in good company: great leaders tend to be lifelong learners. Just be sure to make an annual plan and set monthly goals, much as you would for a long-term project at work.

5. Clean Up Your Habits

Some habits are good, some are bad, but they all tend to fly beneath our personal radar. This year, reflect honestly on your habitual behaviors, good and bad. Then choose one bad habit that you can counter by developing a good one. For example, getting a little more exercise can help take the edge off as you wean yourself off caffeine. Habits can be stubborn, so make an ambitious year-end goal, and mark your progress each month.

6. Develop a Strength and Conquer a Weakness

Habits describe our behavior while strengths and weaknesses describe the inner qualities that fuel our motivations and guide our actions. We sometimes think of these qualities as unchanging, but our strengths can be cultivated, and weaknesses can be improved upon.

Most of us are well-acquainted with our strengths and weaknesses. At the start of the year, take stock of yours and write them down. Then choose one from each category to work on, and make a year-long plan to achieve a specific goal. For example, if you are especially persistent when working alone, you might make it a goal to develop that strength in team settings as well. If you tend to correspond irregularly with important colleagues or customers, set yourself the goal of increasing your rate of communication and its consistency.

Remember that many of these qualities are double-edged swords. Persistence can express itself as unproductive stubbornness, and irregular communication can be the result of simply waiting until you have something important to say (which isn’t the worst fault in the world).

7. Measure Your Strength of Will

At some point this year, especially if you’re having trouble with some items on your new to-do list, take an online test or two that measures your willpower. You may have been crediting yourself with being a bit too self-determined, and the results of a simple little test can be an important wake-up call. On the other hand, you might discover reserves of strength that you haven’t been crediting (or using) on the job and in life. Either way, it never hurts to look in the mirror every so often.

8. Volunteer

At work, time is money. But that’s just one way of measuring your value. For a different perspective and a new source of satisfaction, find an opportunity to volunteer your time at least once each month in 2020.

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9. Become a Mentor

You might spend every waking moment developing your skills and learning more, but nothing puts your knowledge and experience to the test like teaching and supporting others. We all have a strength or skill that others can learn from. Whether you become a formal mentor to a junior colleague or just commit to sharing your experience when you can, make time to mentor others this year.

10. Make Your Leisure Time Count

Every other item on this list is about something practical you can do to advance your fortunes in 2020. This one’s about your leisure time. Too many of us make no time for hobbies or other totally amateur pursuits, and that’s a mistake. In 2020, be sure that you’re carving out time in your schedule each week for things you do for the sheer, simple pleasure of it. You’ll be sharper at work and happier at home.

These are things you can adopt at any time during the year (so today is a great day to start). Take stock regularly and continue down the to-do list until they are all done. Doing these things can make this potentially crazy 2020 a resounding success.

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RECAP: Your 2020 To-Do List: 10 Things You Can Do to Make This Year Great

Below is the list again for those with short memories like us. Treat this year and each year as a project or assignment. Then provide yourself with a clear path to goals, achievement, and success. By tackling these to-do items with consistency as the calendar turns, your 2020 will be the best year yet.
  1. Discover Your Personal Leadership Style
  2. Choose This Year’s Role Models
  3. Read!
  4. Master a New Skill
  5. Clean Up Your Habits
  6. Develop a Strength and Conquer a Weakness
  7. Measure Your Strength of Will
  8. Volunteer
  9. Become a Mentor
  10. Make Your Leisure Time Count

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