Post-its - leadership intentions 2019

Leadership intentions – resolutions….

Have you heard this joke? “What exactly is a New Year’s resolution? – It’s a ‘to do’ list for the first week of January.” For those of you leading, how about setting intentions – leadership intentions for the coming year?

New year – fresh start. January is a popular time for making resolutions, not only for individuals, but also for businesses. But how effective are you in keeping new year’s resolutions? Remember all those intentions you had to hit the gym every day or lose 10 lbs? … Or is that just me? And, leadership intentions are just as important.

Instead of making resolutions, the experts tell us to create relevant, meaningful goals or intentions – backed up by a plan to achieve each one. Resolutions, intentions, goals – whatever you call them, as a leader it is important to reflect on where you are now, and to record some concrete intentions to be the best leader you can be, as you step into 2019.

Particularly in this complex, ever-changing, fast-paced world of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity), leaders are expected to navigate perpetual change; communicate and interact with others; introduce and manage change; inspire others towards a shared vision, and foster employee creativity and innovation. A tall order for anyone, unless they have superpowers!

So, what can we do to prepare ourselves for our leadership roles and responsibilities in the coming year? Here are some practical leadership goals for moving forward in 2019.


Post-it - self-care

Self-leadership and leadership intentions…

You have probably heard the phrase ‘put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others’. This is because you’re no good to anyone unless you look after yourself – as a priority. Practising self-leadership and ensuring your own self-care is the first step to great leadership.

1) Keep healthy in mind, body and spirit

That means eating healthily, taking exercise, sleeping well, avoiding or managing stress and finding joy, peace and relaxation. If you’re not taking action to keep fit and well – not only are your health outcomes at risk, but you’re also not setting a good example for your staff to follow.

In terms of your mental health and wellbeing, developing resilience helps you to handle the ups and downs of work and life and to bounce back from adversity. Resilience is dependent on mindset, and much like any new habit you are trying to form, it takes time and conscious practice. The article below gives you some tools you can implement in your daily lifestyle to help you to grow more resilient.

Related article: How to Create your own Superpower: Resilience

2) Ensure work-life balance

How do you divide your time and resources between attending to the needs of others and those of yourself? All work and no play, family time, friendship, leisure or relaxation is a recipe for ill-health. Spending too much time and mental bandwidth on work can lead to stress, sleeplessness and eventual burnout. Research by Duke University, University of Georgia, and University of Colorado in 2015 found that managers give more work to people they see as responsible and more competent. Often, the sole reward for great work is extra work.

Leaders are responsible for modelling good work-life balance. Show staff that it’s fine to leave work on time – or even early, on occasion, take vacations, and to prioritise family commitments and self-care. Physically and mentally, leave work back at the office and enjoy the rest of your life.

Related article: Getting the Balance Right

3) Reflect – Learn – Reflect

It is so important to review and reflect on the past year in relation to yourself, your actions and your achievements. Taking stock of what you’ve accomplished – or not accomplished – helps you to learn and to focus on doing even better in future.

Now is the time to think about what went well and what didn’t go so well – all of which provide you with incredible feedback for moving forward. Review, learn from experience; then, revise and take action to change what is necessary to achieve better results. This is an iterative process – so, reflect and learn, over and over again.

Related article: Reflect and Review: Celebrate your Successes of 2018 and Plan 2019

4) Plan

Be intentional in what you do. Focus on planning what you want to achieve over the next year. You don’t usually set off travelling without a direction or a destination. Treat your year ahead like a journey. Know your purpose, then set goals and plan your actions to achieve them – with a strong sense of purpose.

In his Harvard Business Review article, You Don’t Find Your Purpose — You Build It, John Coleman says, “In achieving professional purpose, most of us have to focus as much on making our work meaningful as in taking meaning from it. Put differently, purpose is a thing you build, not a thing you find.”

If you can see it, you can be it.” Billie-Jean King.

Related article: Planning a purposeful year (from 2018, but the advice still applies!)

Paper boats - red one leading -white ones following - leadership resolutions for global development professionals

Leading others & other-focused leadership intentions

To be a leader, you need people to follow you. So, be sure to support, develop and inspire your staff.

5) Manage performance

Some staff do their job so well, you trust them and often just leave them to it – but do you appreciate, praise, and celebrate their achievement enough? Always remember to say thank you – a simple and powerful tool that costs nothing to give, and often has long-lasting benefits.

Poor performers may be more difficult to deal with, for a variety of reasons – but you need to address the issue, for their sake, and for others’. One key drawback is the effect of weak staff on the rest of team. Failure to manage poor performance not only risks damaging team morale, but also sends a strong negative message about your leadership style – or lack of leadership. Key takeaway – make sure you are managing performance, whatever it looks like.

Related article: When Life Gives you Lemons

6) Develop your employees

It is part of your responsibility as a manager and leader to develop your staff; this is also a critical component of your own development. Make sure that your leadership intentions include developing others.

Ensure that your staff have opportunities for stretch assignments, mentoring, coaching, rotation, shadowing, and training. All of these interventions provide opportunities for learning and growth.

Coaching and mentoring are intentional processes involving development phases that refine individuals’ leadership and management and strengthen their resilience and resources. Each person travels a unique journey to maximise their personal, professional and societal impact.

As stated above, it is important to provide feedback: particularly developmental feedback, so employees can understand what is working and what needs to be improved. As Jon Younger recalls in his HBR article, ‘Bring in Outside Experts to Mentor Your Team’ – receiving development feedback can be tough to hear, but can offer some of the most useful career advice.

Related articles: Women Leading in Development and Mentoring for Change

7) Engage hearts and minds

In his book, A Culture of Purpose, Christoph Lueneburger states that “the most important challenge for a twenty-first century leader” is to build a ‘culture of purpose’. This goes for organisational purpose, the leadership’s sense of purpose, and the purpose employees have in their jobs and their lives. To motivate and inspire, build a culture of purpose within your own organisation, and lead by example.

It is important to develop and communicate a compelling vision – and to engender shared ownership of this vision. Ensure that each staff member knows how their work contributes to the vision. This helps people to care about their work, because it really matters and serves a higher purpose.

Related article: Building a Culture of Purpose

8) Practice diversity and inclusion

Are you ensuring that diverse needs, preferences and ways of life are accommodated in the workplace? And do people feel that they are actively involved in the organisation, with equal opportunities to contribute? Make sure that diversity and inclusion is embedded in practice, to motivate and engage the passions and thinking of every member of staff – including millennials.

Related article: How to Understand and Manage Millennials at Work

Help people to feel that they and their opinions are valuable, and nurture innovation by inviting creative thinking. Google developed some of its most exciting and successful services and products by opening up 20% of work time as a free-for-all for staff to come up with new ideas and experimentation; then it adopted a more formal approach to innovation.

Related resource: Google’s Creating a Culture of Innovation


These ideas are simply to spark your thinking. Set your own leadership intentions for the year ahead. And remember, ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish.’ – Antoine de Saint Exupery.

To ensure that you actually get results, back up your good intentions with a great plan for action, and achievable goals – then, make them happen.

As we know from all those old, unkept resolutions – words are easy to say. But actions speak louder.

Have a happy and successful 2019!


If you or your organisation would benefit from leadership development, including coaching and mentoring, please get in touch, to explore the possibilities open to you.

Check out my coaching program specifically designed for women working in global development – Women’s Leadership Coaching – For Women in Development.

Please feel free to like and share my posts. Contact, link and follow me.

Email me:

Visit my website: 

LinkedIn: Palena Neale

Twitter: @PalenaNeale