Yikes, January is more than half over -- already! Don't panic. There's still time to develop your list of New Year's resolutions. (And if you did that at the very start of 2013, there's still time to try keeping them all over again.)

In either event, effective leaders know two things:

  • To continue being effective, we have to lead out of a vision that is shaped by a mission or missions -- our own personal one, to be sure, and a collective one, as well, if we have a formal position in any type of organization.
  • It is incredibly difficult for most people to stay on track with all the distractions, challenges, stumbling blocks, problems and frustrations life sends our way.

That's why The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus emphasizes the importance of habits as one of the four foundational pillars of being a good servant leader. As you may recall, we suggest adopting nine faith-based habits to stay on track as an S3 Jesus-like Leader.

Resolutions are goals that can help us develop habitual ways of thinking and acting -- as long as we regularly monitor and honestly evaluate our performance about keeping them, and remain resolute about pursuing them no matter how often or how badly we drop the ball.

Daniel McCarthy, director of Executive Development Programs at the University of New Hampshire and author of the award-winning blog Great Leadership, recently shared his 10 leadership resolutions for 2013. We think they're excellent and offer them here as a way to jumpstart your own list of resolutions to keep this year.

1. Develop a charter for my team or organization. The charter will include our purpose (or mission), our vision, our values, long-term (two to three years) goals, objectives, and action plans. If possible, involve your team and other stakeholders in development of the charter. Then make sure it's communicated clearly and consistently. Finally, follow up on a regular basis to track progress, revise, and celebrate achievements.

2. Reach out to someone who helped me become the leader I am today. I'll write a letter, or maybe even pay a visit, and let them know specifically what they did and why it was so important for me.

3. Schedule and hold regular one-on-ones with each of my team members. We'll use that time to discuss concerns, opportunities, progress on goals and development; celebrate achievements; or just touch base on what's going on in our busy lives. If I have a conflict, I won't cancel the meeting -- instead I'll reschedule it.

4. Decide what's important to me as a leader -- what I stand for and why. I'll share this with others and consistently act in a way that demonstrates these values and beliefs.

5. Be more accountable. I'll admit my mistakes, fix them, learn from them, and stop pointing fingers or placing blame.

6. Improve my presentation skills and the way I communicate. I'll take a course, join Toastmasters, hire a coach, practice, and/or get feedback from others.

7. Listen more and better. I'm going to seek to understand the other person's point of view and emotions and force myself not to evaluate, judge, or offer my own point of view until I am sure I have understood theirs.

8. Get feedback on my leadership skills. I'll take a multi-rater assessment or figure out some other ways to get an accurate assessment as to how I am perceived by others.

9. Mentor someone. I'll make myself available to help someone else become even better than me. If not someone at work, I'll volunteer my time to an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters.

10. Be more innovative. I'm going to look for possibilities and ask "why not" and "what if." I'll take a course or read a book on what it takes to be an innovative leader, and pick two or three things to implement and practice.

One last thought: You don't become a more effective leader simply by adopting more resolutions or goals. It's best to pick a few, focus on keeping them, make them part of your "second nature," and then add a few more as incremental steps in the journey of a lifetime.

Life is a pilgrimage. Enjoy the journey.

Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute