If your 2023 goal is to lift your leadership game, now is the time to start!


It may not feel like it, but the best time to invest in your leadership development is right now. Yes, it’s a busy time of year; some might say it’s the final sprint to Christmas. But just as farmers must sow seeds months ahead of harvest, so too must we, as leaders, sow the seeds of leadership now, so we and our teams can reap the benefits when we’re most ready for them.

Dear Future, Im Ready written on running track

What do we mean by this?

We’ve all set New Year’s Resolutions. Although far fewer of us continue pursuing these resolutions past February, there’s a reason we as a society latch onto the New Year as an opportunity for change. There are also simple changes we can make to help us commit to lasting change in pursuit of developing our leadership capability.

There’s a concept in the behavioural sciences called the Fresh Start Effect. According to research from Professor Katy Milkman at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, events such as a new year, a birthday, an anniversary, or even the beginning of a new month serve as “temporal landmarks” that demarcate a fresh start. These temporal landmarks temporarily supercharge our motivation, and gives us an extra push to get started in pursuit of our goals. However, temporary motivation brought about by a Fresh Start is not enough to sustain behaviour change. Instead, the best way to make the most of this newfound motivation is by using it to overcome a barrier, or to put in place a plan that will sustain itself.

Take the perennial New Year Resolution to “get healthier” as an example; your boost of motivation might be best directed towards researching and engaging with a new personal trainer, rather than buying a fridge full of fruits and vegetables. The former kickstarts a sustained commitment to exercise, whereas the latter requires renewed attention and motivation every time you visit the supermarket. Similarly, in the context of leadership development, your New Year boost of motivation is perhaps best directed towards commitments and actions with a self-sustaining element. For example, committing yourself, or your team to a leadership development programme, creating a personal development plan for you and your team, or finding and engaging the right executive coach.

But how will you get a clear sense of where you and your team’s leadership gaps are, so you can leverage the New Year to commit to developing in these areas? This is why it’s important to sow the seeds now - gain clarity on your strengths to build on, and gaps to overcome. A 360-degree survey can help you do that by opening the door for you, your teams, colleagues, managers, and stakeholders to provide honest feedback on your effectiveness. This helps provide a clearer picture of the gaps between what we think of ourselves (our identity), and how others see us (our reputation). In turn, we can gain some useful insights into where our strengths and development areas might lie, so that we can direct our Fresh Start motivation into developing in those areas in the new year.

Another concept we can leverage to our benefit into the new year is the idea of the Commitment Device. Born out Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s work in the field of behavioural economics, a commitment device is something that helps commit us to a course of action that future us may not want to do, but that current us knows will be beneficial. There is often a public element to commitment devices; by committing to something publicly, our reputations might be negatively impacted if we do not follow through.

Again, in the context of leadership development, a 360-degree survey serves as a commitment device. By engaging in the 360 survey process, you are publicly committing to your leadership development in front of those you’ve invited to provide feedback. The feedback/feedforward loop inherent in such processes (i.e. going back to your feedback providers and saying, these are my development areas, this is how I will commit to working on them) is one such example of a commitment device.

So, you want to grow your leadership capability in 2023; and you’d like to fill some gaps. Now is the time to kickstart a 360 survey, so that you can leverage the feedback you’re about to receive into development areas in 2023. Come January, use your fresh burst of motivation to turn your development areas into a concrete development plan, and share it with your feedback-givers. As a commitment device, this keeps you publicly committed and accountable to your plan, and sets you up for success and growth into 2023.

If you are interested, we have some great 360 tools, including the Winsborough 360 Survey, contact us so we can support the levelling up of your leadership game.

Gemma Kerr is a Consultant at Winsborough Limited, based in Auckland.

Photo by Unsplash