Do You See Yourself As a Future Leader?

Do you see yourself as a future leader? A simple question isn’t it? On the surface, the answer may be as easy as “yes” or “no”. However, this is not something to take lightly. In one of my previous articles, Leadership Is a Choice, Not a Position, we looked at choosing to become a leader as well as examined some “how to” steps. In this article, let’s examine whether or not you are a future leader or are someone who is happy in a non-leadership position.

Do You Want to Make a Difference?

Do you want to make a difference or change the way things around you? That’s great. But if this is your only goal, remember… you do not have to be a leader to make a difference. There are many people out there that make a difference and all they do is take orders from others and are the best at what they do in the positions they hold. These people range from assistants to production workers to front line construction workers. These are all important positions.


Are you a person in a non-leadership role and you feel like you have more to offer than just showing up and taking orders? Do you have ideas that you think will improve the industry that you are in? Do you like to have positive influence over others in a mentoring/coaching role? Then, perhaps you are a future leader.


As we distinguish between leadership roles and leadership positions, it is important to decide where you want to fit in within the leadership spectrum. Do you want to mentor people without the responsibilities of being a supervisor? Do you want to be a frontline supervisor at the local coffee shop? Or, do you want to lead a company? All these are great aspirations and important positions.

“I think leadership’s always been about two main things: imagination and courage” – Paul Keating

The SMART Goal Setting Model

Once you have figured out what type of leadership role or position you want to end up in, it is now time to set goals for yourself. There is a goal setting system called SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based). So, specify your goal.

For instance: “I want to run a company.” Or, “I want to become a Captain in the Air Force.”. You can then check them against the SMART model to see how attainable they are. Here is an example:

  • S = “I want to be a Captain in the Air Force.”
  • M = This goal is measurable. Once I get recruiting information, complete a physical exam, pass the entrance exam, etc., I know I am well on my way.
  • A = I can achieve this. I am 19, in good health and I know I have great eyesight.
  • R = I can join the military. I have good grades and people tell me I am a natural leader.
  • T = I am 19 so I have lots of time to work up to Captain, including attending military school to become a Commissioned Officer.

Stay SMART Along the Way

OK, you have your career goal set! Now what? As this is a very large goal and will take some time to achieve, you can set up smaller goals to achieve along the way, using the same format. In the case of wanting to become a leader, you need to acquire leadership skills and it is never too early to start learning not only about what it means to be a leader but more importantly – an effective leader.

Do you see yourself as a future leader? Where do you start if you haven’t led before? I suggest two things: talk to other leaders about their leadership styles and experiences and do your own research to find information and training on how to become someone others will want to follow. Both are smaller goals and they come with their own SMART analysis.

SMART Goal Setting Model

For the latter goal, we can be of help here. We recommend the book “How to Be a Leader“. It was written by me and Gregory Bobkiewicz – both of us leadership instructors (me in the corporate world and Greg in the military). It teaches new and aspiring leaders the fundamental skills they need to become good leaders without years of frustration and errors. The SMART model for tackling leadership training with this book would go something like this:

  • S = I will read the book “How To Be a Leader” by John Maloney and Greg Bobkiewicz.
  • M = It is measurable. Every time I complete a new chapter of the book, I am getting closer to being a better leader.
  • A = I can achieve this goal. I can purchase a copy of the book and I know how to read!
  • R = It is realistic. I need to ensure I set a realistic time frame as I am very busy over the next two weeks and do not want to overwhelm myself.
  • T = I will have the book read 30 days from today.

You can develop, what I like to call, “sub-SMART goals” that will help you achieve the larger SMART goal of, in this case, becoming a Captain within the Air Force. And, whenever you complete a sub-SMART goal such as reading “How To Be a Leader”, finishing an exercise routine or getting accepted into the military, celebrate the milestone as you are one step closer to achieving your over-arching goal.

Stay On Target

One thing I would recommend is that when you start to design your sub-SMART goals, make sure they are simple at first, such as reading a book or taking a course. Most people do not achieve their goals because they do not know where to start. So, in addition to making sub-SMART goals, make the first two or three of them relatively quick and easy to achieve.

You may have time to read the book in a couple of weeks or pick up a military application on your way home from work. This will help you gain momentum, as those more “difficult” sub goals are simpler to do and thus easier to achieve. And remember, celebrate your successes.

Always consider this process as a work in progress. As you complete sub-SMART goals, you will need to add other ones that you may not have thought of. Once you get the application form, you may be required to attach some additional paperwork to the form. Make that another sub-SMART goal.

This will not only help you keep track of what you need to do, but also remember, another sub-SMART goal means another celebration when it is completed. Even if that celebration is simply an acknowledgement that you are one step closer to achieving your main goal.


Be Adaptable

One last thing, if your over-arching SMART goal changes along the way, that’s fine. As we learn and experience more, our life goals often transform. So, if your new over-arching SMART goal becomes “I want to start a business selling computers.”, that’s great too! You will find that even though your main focus has changed, the time you spent working towards becoming a Captain within the Air Force was not wasted. Two words – transferable skills. A whole other article.

I ask you again: “Do you see yourself as a future leader?”. If so, start developing a SMART goal around where you see your leadership journey going. And, do not be afraid to start with little steps such as “I want to lead a committee.” Or go as big as “I want to be the President of…”. Then, develop the sub-SMART goals that will get you there. And, remember to celebrate your successes along the way. You deserve it!

Do You See Yourself As a Future Leader?

To start your leadership journey on the right foot and to learn all the fundamental skills needed to become a good leader, join our newsletter. We send out lessons on leading, motivating and working with a team, building confidence and learning the right skills.

Also, leave us a comment below on your leadership journey, challenges and aspirations. We’d love to hear from you!

John Maloney
John Maloney is a leadership instructor, a life coach and a contributing writer at Online Leadership Network. He has over 22 years of experience as a front line staff, team leader and program coordinator at a large non-profit organization, as well as a Masters Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with focus on Leadership in the 21st Century.


  1. Inspiring article! I agree, setting goals is of utmost importance. Without setting goals we don’t reach them. That sounds so simple but the reality is that we barely reach a tiny percentage of the goals we vaguely have locked inside our heads based on wishes and dreams that we never put feet to. The way we put feet to those dreams and goals is by setting measureable markers with timelines to meet them. It doesn’t mean we always meet them, but we strive to! And as you’ve aptly alluded to in your article, we have to have the persistence to keep on moving toward those goals. And without exception, individuals who set realistic goals, even when they miss the mark a few times, are exponentially beyond those who set no goals. 

    Great article. I’m inspired again to get myself organized to accomplish more! 🙂


  2. Everyone want’s to make a difference, but a lot of the time we find ourselves in a situation where we can’t really change anything. This article helps motivate to start making a difference no matter the situation. You can always make a difference no matter how small you start. I love making goals and then it makes you want to finish them no matter the difficulty. 

  3. Hi John,

    The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things. – Ronald Reagan

    Thanks a lot for the inspiring and informative article. Read a lot about SMART but via your article, I got new and helpful insights. Thanks for the example (SMART)! This post means a lot to me and made me think more about the subject.

    I loved the goal-setting part and enjoyed it. Going to paste it (SMART goal setting) on the wall in my office room. Your book How to Be a Leader is on my list.


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