The Leadership Dilemma: Should You Set Short- or Long-Term Objectives?

About the author

Greg Dorban is a Demand Generation Professional helping global companies to create more opportunities in their marketing and sales programmes.  He is Head of Inbound Marketing with strategic consultation on search, social, web, conversion and content at Ledger Bennett, a specialist B2B agency.

When you are in a leadership role, a large part of your responsibility is setting objectives; for your organization, your teams, department and people.

Do you ever consider if the objectives you set should be short or long-term orientated?

Does it matter and is there a right or wrong answer?

Leadership Pragmatism

Like so many things about leadership, there is no clear-cut right answer.  No matter how badly you want things to be black and white as a leader, they are more often a shade of grey. Setting objectives as part of your leadership role you have to find the balance between short and long-term objectives.  As the leader you need your team to focus on a combination or mixture of long and short-term objectives.

Here’s why:

The Leadership Task Of Vision

Long-term objectives provide vision.  It requires strategic thought and continual dedication. Over time, visionary long-term objectives create the differentiation producing winners. However, progress towards such advantages takes time. Typical focuses could be unique brand positioning, the best customer service, or best subject matter experts and technical skills against competitors. Leaders and senior management also require objectives that demonstrate value in activity, be it revenue, increased opportunities, higher efficiency or reduced costs.  The only problem is moving towards these is not overnight and along the journey you may have commercial pressures. This is where short-term targets come in.

The Leadership Task Of Bench-Marking

Short term objectives provide benchmarks towards your long-term goals. In the absence of long-term objectives your focus may become shortsighted, focusing only on short-term quick fixes like;

  • what the required sales are for this month,
  • quick fixes in recruitment or
  • short-sighted infrastructure changes

Without linking the short-term objectives to strategic long-term goals, these short-term decisions may prove costly, putting the business and your team under pressure.

Short term objectives should therefore be used in support of the long-term visionary objectives as benchmarks to indicate progress towards achieving the long-term objective.  Making use of short-term objectives as an end in itself indicate a weakness in your leadership effectiveness and planning capabilities.

You might set an objective to increase your overall sales for the year by increasing your pipeline.  Measuring your monthly sales in the light of the overall long-term goal will act as a motivator to your team.  Short-term targets are also more digestible and motivating for staff  when they see the immediate benefits and acts to stimulate further effort to keep up and improve them.

So when setting your objectives, think what will make you win in the long-term, and how you can provide short-term objectives to help move you towards there.

Written by Joseph Hawking

I have a passion for people & leadership development and since I discovered my mom’s old typewriter as a boy, I have written in some form or another.
I started blogging in 2017 and in August 2018, I started The Leadership Connexion with the aim to make the connection between Business, Leadership and Life. My professional experience span across various business disciplines, including Training, Project Management, Human Resource Management and Finance. I have a MBA degree, am co-founder a Industrial Water Treatment Company and lecture International Business at Monash SA University.
I am part of the Leadership for The International Mentoring Network (IMN), South African Chapter, where I am a regular Idea Studio Facilitator and Annual IMN Conference Speaker. I believe that the highest form of living is using what you are blessed with to add value to other people’s lives.

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About Joseph Hawking

I have a passion for people & leadership development and since I discovered my mom’s old typewriter as a boy, I have written in some form or another.
I started blogging in 2017 and in August 2018, I started The Leadership Connexion with the aim to make the connection between Business, Leadership and Life. My professional experience span across various business disciplines, including Training, Project Management, Human Resource Management and Finance. I have a MBA degree, am co-founder a Industrial Water Treatment Company and lecture International Business at Monash SA University.
I am part of the Leadership for The International Mentoring Network (IMN), South African Chapter, where I am a regular Idea Studio Facilitator and Annual IMN Conference Speaker. I believe that the highest form of living is using what you are blessed with to add value to other people’s lives.