How to Set, Track and Achieve Your Goals

On 28 November 1979, an Air New Zealand sightseeing aircraft carrying 257 people crashed head-on into the side of a volcano in Antarctica.


The pilot Captain Jim Collins flew two large loops through the clouds to bring the plane down to about 2,000ft (610m) and offer his passengers a better view. Assuming he was on the same flight path as previous flights and over the vast McMurdo Sound, he wouldn't have foreseen any problems. Instead of ice and snow in the distance, the cockpit was looking at the mountain right ahead of them. Then, shortly before 1 pm, the plane's proximity alarms went off. With no time to pull up, the aircraft plowed straight into the side of Mount Erebus six seconds later.


The initial investigation concluded the accident was caused primarily by pilot error, but public outcry led to the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the crash. The commission, presided over by Justice Peter Mahon QC, concluded that the accident was primarily caused by a correction made to the coordinates of the flight path the night before the disaster.


Those who corrected the flight path failed to inform the flight crew of the change. The result was that the aircraft was rerouted to a path toward Mount Erebus instead of being directed by computer down McMurdo Sound (as the crew had been led to believe). The investigation found that the plane was 2 degrees off course, causing it to crash into a mountain instead of flying over a lake. This led to an aviation law called the 1-in-60 rule.


In air navigation, the 1-in-60 rule states that if a pilot has traveled 60 miles, an error in the Track of one mile is approximately a 1° error in heading and proportionately more for more significant errors. In simpler terms, when a plane is off course by 1 degree, it misses its target by 60 miles.


In life, as in aviation, everyone should use the 1-in-60 rule to achieve any goal. It's a mental model about making decisions, evaluating your course & making corrections. For example, if you set a destination but never check your progress or make an adjustment, you could end up at a destination you never intended to land in. We tend to set goals as we look forward to a new year and the prospects it brings. 2023 is no different. So as we set our goals for 2023, how can we use the 1-in-60 rule to make it work for us?


Set a specific goal & make it measurable. The key to achieving goals is to measure them against something. For example, one may want to lose weight or get in shape. Noble as it sounds, sadly, that is not a goal. It's merely that, a want. However, weighing in at 70kgs in the next three months is a specific goal that we can measure ourselves against. Once we come up with a specific, measurable goal, this allows us to track progress & make any course corrections needed.


Create a process to achieve it. Once we have a specific, measurable goal in mind, we need to ask ourselves what things we can focus on & control that would help us achieve this goal. For example, if we go back to the weight loss example above, we could focus on tracking our foods, drinking water, going to the gym three times a week & getting 8 to 10 thousand steps in. It would not make sense to want to lose 10kgs in 2 months, yet every day we are eating the most unhealthy foods, would it?


Foresee obstacles. Then solve them. Much like a plane needs to check the weather ahead, we must write out possible obstacles to following our process. The advantage of doing this is that it makes us proactive rather than reactive. Moreover, the great thing about listing potential barriers is that we then plan the solutions to overcome them.


Forget about the goal. Track and adjust course. Focusing on the goal when you're not there yet leaves you feeling empty. Many successful people focus on the process designed to achieve the goal. Their focus is on what they can do today. In so doing, they control what they can handle. If you're not progressing toward your goal, ask if the plan needs to be changed or if you need to be more patient. You may only need a tiny adjustment to put yourself back on course.


One of the biggest keys to the 1-in-60 rule is making sure you choose the right destination in the first place. When setting any goal, make sure it lines up with your values & how you want to live life so you don't end up charting the wrong course. Goals set the destination. The 1-in-60 rule guides your path.

Become a more authentic, relevant, and impactful leader

When a leader steps into the leadership role, the way others perceive them changes. Naturally, subjects expect the leader to understand the company’s or department’s direction clearly. They expect the leader to be on top, have the energy, and be engaged in the task. Furthermore, they expect the leader to act instead of being passive regarding specific subject-matter issues and conflicts in the department.

Stepping into a leadership role, making it their own, and unpacking it; is defined as leadership identity. In other words, one begins to see themselves as leader and act like one.

In a sense, leadership identity is thus something one is assigned when interacting with their employees, managers, and business partners. However, it is also something one actively chooses. Therefore, leadership identity is crucial to how a leader works and succeeds with different tasks. The good news is that everyone can work on it, adjust it and refine it throughout their career.

Professionalism vs. leadership identity

Leaders usually have a history as professionals, which is often the foundation for their work as leaders of employees with the same professional background. We all know the engineer who became head of his colleagues at a consultancy or the schoolteacher who became headmaster. The leadership role is often closely linked to professional competency. Some leaders are, to a greater extent than others, able to move away from their professional background and towards a strong leadership identity. This is interesting because research suggests that how you understand yourself as a leader is crucial to how you act in this role.

The stronger the leadership identity a leader experiences, the more vision management the leader exercises. Strong leadership identity is thus an advantage when the leader needs to get a helicopter view and work with visions, strategy, and long-term goals. Of course, as a leader, there will always be situations, projects, and tasks that call for more professional leadership and a solid professional identity, e.g., the engineer who manages to lead professionally on a significant strategic construction project. However, it is essential for the engineer in question not to get so caught up in the professional challenge that they unknowingly blur the leadership identity. Here, it is a strength that you as a leader can complement and balance the two identities so that you, in addition to being able to influence the level of professionalism, are still aware of and manage to lift yourself and take general responsibility.

In our view, leadership identity is not about the leader being more concise, framing, and managing. It may be the right thing to do in some situations; however, in other cases, it may be the right thing to be more facilitating, supportive, and give space to others. Therefore, it is very much about you looking at your task, people, and organization and pragmatically taking on the job of doing what is required, thereby growing in and with the job you are to solve. For the same reason, leadership identity is not static. On the contrary, it can be actively developed. Thus, leadership is something you need to work on and practice.

Leaders act

Leadership identity is also about how you view the relations surrounding you in your department and regarding business partners in the organization or among clients. As we all know, work relations vary. Some are close and constructive. Others are distant and more difficult. Sometimes, uncertainty or even conflicts arise. Several explanations exist for how these relations have become deficient or less productive. Sometimes, it is because others have done or failed to do something, which is the reason for the disagreement or conflict.

However, as a leader, the reason for the conflict does not matter. Instead, a leader must consider it a challenge that needs addressing. For example, it might require them to raise the question in the presence of everyone. Or it may require them to invite the other colleague for a cup of coffee to discuss issues. Or it may need them to almost invisibly start being more friendly, supportive, and listening to the leader’s approach to the other person, even if it is out of their comfort zone. What matters is that the leader does not let the issue slide if it is critical to their department or business.

Leadership identity is also about being decisive. Perhaps a project needs to be shut down, or an employee needs to be dismissed. Or maybe an employee needs to be promoted and challenged with new tasks. These and more decisions call on leaders to be swift in decision-making. At, we usually say, Be Decisive, Be Brief, Be Bold, and Be Gone.

Leaders are ordinarily thought of as having two main tasks. One of them is to solve the task at hand. This means getting projects started, holding client meetings, and ensuring budget follow-up. Let us call this task 1. The other task is to ensure that while we solve task 1, the department, unit, team, and individual become more robust, skilled, and competent. Let us call this task 2. Unfortunately, when we stress that it must take place simultaneously, task 1 is almost always prioritised higher than task 2, and task 2 is often postponed to a day when there is more time. When will that day be? That becomes the million-dollar question. Therefore, the leader needs to constantly have an eye for how to work in a way that lets them solve the task while simultaneously challenging an employee to extend beyond what they usually do or challenging the team’s way of working together. This makes the team even more robust so that the leader can continue to solve the tasks smarter and better. Having an eye for task 2 and prioritizing it in everyday life is key to taking on leadership identity.

How does one develop a more assertive leadership identity?

We can say that leadership identity must be found and unfolded at the intersection of the task and the demands it places on one as a leader and their considerations about what kind of leader they can and want to be.

A good starting point, therefore, is looking at the task. This means looking at the department’s needs, what the collaboration with managers or clients demands from you, and how you can work on strengthening what is needed. Specifically, this can be done by the leader by looking at tasks, employees, and client relations and considering what is required from the leader.

Another starting point could be to look at what many people today call your personal leadership foundation. That is, a definition of why you lead, who you want to be as a leader, and how you want to approach the task as a leader. We are talking about the values and behavior that should act as a guiding star for you in your leadership practice. Naturally, the ability to reflect and evaluate means a lot here. If having such a defining task on your own is difficult, it can be advantageous to get help from others.

With your leadership foundation in place, you create good conditions for being at ease as a leader. This refers to a leader who, if necessary, can turn up either the leadership identity or the professional identity, depending on the context and situation. When you are clear about your leadership foundation, it can increase your adaptability and help you get the most out of the different conditions and circumstances that you as a leader find yourself in at any given time.

Taking on leadership identity is about filling the leadership role. Additionally, it’s taking on the task of “adding to the situation what is needed to succeed.” Whether the situation is a task that has reached a deadlock, a conflict or a crisis in the department, or a business or client relationship that is not working optimally, leaders need to step up.

Taking on a leadership identity does not always make it easier to be a leader. But it works better, and it creates more impact! Our range of leadership programs, from junior to senior leaders, has helped many leaders hone their leadership identities. Please get in touch with us at to discuss various leadership training offerings.