No two leaders are exactly alike, but the most successful leaders often have plenty in common. Personal preferences, opinions, and life experiences aside, certain leadership qualities ring true across the board.
Characteristics like honesty, responsiveness, passion, and integrity are almost universally valued in successful and growing companies. While these traits might be somewhat inherent in certain leaders, the best leaders become successful by honing specific skills through hard work and habit formation.
What, exactly, are the habits of some of the world’s most effective leaders? Let’s outline the habits of a successful leader that most reliably allow people to acquire and maintain leadership success in their workplace and life.
Cultivating a Thirst for Knowledge
One of the most important qualities of an effective leader is the willingness and ability to continuously learn. Curiosity counts because it keeps people reaching out to educate themselves about new topics and innovative ideas arising in the world.
A successful leader gathers knowledge from a wide variety of sources. They read books across genres and fields of expertise, listen to people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, and ask questions of their peers, employees, friends, and even strangers. All of these activities allow leaders to expand their horizons.
Even if a piece of information might not seem immediately relevant to a leader’s life or career, it could be immensely helpful later. This is why a successful leader often has an unexpected type of hobby or interest. The diversity of their learning leads to a diversity of hobbies and habits.
The culmination of these various bits of knowledge can be synthesized over time in new and unique ways. Creativity abounds when your brain is constantly in a state of stimulation. There is no downside, only upside, to receiving an ongoing education. Successful leaders know there’s always more to discover.
Maintaining a Balance of Confidence and Humility
There are always areas of growth for leaders, and the only way to identify and improve those areas is to put your ego aside, then pick it back up to act on those necessary changes. Leadership success comes with power and privileges, and this prestige can cloud the mind of individuals who lack humility.
Conversely, leaders who lack confidence can struggle to get things done, create buy-in, and maintain positive forward momentum. The void in their interpersonal skill causes people to keep them at a distance, which makes team-building a struggle.
As such, the most successful leaders strike a careful balance between confidence and humility. They’ve developed a skill for listening closely to their peers and team members while not backing down from bold ideas.
Focusing on Physical, Mental, and Social Health
The aforementioned array of power and privilege inherent in leadership also brings its fair share of stress, which manifests both in the mind and body. Leaders who fail to take care of their mental and physical health can burn out, lash out, and/or simply become less effective overall.
Social health is also important because it keeps people connected to their colleagues, friends, family members, and society. Ample research has shown that when someone is overly isolated, their socio-emotional health suffers and they’re at higher risk for conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Overall leadership success largely depends on maintaining a healthy lifestyle both in and out of work. The best leaders focus on managing leadership stress by exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, eating healthfully, taking breaks, practicing mindfulness, and more. They may engage in relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga, which have positive effects on the heart, mind, and body.
Taking the time for self-care allows leaders to operate with a clear mind and high-functioning body. This is crucial for maintaining a Success ChainTM of positive habits like getting things done quickly and getting them done right.
Staying Organized Personally and Professionally
Effective leaders are also well-organized where it counts. While a messy desk might be a proverbial sign of genius, it’s not exactly ideal for strategic planning, scheduling, goal-tracking, and so on.
Organization helps everything stay on track, especially when someone is in charge of managing people and teams. Keeping documents and items in their proper places, taking regular notes, journaling, and maintaining a detailed calendar helps keep things straight so leaders can spend less time and energy shuffling papers around and more on other matters.
When a leader has good organizational skills, this sets the stage for other high-level leadership tasks like team-based brainstorming, innovative idea generation, performance management, employee check-ins, executive meetings, and much more.
Positively Pushing Themselves and Others
Organizations can only grow if leaders and their teams are constantly coming up with new ideas and taking calculated risks. Indeed, this willingness to push the envelope is one of the key qualities of a good leader, and honing it depends on leaders pushing themselves out of their comfort zones in every area of their lives, including at work.
When we refer to “pushing themselves and others” in this context, what we mean is positive pushing. Good leaders aren’t pushy, but they bring others along through positive motivation, inspiration, and a drive to achieve greater things in the future. They challenge others to accomplish things because they’re constantly challenging themselves to do so too.
Successful leaders are always challenging themselves, whether it’s running an extra quarter-mile than initially planned, trying a new type of cuisine, attending an unlikely event, making a new friend, or almost anything else. Living life “on the edge” in this way conditions leaders to be bolder in the workplace and mitigate the fear of the unknown so their organization and people can grow in unexpected ways.
Successful leaders are creatures of habit – but not just any habits. These are positive, proactive, and productive habits that help growing organizations. The habits of leadership involve pursuits like gaining new knowledge, becoming more self-aware, improving one’s mental and physical well-being, staying organized, and always staying open to trying new things.
Remember: Leadership Habits are Learned, Not Inborn
People often assume that leadership habits naturally arise from certain personalities and backgrounds, but that’s not the case. There is no “leadership gene” or inborn trait that automatically makes someone a good leader.
Leadership is learned behavior that comes from building habits and practicing leadership skills. This includes actively practicing a wide variety of leadership-related habits such as:
- Building strong paths of communication between oneself and others
- Regularly putting organizational skills to work
- Openness to joining and leading teams
- A desire to grow and learn
- Practicing flexibility and adaptability in thinking
- Forging interpersonal connections
- Strategic thinking whenever possible
- Finding humor and creativity in daily life
- Openness to receiving feedback from peers and supervisors
- Willingness to be held accountable for one’s work
Almost every company has plenty of potential leaders who need a supportive culture that provides enough guidance to go to the next level. They’re ready to learn new leadership skills and habits, but aren’t sure how to pursue a path to leadership without their organization’s help.
Do you have emerging leaders who could benefit from leadership development coaching and education? If so, take a look at the information below about a proven program that builds productive leadership habits.
The Accelerate Leadership Program
At Leadership Resources, our goal is to help companies thrive through proven techniques for developing positive leadership habits that lead to organizational success. The Accelerate Leadership Program (ALP) helps participants expand their leadership talent, confidence, and knowledge.
This is an effective way to learn leadership habits because ALP allows each participant to hone their leadership style while learning the essential skills it takes to motivate and inspire people. It’s a personalized and individualized program that allows each person to build productive new habits in their own way.
ALP is different from many other types of habit-building programs because it’s coaching, not just training. Leadership coaching programs go far beyond basic leadership training programs because they use a more robust approach that incorporates a proven process, customized coursework, peer connections, leadership coaches, interactive software, and an archive of helpful resources to help them stay engaged.
At Leadership Resources, we help companies identify emerging leaders and give them the habits they need to stay successful. We’re here to provide guidance and support when your company needs to build positive habits of leadership that will last for the long haul.