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.Read More
Quality of leadership largely determines whether an organization rises, falls, or remains stagnant. But leaders do not magically descend from some higher realm. They are cultivated over time through experience, education, and perseverance.
Nearly every company contains its share of potential leaders, and it is the responsibility of current leaders to identify and foster future leadership roles or else risk leaving a major hole in the organization. Failing to spot a future leader puts the company at risk of losing them forever.
Of course, not every worker is destined to be – or interested in being – a leader. Investing in these individuals is not a waste of time, but the lion’s share of leadership development resources are better spent on those who display the potential to hold a leadership role.
With that in mind, let’s go over how to identify future leaders at your organization.
Who Goes the Extra Mile in Your Company?
Past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior, especially when it comes to self-motivation and a willingness to learn. When seeking the future leaders of your company, a good place to start is by looking at previous results.
Consider who in your organization consistently goes above and beyond expectations. Look for people who think beyond the basics and seize opportunities to try new things and assist others.
- Who seems to have a burning desire to do more, learn more, and connect more?
- Which salesperson might not have the best sales numbers yet, but seems genuinely interested in being the top seller?
- Which customer service rep always leaves customers chuckling and smiling?
- Who’s always talking about wanting the company to grow?
- Who’s bursting with creative ideas?
In addition to work-related tasks, give a closer look to the employees who seem personally dedicated to outside causes and personal hobbies that show dedication. On an even more basic level, keep an eye on who helps out around the office simply because they care. They may have hidden leadership potential.
- Who stays behind to help clean up after an employee lunch?
- Who seems to remember everyone’s birthday and helps them feel special?
- Who has ideas for company celebrations and outings?
Employees who are highly motivated, results-driven, and interpersonally connected tend to show their enthusiasm without specifically being asked to do so. These are highly valuable employees and team members who come up with new, innovative ideas that drive the company’s efforts into new territories.
Pay close attention to the people in your company who keep the enterprise moving forward with passion, as they already exhibit strong leadership qualities. With extra support and encouragement, they could become your company’s future superstar managers and executives.
Weigh Both Potential and Performance
Also, look beyond your sales and customer service staff. Even if they’re not your top performers in terms of your bottom line, they might be perfect fits for various leadership roles in the future. Provide leadership training now, and your company could help all kinds of people become top performers who reach new heights. Performance is undoubtedly a key indicator when spotting future leaders, but it’s not the only indicator. You may have employees who hold high potential but who are currently diamonds in the rough. They may work extremely hard but don’t seem to exude much leadership role potential quite yet.
“Leadership potential” is a somewhat ambiguous metric, of course, and therefore more difficult to pick apart than hard data. Still, pay attention to potential leadership skills, such as:
- Strong communication
- Organizational skills
- Team-building aptitude
- A desire to grow and learn
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Strategic thinking
- Humor and creativity
- Openness to feedback
- Willingness to be held accountable
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a quiet or reserved person is incapable of being a leader. Not every leader is a bold, take-charge type. Some leadership roles call for more measured forms of leadership that are a great match for more reserved people.
Shake Up the Structure
Another helpful way to identify future leaders is by stirring the pot a bit. Start rotating job duties or assigning new roles to people every now and again. In doing so, some individuals will take full advantage of the opportunity, learning new skills and pushing themselves beyond their perceived limits.
Others may wish to stay in their comfort zones or might buckle under the pressure. You’ll be able to see who thrives when given more responsibility and who shies away from it or outright rejects it. This technique is known as job rotation, and it’s common in certain industries. Companies use it to see who can handle leadership, to prepare for audits or prevent fraud, and to keep employees engaged so they don’t burn out.
Job rotation is a powerful exercise for succession planning, as it can help you determine which candidates can adapt quickly and take on new roles when necessary. Not everyone is the right fit for leadership, and that’s okay. The goal is to find the right candidates for immediate additional leadership development.
Ask Yourself: Who Is Asking Questions?
While not everyone who asks questions is bound to be a leader, all future leaders ask questions. Leaders are curious, peppering people with questions about pivotal issues that impact the company, their teams, and their personal futures.
This spirit of inquiry is directly related to strong communication and therefore strong leadership. Questions are a huge part of tackling thorny issues and finding workable solutions. People with leadership potential also have the bravery and boldness to be inquisitive.
So keep an eye on those who take the time to clarify concepts, inquire about plan specifics, seek solutions to ongoing problems, and ask seemingly simple questions that others might be too timid to ask. These are the hallmarks of a potential leader and someone who inspires others to achieve great things.
Train Your Eye for Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is one of the most important qualities of a good leader. Those who can listen to the concerns and suggestions of others and act accordingly strengthen the company’s culture, encourage employee buy-in, promote teamwork, and improve the organization’s reputation and operations as a whole.
EQ is about understanding what people mean, even when it’s not what they say. This is a challenging concept for many people who aren’t naturally intuitive. In a professional setting, EQ is about being willing to have complex interpersonal interactions that reveal deeper truths and help move issues forward.
Contrary to popular myth, emotional intelligence is learned and not inborn. It’s a skill that can be developed through education, coaching, practice, and determination. Emotionally-intelligent company cultures tend to be more successful because they can nimbly seize opportunities that arise day after day.
When looking for EQ in future leaders, look for individuals who display empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, and strong social skills. These individuals are often poised for leadership positions, with some additional guidance and support.
Who’s Personally Invested in the Organization?
Even if you’ve found a handful of candidates who meet the above criteria, you have to consider whether or not they’re in it for the long haul. Are they invested in your company? This isn’t a strictly financial question. It’s about an emotional and psychological investment that goes beyond the paycheck.
Those who show strong future leadership role potential are in high demand, after all, and many businesses spend significant resources training future managers only to have them exit the organization shortly after. This is a cycle of employee loss that’s much easier to prevent when you identify future leaders and nourish them to their full potential.
Developing future leaders in your company starts with identifying the best candidates and continues with retaining them. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many people in your organization want to move up in the company and remain working there if you give them the right motivation to do so through leadership development.
While you can’t force any of your leaders to stay at the company, investing in their growth is a crucial way to retain your top talent. And those who routinely express their interest in the company’s future and their role in it are top contenders for future leaders. In short, if a potential leader is invested in your organization, you must invest in their development.
The Accelerate Leadership Program
Does your company need additional assistance with how to identify future leaders and give them the support they need to flourish? At Leadership Resources, our goal is to help companies thrive through deploying effective leadership techniques, especially when it comes to nourishing emerging leaders.
Any company hoping to spot future leaders among its employees would benefit from leadership development coaching and education. Leadership coaching and development programs go far beyond basic leadership training programs because they use a holistic approach that incorporates a proven process, customized coursework, peer interactions, leadership coaches, software, and an archive of helpful resources to help them stay engaged.
Consider the Accelerate Leadership Program (ALP), which helps participants expand their leadership confidence and knowledge. ALP allows each participant to hone their leadership style while learning the essential skills it takes to connect with people and lead teams to success.
At Leadership Resources, we help companies identify emerging leaders and encourage them to reach their full potential. When your company needs to implement an effective future leadership strategy, we’re here to provide expert guidance and support.
Strong leadership and strong communication are inextricably linked — you simply cannot have one without the other. The best leaders maintain a clear line of communication with their peers, partners, employees, and customers. In doing so, these leaders develop a deeper understanding of relevant situations, issues, shortcomings, and opportunities while delivering clear feedback and instruction that steers the ship in a purposeful direction. Let’s dive deeper into why communication is so crucial in leadership.
What Are the Benefits of Good Communication?
Communication Keeps People on the Same Page
Team management is a challenge for businesses of all sizes. Whether a team consists of a few people or dozens of individuals, leaders with strong communication skills are the glue that holds said team together through thick and thin. It’s worth noting that proper communication isn’t a one-way street, either. Leaders must be equally adept at delivering instructions and receiving feedback from team members in order to manage their team optimally. This reciprocity allows leaders to earn the respect and engagement of their employees and make informed decisions that garner maximum buy-in.
Communication Is Key to Understanding Problems
The ability to listen is one of the most important qualities of a good leader, and, as previously mentioned, half of the communication equation. If you fail to hear or comprehend the concerns of those within your organization, the smallest issues can grow into a rot that’s more and more difficult to expel over time. The best leaders actively check in with their people to uncover any nascent problems so they can resolve them as quickly and effectively as possible. New issues are still bound to arise — the key is getting ahead of them with masterful communication rather than ignoring them or missing them entirely.
Communication Drives Positive Change
The whole point of understanding problems in your organization is to discover weak points that you can fix and then make various adjustments that push your company in a better direction. In this way, then, strong leadership communication skills are the driving force behind constructive change. Your organization will struggle to grow or improve if its leaders don’t properly respond to problems and opportunities when they arise.
Communication Helps Retain Top Talent
In recent posts, we’ve discussed the importance of employee retention, especially when it comes to keeping top talent in your organization. While these retention efforts are multi-faceted, leadership communication remains at the heart of them. Those with the most potential in your company may seek other opportunities if they don’t feel like their ideas are being heard and/or if they don’t feel properly compensated for their contributions. In order to keep these valuable people around, leaders must help them grow with the organization — this might mean promoting them into new positions, guiding their own leadership development, giving them appropriate raises, and so on. Whatever the case, these decisions must be based on the mutual needs of these individuals and your company, which can only be uncovered through powerful communication.
Leaders who display strong communication keep their people on the same page, understand and resolve issues before they fester, improve their operations and culture, and retain the very best people to keep this cycle going. At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow at times like these when you need it most.Read More