With the start of a new year, developing healthy habits are atop everyone’s mind. By now, we’ve all set our resolutions with a new hope to achieve goals both at work and home. In light of this tradition, as I continue to refine my own leadership style, I have pulled together common threads and habits of what literature sites as common habits of successful leaders. Forming new routines in our daily lives can be a challenge, but small changes make a huge difference.
It seems like a simple task, but try to recall how many books you read last year. Americans read fewer and fewer books each year yet reading has shown to increase empathy and emotional intelligence, which are two key traits found in successful leaders. Like anyone else, leaders must be exposed to new and thoughtful ideas. The key is to choose books that are insightful. Additionally, research suggests that many leaders will reread the same article or book multiple times. It’s not because they didn’t understand the concepts the first time. It’s because the concepts are so important to the leader that they want to be reminded of them. Leaders are readers because they want to keep the best business concepts at the forefront of their thoughts.
Great leaders surround themselves with mentors and advisors. As someone who wants to be a leader, you may be an individual who is too hard on yourself. Having a mentor, or someone to look up to, will help you more fairly evaluate your performance and ability to navigate workplace politics. Not only that, but you are able to model yourself after someone who has worked through challenges you may yet face. To help figure out who you should reach out to as a mentor, ask yourself the following questions: What guides the decisions you make and the type of leader you want to be? What attributes do you need to fulfill these values? Who do you know (intimately or from a distance) who consistently demonstrates these attributes? After all, no matter how competitive you may feel, especially early in your career, success is, in reality, a team sport.
Tomorrow’s best executives will lead with questions, not answers. Successful leaders constantly look for ways to bring value to their workplace thus they often ask “why?” when other companies seem stuck to the status quo. It’s not just an external process either. Successful leaders ask themselves why they make the decisions they make. When you understand your why, you can change your destiny.
Leaders are especially vulnerable to stress. Often leaders put others first and sacrifice their own well-being in the process. Leadership demands long hours and great effort but rest and relaxation are just as essential as hard work. Finding time to take care of your physical, mental, and spiritual health is vital when aiming to be a successful leader. The healthy executive must take time for themselves and they should not apologize or feel guilty for doing so.
Recognize that the truly organized rarely try to “do it all.” Prioritizing is key when it comes to getting work done. And every successful leader organizes her or his professional life around what’s important to advance and achieve their goals. Setting and tracking goals can help one move from aimless action to a well-thought-out strategy. Similarly, when you see your goals written down, you are more easily able to prioritize tasks.
With all of this in mind, I encourage you to reexamine your resolutions for 2019. Think about your routine in and out of work to better assess where you’d like to focus. As legendary football coach Vince Lombardi famously said, “Leaders are made, they are not born.” Your efforts will go far if you place them strategically.