Creating habits that will benefit you both personally and professionally is key to ensuring your ultimate success.
Leadership characteristics—the features and qualities that define you as a leader—are what the world observes from the outside in a qualitative manner. Prerequisite to embodying these characteristics are your habits. What you do on your own time, when no one is watching, is just as important, if not more important, than what you do around others and in positions of leadership. Of course, the world’s greatest leaders all have their own personal habits and idiosyncrasies; but there are a number of fundamental habits that all great leaders seem to share. Here are four habits that, if you haven’t already, you need to delve into this year in order to help cultivate yourself as a leader.
According to John Coleman of the Harvard Business Review, leaders who read “can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.” A quick search of the reading habits of the world’s greatest leaders yield some interesting but expected results. Reading—a lot of reading—is something in common that Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have (and had; rest in bliss Mr. Jobs). Their international celebrity, influence and success in business are but a few reasons to consider them to be exceptional leaders, and all three credit reading as a habit that helped their paths.
Different genres help you develop in different ways, where reading business books or journals seem to increase verbal intelligence, and reading novels help nourish creativity. Whatever it may be, making a habit of reading for thirty minutes to an hour a day will only yield positive outcomes and cultivate your leadership.
The benefits of meditation deserve more than a few sentences or paragraphs, but I’d be amiss not to include this practice as a habit that cultivates great leaders. Meditation is the focusing of one’s thoughts and/or engaging in deep contemplation. It may seem like a foreign or difficult practice, but it’s actually quite simple. All you need to do to is spend ten or fifteen minutes a day performing focused breathing exercises. For those who are still puzzled on how to meditate, you’re one Google or Youtube search away from guided meditation tutorials.
Meditation is a little bit more than a habit amongst the world’s top CEOs—it’s a culture. The benefits of meditation, for CEOs and exceptional leaders alike, include enhanced focus, creativity, mindfulness and more. It may seem counterintuitive, where the leaders of the corporate world typically have hectic and stressful schedules, but ten to fifteen minutes of meditation a day actually promotes a relaxed state of mind. It’s a habit that’s proven to cultivate great leadership; so go meditate (after you finish reading this article.)
We all know that habits are hard to create, and break, after your 20s — especially in the case of exercise; but that’s the point, right? The Center for Creative Leadership explains how exercise has a multitude of mental and physical benefits, and great leaders need to be mentally and physically healthy. Research from the CCL points towards a positive correlation between regular exercise and effective leadership. You may or may not already have an exercise routine, but it’s important to understand that different exercise habits sharpen different areas of your mind and body. What I’ve learned is best, for me at least, is to start by focusing on exercises that I don’t usually do, or exercises that come difficult for me. Making a habit of exercising this way will help you turn your weaknesses into strengths and definitely support your path to becoming a great leader.
This is a tricky one. I’m certainly not saying that anyone should make a habit of failing, much less someone whose goal it is to become a great leader. What I mean is that great leaders embrace failure and respond in constructive ways. At the risk of toying with a cliche, I truly believe that great leaders don’t succeed without first failing. Adversity truly weeds out the great from the average.
A great way to put this into perspective is to call this “habit” intelligent failure. In addition to being a strategy on how to respond to failure and learn from it, like the previously discussed habits, a culture that the world’s greatest leaders are implementing in their businesses. Whether a negative outcome was avoidable or not, there is always a silver lining in falling short of success. It’s whether or not you realize and grow from the silver linings that will determine if you’re good at failing; and if you are, you’re certainly on the right path to becoming a great leader.
This year, if you haven’t already tried these habits on for size (they fit all great leaders), don’t waste any more time. Read, meditate, exercise and fail — but fail well.
Culture is no longer a buzzword; it’s an essential business focus that has a direct impact on your company’s recruiting and talent retention strategies.
I founded Culturized to help organizations embrace outstanding culture and to create a more engaged workforce that drives better business results. With over 20 years of experience at Dale Carnegie & Associates, and a client-base full of Fortune 500 companies, I understand the importance of an organization’s culture and the type of impact it has for your company’s success.
My business expertise spans various industries including professional services, IT, sales and services, and oil and gas. Additionally, I’ve conducted more than 200 interviews with industry thought leaders and subject matter experts regarding the necessity of strong culture in the workplace.