After coaching hundreds of leaders over more than two decades, I’m convinced that you don’t have to be a so-called “born leader” or a “natural leader” to be a successful leader. You can become one.
And it’s not rocket science either. Like so many things in life, it takes being diligent about certain practices.
I find that the most effective and influential leaders achieved success by practicing the following five habits consistently.
- Be disciplined about managing your time, energy and priorities.
Make calendar appointments with yourself to tackle important projects, then be conscientious about keeping those appointments. Carving out time in this way will help keep you from getting pulled off track by the mini-crises that inevitably arise or from getting bogged down responding to endless incoming emails, etc.
Another thing that will help you manage your time is to follow this management mantra, “Do it, delegate it, date it, or delete it.”
Bonus tip: A handy time management guide for leaders is to split the use of your time into three equal parts – productivity, strategy and leading/coaching.
- Prioritize strategic planning and action.
Set aside three to five hours every week to think deeply about issues from a high-level perspective, and make this time non-negotiable.
During these strategy sessions, use planning tools like the SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Consider key factors such as resources, stakeholder support, financing, implementation, etc. Also, practice big picture thinking by leaving aside tactical concerns while you strategize. (You, or your team, can attend to the details later.)
- Make time for employee conversations, then listen more than you talk.
Great leaders ask open-ended questions that prompt team members to see fresh perspectives, make new connections and imagine creative possibilities. By listening without judgment, leaders create an environment that allows disagreement, which is key to collaboration and innovation.
- Focus on developing your team members.
Meet individually with employees regularly to ask about their growth goals. What skills would they like to acquire? What are their career objectives? Then give them access to relevant training programs, coaching, mentoring, etc. Be generous with praise and skillful about how you deliver criticism. Make it a practice to give positive feedback to employees every day.
- Give precedence to your own development as a leader.
Schedule time weekly for your own leadership development. Invest in your own learning, whether that means reading articles or books by current thought leaders, taking a leadership training course, meeting with a coach, etc.
Investigate your own leadership effectiveness by asking questions like: What are my strengths as a leader? What strengths do I need to develop? What is my leadership vision? Embrace challenges by seeing them as learning opportunities. Cultivate a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness.
The good news is that none of these habits is particularly difficult. You just have to stick to them and you too can develop a leadership mindset.
And while being diligent about habits isn’t easy when you have so many competing demands on your time, I guarantee you that if you make the above practices habitual you will be well on your way to becoming a more effective leader.
In fact, while at The Workplace Coach we typically work with our executive coaching clients and leadership coaching clients on leadership capabilities like strategic thinking, navigating change, and developing a CEO mindset, often the most important changes our clients make are adopting these habits and then faithfully sticking to them.
It sounds easy, but of course it’s not. That’s where the support and accountability provided by an executive coach or leadership coach can make a meaningful difference.
Are you ready to become an exceptional leader? Contact The Workplace Coach today.