Positive leadership habits are important for leading people effectively. They enable leaders to create a consistent pattern of behaviour which helps them to be more reliable and dependable.
This reliability and dependability goes a long way to building trust. People know what they’re going to get when they work for you, and they can expect you to show up for them consistently.
But as we know, creating or changing habits is not easy.
Healthline says that it can take between 18 to 254 days to create a habit. James Clear (a prominent habit thought leader) writes that science tells us it takes about 66 days to form a habit on average.
It’s hard to create a habit, because we often get knocked off course. If you do something for one week then forget about it the next, that’s not a habit.
A habit is created when the behaviour is embedded and repeated for a long period, without you necessarily needing to force yourself to do it each time.
In this post, I’ll introduce 3 important ingredients that I believe are critical for creating leadership habits that last. This is based on my own habit-forming experience and from working with my coaching clients.
What Type of Leadership Habits Are We Talking About?
There are lots of leadership habits that you could put in place.
Some common examples of useful leadership habits include:
- Asking for input or feedback: We know that asking for input from your team helps them feel more included, valued and engaged. It also helps you to improve your skills and reduce your blind spots. Many leaders run on autopilot and forget to ask. Setting a habit can help you consistently engage with your team and keep the communication lines open.
- Prioritising: Setting priorities is useful as a direction-setting tool. Without priorities it’s hard to negotiate your time, or know when you’ve been productive!
- Coaching: Instead of telling your people what to do, you might create a habit of coaching them instead. This positive leadership habit can help your team grow and become more proactive and self-assured.
- Delegation: If you can make delegation one of your leadership habits, you can consistently empower your team and help to manage your workload.
- Providing autonomy: Micromanagement is no fun for anyone, and sometimes you need to show restraint to stop yourself from micromanaging your team. You can develop a positive leadership habit that helps you to empower and provide autonomy for your team instead.
There are many more examples of good leadership habits, and I’ve listed just a few that I’ve found to be useful.
Note that leadership habits are sometimes about taking consistent action, but they may also involve not taking action! For example, let’s say you’d like to have your team step up and be more proactive.
To do this, you might create a leadership habit to show restraint, instead of jumping in and saving the day when something goes wrong. Over time, your team will learn to fend for themselves and solve their own problems.
Learn More: Proactive vs Reactive Team Members: Make the Switch.
3 Critical Ingredients For Creating Positive Leadership Habits
OK, so let’s get started on the ingredients for creating good leadership habits.
I’ve found that these are the key to success in creating the motivation to make a change, and sticking to your guns to maintain the positive impact!
Ingredient 1: A Compelling Reason to Change
Many leaders have the best of intentions. They want to be better leaders, to manage their time more effectively, to speak up more, or to better support their team.
They start strong, but then find themselves being derailed along the way.
The problem is that it’s easy to say you want to do something. It’s much more difficult to execute on it consistently when the going gets tough.
That’s why you need to have a compelling reason to change. A strong “why” that keeps you focused and on track.
A common story we hear often is the one about the life-changing event that makes people want to change.
The heart attack that makes people want to get in shape. Or the car accident that makes people want to live life to the fullest.
I’m not saying that we need these catastrophic events to make a change, but we do need *something*.
Here are some good questions to ask to get you thinking about your compelling reason to change:
“What are the consequences of staying the same as I am now?”
Follow-up question: “Are they really that bad, or can I put up with them?”
“What am I getting out of staying the same?”
(The answer might be something like “I get to avoid having a hard conversation with my boss”)
Follow-up question: “Is this really serving me? Or is it actually holding me back?”
“If I didn’t do anything, will I regret it later? How much?”
“Is this habit something that will help me move closer to my future goals?”
“Will this habit help me to be the leader / person I want to be?”
“Will this habit help me to show up with integrity?”
You get the picture. You need to dig deep and find out why this really matters to you.
And if the answer is “It doesn’t really matter that much”, then you’ll find it very difficult to create a positive leadership habit and make a change.
Learn More: Build A Better Leadership Mindset In 6 Simple Ways.
Ingredient 2: A Strategy to Execute
This one is possibly the most obvious ingredient, but it’s an important one!
To make a meaningful change and set up a positive leadership habit, you need to know what consistent strategy or action you want to put in place.
For example, if you wanted to improve your ability to focus, you might consistently schedule a meeting room for yourself for an hour each day to work on important tasks.
Or you might choose to respond to emails in batches, turning off notifications and only checking at specific times during the day.
Whatever leadership habit you are trying to create, you need to know what action to take that will get the outcome you need.
Without this, you can have all the good intentions in the world, but nothing that will get you the results.
So how do you find out what strategy or action to apply? Well, you could:
- Read more of my articles or listen to my podcast – I have lots of practical advice you can apply!
- Speak to people who are successful in the area you are trying to change and find out how they work
- Work with a coach or mentor to develop options that you can try
- Attend training courses in the area you’re interested in improving; or
- Simply research online to see what best practice advice you could implement.
Without the strategy, you’ve nothing to turn into a leadership habit!
Learn More: The Power of Setting a Direction For Your Team.
Ingredient 3: Support
To embed leadership habits, support is critical to ensure you can stay on course.
Support comes in many forms, and habit-forming can come unstuck when you are trying to “go it alone” to change the way you lead.
Leaders often work in complex environments and deal with many different stakeholders. Leadership habits can be difficult to change if you are in an unsupportive environment where you are constantly trying to fight for change by yourself.
Time management is a good example. If you are trying to adopt new strategies for managing your time, it helps to have a supportive manager or coworkers who can respect your efforts instead of trying to disrupt them.
No leader works in a vacuum, so just trying really hard to make a change by yourself may be an impossible task.
The Types of Support You Need to Change Your Leadership Habits
There are several different types of support that you can use to help you change your leadership habits.
Firstly, there are supportive people.
People who know what you’re trying to achieve and are willing and able to help you get there, or champion your change. They may also hold you accountable for sticking to your habit.
These people might include your manager, your colleagues, a mentor, a coach or your own team.
One common problem I see occurs when leaders attend training and return to their workplace with new ideas, without supportive people to help them get up and running. Without supportive people around you, all your good intentions may result in zero benefit.
Next, there are supportive tools.
Tools may be software systems that can help you implement your habits. This might be about organising yourself better with note-taking tools, or using portable devices to capture information when you’re on the go.
Or you might use tools like Rescue Time to help you focus and be more productive.
You could use features of your email program to put specific messages in a certain folder, or to categorise your key tasks. Perhaps you’ll use a workflow tool to help you follow certain steps in the same way each time.
There are obviously thousands of tools which may support you in implementing your leadership habits if you look for them!
Use Reminders to Keep You On Track
Another subset of tools that can be very effective are the use of reminders. Reminders help you to remember what you’re trying to achieve and why it’s important for you.
One of the tools that my own coach recommended to me a while back was the Randomly Remind Me app. It sends you a customised message at random times of the day, and you can configure the timeframe within which reminders are sent.
This type of tool can be useful to jog your memory and help you to refocus on what you are trying to achieve. And you don’t really know when the reminders are coming, because they are random and will catch you by surprise!
In a similar way, physical reminders can also be very useful. Post-it notes in prominent places can be a great refocus tool. Wearing a ring or wristband can also remind you of your goals when you notice them.
Reminders can be a great way to complement the supportive people that you enlist to help you on your way.
What Leadership Habits Will You Put In Place?
You probably already have a bunch of leadership habits that are serving you well.
However, I’ll bet there are some aspects of your leadership that you’d like to improve on, and creating new leadership habits can be a great way to help you do that consistently.
Be sure to keep in mind these three important ingredients when you are trying to implement your next positive leadership habit.
What leadership habits do you think would be beneficial to improve your impact? Let me know in the comments below!