You’ve got your own style. Sure, you’ve had mentors who inspire you and you’ve worked with leaders who have been great examples of what not to do. You’ve meshed these examples with your own personality and developed a leadership style that’s uniquely you. Yet, even with that flair of individuality there are two universal truths:
- Your style is likely evolving over time as you mature and adapt to new situations and teams.
- Successful leaders have several habits in common.
That’s right. Even as unique and individual as your leadership style is, it has a lot in common with other successful leaders.
They Read (or Watch or Listen) Daily
Successful leaders are not stagnant. They are hungry for more information. They see great value in studying and learning. Some of us roll up our sleeves and take classes or attend workshops, and while there’s great value in those learning experiences, they are not the only avenue. Successful leaders read articles and books on subjects related to their work (as well as a lot of other topics). They listen to podcasts. They watch videos. They attend networking functions and build relationships with others in their field. All of these things lay a foundation for continued growth and development which creates an adaptive leadership style.
Being a good leader doesn’t mean having all the answers. There will be things you don’t know. There will be times when what’s “always worked” stops working. Good leaders know that the real talent is a willingness to listen to new ideas. It’s also being willing to really listen to complaints and evaluate whether the issues raised warrant change. Good leaders ask the hard questions and pay attention to the answers. They listen to the chatter around them. They welcome input and ideas from their team, their clients, and their partners.
They Practice Self-Care
Somewhere along the way we were tricked into thinking that long hours and jam-packed calendars were a clear sign of success. Yes, being an entrepreneur or business leader requires dedication. It may take more hours than you expected. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have time to catch your breath.
Successful leaders know that they are not at their best when they are frazzled and exhausted. They carve out space to focus on self-care. And listen, that doesn’t mean making sure you’ve got an hour to squeeze in a haircut or a doctor’s visit. This is about making sure your calendar has time open for you to focus on life-giving activity. Maybe that’s time to hike the local trails or to curl up with a good piece of fiction or to work in your garden. It could be family time (that’s not “help kids manage virtual school”). It could be a daily walk or jog. It could be making sure you’re using your vacation days — all of them. Good leaders also insist their teams build in self-care time, too.
They Experiment. They Fail. They Try Again.
Success takes failure. It sounds counterintuitive, sure, but it’s true. Success requires a willingness to experiment. Experimentation does not come with guaranteed results. There’s a chance your innovative stretch will fall flat on its face. There’s a chance it’ll be “meh.” There’s a chance it’ll be wildly successful. Great leaders understand this and are willing to take the risk in order to reap the rewards. They experiment. They fail. They debrief. They learn from the attempt — what worked, what didn’t, what adaptations may make a difference. They brush themselves off and they experiment again.
They Make (Flexible) Plans
Success starts with goal setting. It follows a plan designed to reach those goals. It takes determination and focus. It also, however, requires adaptability. It’s recognizing that although you started your journey on flat ground, you’ve encountered some hills and rivers. You need to adapt your game plan to the changing terrain. Successful folks are focused but not rigid. If something isn’t working, they make adjustments.
They Accept the Challenge
Complacency is the death knell of success. Found your comfort zone? Don’t settle in. Successful folks recognize that they are only going to maintain that success if they stretch and continue to grow themselves and their business. Challenging yourself and others yields growth.
They Invest in Relationships
Successful leaders know that people ultimately make or break a company. You can have an amazing product or service, but it won’t matter if your customer service is lacking and your employees are miserable. Successful leaders nurture relationships. They build connections and keep the lines of communication open. They show compassion and understanding. They also cultivate their own professional and personal networks because they value the two-way street of support and growth that can come from those connections.