7 Top Habits of Great Leaders
By Lolly Daskal
One of the best ways to grow in your professional life is to study great leaders. And there’s no better way to understand the best leaders than looking at their habits. After all, our disciplines reflect our priorities, and it’s the things we do every day that shape us.
Great leadership requires hard work, commitment and a willingness to grow. It’s something that is learned, practiced and developed daily by habits, by choice and by strength of character. And every profession, every organization, every team needs great leaders.
Here are some of the top habits that will get you there:
The habit of confidence. Confidence is the cornerstone of great leadership. You can learn high-level skills in problem solving, decision making, communication, coaching, mentoring and accountability — but they won’t take you very far if you don’t believe in yourself. Great leaders are called to be decisive, resourceful, competent and unwavering, and self-confidence is the basis for each of those attributes. Confidence is the quality that allows leaders to take action. They may not always be right, but they don’t fear being wrong.
The habit of trusting intuition. Top leaders are able to make tough decisions because they have learned to trust their instincts. One of the keys to great leadership is the ability to be creative, think on the fly and make important judgments decisively and correctly, and intuition fuels those processes. Intuitive leaders don’t ignore data, but they don’t overthink or get stuck on details. They know their intuitive hunches aren’t wild guesses but are grounded in their ability to quickly assess a situation, filtered through their education and experience. Facts represent the science of decision making, and intuition is the art.
The habit of candor. Great leadership is based on honesty and transparency. It requires speaking up about wrongs and making them right — and, on a personal level, being up front about your own weaknesses and mistakes. The habit of candor will never be the easiest path, but it allows for difficult conversations and deep dives into tough issues. Above all, honesty and candor show care and respect for those around you, which is why it’s the first step in establishing a reputation for strength and integrity. Candor is the cornerstone of character.
The habit of courage. Great leaders are willing to make courageous decisions when others shy away. That kind of courage means having the ability to see your fears and the strength to not only face them but move beyond them. When a leader stands up for what they believe in, the effect is multiplied as others are prompted to act in kind. In leadership, courage is at the heart of both action and inspiration.
The habit of integrity. A leader with integrity holds to the highest moral and ethical code in everything they do. Integrity comes about when you’re motivated by deeply held values, and it’s always characterized by reliability and excellence. Part of integrity — literally — is the word grit, which denotes firmness of mind and unyielding character. It takes grit to be true to yourself and the things you believe. In the end, though, it’s worth the effort, because your integrity is central to the legacy you leave behind. Great leaders make integrity a habit because they understand its value.
The habit of trust. Without trust, you can never really have collaboration — only coordination or, at best, cooperation. It is trust that transforms and changes a group of people into a team whose members work together and succeed together. It’s a process best carried out with a great leader, one who understands and demonstrates trust and makes it a habit, one who delivers on promises and is consistent in everything they do. Trust is the most essential ingredient in creating and defining the meaningful relationships that lie at the core of leadership.
The habit of loyalty. Great leaders have a profound sense of loyalty and service to others; they hold their team’s best interests closer than their own. A leader who is seen as loyal, committed, caring and protective has earned credibility and respect. Being loyal to your people is among the greatest virtues a leader can have.
Great leadership — the kind that inspires those around you to change the world — all begins with confidence. Confidence leads to purpose, which guides you toward the right actions. These actions form habits, which in turn determine your character, and your character fixes your destiny as a great leader. No matter where you are on the journey of your leadership, create good habits and you’ll be moving in the right direction.
LOLLY DASKAL is founder of Lead from Within, a global leadership, executive coaching, and consulting firm based in New York City. With more than 30 years of experience with some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, Daskal is one of today’s most sought-after executive leadership coaches and leadership consultants. She has written thousands of articles and columns for a variety of media, including Harvard Business Review, Inc., Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, andPsychology Today.