10 Habits of Highly Successful Leaders

Habits are peculiar. Modern psychology attests to this fact by stating that habits form as a way of giving our brains a rest from active decision-making. So when a habit forms, our brains stop paying attention to that particular activity and begins to focus on other tasks. On paper, therefore, it would be fair to assume that forming habits are beneficial, if only as effective mental, emotional, and physical timesavers.

However, in many instances, they tend to carry a negative connotation; often connected with undesirable or unwholesome practices. We all know the adage “Bad Habits Are Hard to Break” and I’m sure that any one of us can readily identify a bad habit that we engage in, are aware of, and struggle to break.

Going a step further, in our day-to-day, adult social lives, we can easily call to mind the bad habits of others as they perform certain actions or exhibit certain behaviours. But how often have we drawn attention to the good habits of others? Of ourselves? How many times have openly talked about the habits that we would or even should emulate? The ones we should work with others to promote and inculcate?

Notwithstanding the science of us being frequently (habitually?) described as “creatures of habit”, there is tremendous merit in recognising and developing good habits as one of the most effective ways to become better leaders, better people, and over time, a better nation.

No doubt we are all familiar with the Stephen Covey book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Written in 1989, it has become required reading for not only the entrepreneur but for anyone seeking to gain greater mastery of their lives and their careers. His book takes a strategic and holistic view of the practices that are required if we are to become successful. With equal emphasis on developing strong independence and interdependence habits, Covey challenges us to actively seize our destinies by the reins; shifting the paradigms of how we understand (and strengthen) the relationships between our values, our behaviours, our principles, and of course, our actions.

In compiling my list, I wondered, what room do we allow for good habits? The kinds that only serve to make us better. The kinds that seem almost impossible at first but, over time, can become regular and necessary parts of our thinking and living. The ones we can share with others to empower them towards success. The types that not only save time and money, but ones that can save lives.

Here are my 10 Habits of Highly Successful People

  1. They get enough sleep
    This is a given. Sleep is essential to a healthy body and healthy mind. While the science may differ over how much sleep we really need (I average about 6 hours a night), there is no disputing the fact that we need sleep. This isn’t to say that when we get home, we surround ourselves with distractions or work until we fall asleep. I’m referring to setting a time to be in our beds and actively going to sleep. This may be difficult but when sleep becomes a conscious, rather than a subconscious or incidental act, we will find ourselves better equipped (and certainly well rested) to deal with the next day’s challenges.
  2. They get up early
    Of course, when we get into a habit of getting enough rest, getting up early becomes the other side of the equation. Again, easier said than done, right? It’s going to take quite a bit of mental and physical conditioning but once you get into a habit of getting up early, you’ll find yourself more productive and able to get more out of your days than ever before. Early to bed, early to rise makes us healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  3. They make exercise a priority
    Finding the time to exercise is always a challenge when we have so many other activities going on at any given point in time. So it’s all too easy to let this one fall to the wayside. However, when we let that happen, other detrimental consequences follow. Thankfully, there are so many options available to us that making exercise a priority has never been easier. There are 24-hour gyms and there are many varieties of affordable home exercise equipment. There are also novel fitness pursuits like Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, Spin Classes, Aquarobics and so many others that we should never have an issue with finding one that works for us and our busy schedules. I hasten to add eating right and on time to this point. Making this a habit can be just as beneficial as getting the right amount of exercise.
  4. They read widely and avidly
    Just as important as exercising the body is exercising the mind. One of the best ways to do this is by reading. Not only should we read as it applies to our fields, we should endeavour to read as widely and as much as possible. Reading a great work of fiction or poetry can be just as beneficial to the mind as reading prose. Again, thanks to advances in technology, we have thousands of books literally at our fingertips. We already spend a great deal of time on our mobile devices and tablets, why not merge healthy reading into that and make it a practice of reading more?
  5. They spend time daily on focussed thinking
    On the other hand, the seemingly unfettered access to all sorts of data and reading can sometimes become problematic. With time always being against us, many find it easier to have the information broken down and made more palatable. But if we get into a habit of focussed, critical thinking – taking a moment (maybe 10 or 15 minutes) every day, unplugged from our devices and plugged into our inner thoughts to mentally parse the information around us can make a world of difference. For one thing, we no longer become easily swayed by outside noise. In that quiet, we find peace; in that peace, we can recentre ourselves. Furthermore, when we carve out these times to really examine our thoughts and feelings, we become better able to make the right decisions – decisions which ultimately redound to our benefit.
  6. They avoid time-wasters/negativity
    “Stay away from the comments section” has become a meme of 21st Century social living. One casual glance at any comments section on any mainstream social media platform and you can see why. It’s too easy to focus on hate and on the opinions of others who seek to channel that hate. Over time, this practice can lead to a narrowing of our thoughts and hardening of our hearts. We then build echo chambers of hate where we only surround ourselves and our thoughts with negativity. Time is always of the essence. So why waste it on negative pursuits? There is a great deal of positivity in the world. And if we are having trouble seeing it, then let’s get into the practice of being agents of it. Making this a habit will quickly and surely see us leaving behind the hate and negativity.
  7. They spend time with people who inspire them
    Always remember that life and success aren’t competitions. Just because someone is successful doesn’t mean that we should be envious of that success. As we strive to be the best at whatever we set our minds to, take stock in the stories and examples of those who inspire you. More importantly, make time to spend time and learn from them. This is particularly important for us to remember as leaders because we, in turn, are going to inspire others. We should get into a practice of learning from those who inspire us and inspiring others who wish to learn from us.
  8. They work with rather than through people
    As leaders, we face a unique challenge as we develop and define our individual leadership styles. While no two styles are ever the same, what is always paramount is that genuine respect for the individual. With this in mind, let’s get more into the practice of showing that respect in our professional and personal interactions with others; taking and making the necessary effort to work with people as opposed to through them as an essential first step in producing the best in them and in ourselves.
  9. They pursue their own goals
    Many people think of ambition as a virtue in its own regard. They think that simply having ambition or being ambitious is enough to see you through life’s challenges. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ambition is merely the start. Through practice, we should strive to keep that ambition burning as the fuel behind the pursuit of our goals. Making this a practice is a great way to achieve success; always mindful of what is required, and grateful to all the forces, factors, and faces that have helped us reach our goals.
  10. They give back to others
    Gratitude, like ambition, is nothing if it isn’t shown. While much success is attributable to hard work, sacrifice, and even some luck, that success can be empty if we don’t find a way to share it with others and let them know our true gratitude. Get into a habit of not only showing appreciation but of also paying it forward. It’s that straightforward.
Successful Habits Equal Successful People

So what do you think? Do you feel like my list is too long or are there points that you believe are just as essential but missing? What do you think about “Prayer”? Getting into a habit of not only asking God for guidance, courage, and strength but as a way of establishing and reaffirming our humility?

It’s an evolving list to be sure. But what will always be the same is that these habits must be practiced at every juncture and always driven by sincerity, openness, and a willingness to learn if they are to become the kinds of habits that redefine 21st leadership and leaders.

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