“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” –Aristotle
The difference between good leaders and great leaders is the habits they master. Here are some behaviors you can develop to become a better leader:
Habit #1: Manage your time.
The Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness (CMOE) found that leaders spend an average of over five hours a day on email and phone calls alone. Along with daily interruptions, it can be extremely hard to make progress on critical projects. In her book Finding Your Balance, Joan Gurvis recommends that instead of multitasking, you try a technique called “channel changing.” Instead of doing several things at once, give each person or activity your full attention and commitment; when you have completed that, change to another “channel,” again giving it full attention. Working in focused chunks of time is more effective than allowing today’s to-do list to manage you.
Habit #2: Learn to delegate.
One shortcoming to being a better leader is trying to accomplish everything by yourself. There are plenty of reasons why. Maybe you’re a perfectionist who feels it’s easier, or maybe you feel your own work is better than that of your employees. A great leader knows that his or her most important task is developing others—teaching people how to think and ask the right questions. It is a skill that is the least developed in most organizations. The bottom line: If leaders don’t delegate, subordinates don’t learn to improve and organizations can’t grow.
Habit #3: Walk around.
Although email and texts are great for communicating across time and distance, effective leaders realize the value in talking face to face. One of the best ways to find out what’s going on is to set aside time each week to get out of your office and talk to everyone—the receptionist, the supply clerk and team members, not just managers. You will uncover problems and opportunities you may never have learned of otherwise. When you ask people how they are doing, what’s working well and what could work better, you not only get information but also increase the camaraderie between you and your employees.
Habit #4: Listen deeply.
Richard Branson says leaders should listen more than they talk because that’s how they learn what’s going on. Great leaders learn to listen for context as well as content—what I call deep listening. Deep listening is being fully present in the moment with the person who is speaking, and not trying to judge or control the conversation. We let go of our assumptions to hear not only what is being said, but also the emotions, motives, needs and goals of the person speaking. This kind of listening builds trust and respect, and it encourages the sharing of information you need to make good decisions.
Habit #5: Be open to new ideas.
The most successful organizations are the ones that do things first and do things best. A great leader is always looking for the next big idea—one that improves the efficiency of the current operation or makes a product better. The leader who encourages new ideas from everyone, who is not afraid to support the team to drive their ideas forward, is the leader whose team members will create noteworthy innovation.
As with everything, some of these habits will be easier to develop than others. The real goal is to improve the way you lead, and with practice and time spent on the right things, you can become the leader you want to be.