Becoming an effective leader requires more than just hard work. There is a saying that it takes 20 years to become an overnight success. Today’s leaders face many challenges and in order to make a difference, you have to become a better leader. Leaders must develop a set of habits that can determine their success.
So you may ask, what’s the “secret cause” to becoming an effective leader? The truth is there isn’t a “secret sauce” to leadership. Leaders are not born, they are made. But there certain habits successful leaders practice whether you are an entrepreneur, business executive or a community leader.
Leading effectively in today’s environment takes critical habits that will positively impact the people you lead on a daily basis. Stephen R Covey in one of his best-selling books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, taught us that even seven simple habits can make us more effective in life, leadership, and relationships. He taught us to be highly effective. And he educated us on how to lead ourselves.
Today, I want to take it a step further and look at what habits leaders can learn in order to lead more effectively I believe highly effective leaders have the following must-have habits:
Must have a Relentless Purpose
If you want to be an effective leader, you need to have a daily purpose to know WHY you are leading. When I speak and mentors leaders and managers, I ask them WHY they want to be a leader. Is it the title? Is it more authority? Is it more money?? The answers can vary from person to person, but it’s important to know WHY you lead and for the right reasons too. Because if you are not leading for the right reasons, the people you lead will know the difference.
Must have a Bold Vision
The best leaders have a vision of where they want to go. They are not aimless. They share their vision for better things to come. As a leader, you must have an inspiring vision to gain support from key members of your team and organization. Walt Disney had a vision for creating the happiest place on earth. That was Disneyland. They told him it would be too expensive to build and whether the project would yield any profits. Many people were skeptical. But Disney had a bold vision to making it a reality.
They challenge the status quo
Leadership is not about getting comfortable with today’s results. You must think of ways to challenge the current situation. That doesn’t mean you are critical or negative, but simply looking for ways to create an environment of where new initiatives can replace old ways of thinking. A great way to challenge the status quo is to reflect on what your competition is doing and how you can challenge your organization to make waves in order to be an industry leader.
They must have credibility
Effective leaders are credible. Leadership authors, James Kouzes and Barry Posner found that when a leader is highly credible, his or her direct reports are more likely to follow. A leader’s credibility is the alignment of words and action. Credibility builds trust and integrity in the eyes of the people you lead. Without credibility, your employees are asking the question, “Why should I follow this leader?”
They ask questions
From my experience, most leaders don’t think about this important habit. After all, you don’t usually find “the ability to ask questions” on any list of managerial proficiencies; nor is it an explicit part of the curriculum of MBA schools. But asking questions effectively is a major part of a leader’s responsibility. It’s worth giving this skill a little more attention as part of your leadership habits.
They must listen well
If asking questions is important, the ability to really listen and understand your employees ranks at the top of the pyramid. People want to know that their input and frustrations are heard. They want to know someone is paying attention to their needs and valued their opinion. You don’t have to agree with everything, but you have to acknowledge the challenges and build trust with people.
They need to be accountable
You can’t be a great leader without being responsible. At times, things will go wrong or you will make mistakes, but the difference is how you owned up to those mistakes and whether you learned something from those setbacks. Accountability should not be a bad word. The most effective leaders, use accountability as an opportunity to say, “I messed up and here is what I have learned.”
Effective leadership is a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know an effective leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective. Leadership can be learned. No one is born with leadership skills. You have to keep working at it every day. Habits can help you get there.