About six months ago I wrote and article on the 20 Habits of Highly Unsuccessful Leaders which proved to be very popular, over half a million views and shares. Which got me wondering what do people want to know most. What to do, or what not to do when it comes to leading.
Both, I believe, are valuable teaching tools and learning aids. So in the interest of balance here are my thoughts on the top 20 habits of highly successful leaders that help drive engagement and deliver amazing results.
1. Leverage the knowledge within their teams
They know that the reason that they have been put in charge is to get the best out of the resources in their team. So when it comes to deciding strategy, solving problems, or resolving issues, they look to identify the best resources available to get to a solution quickly. They understand that leading is not about providing all the answers, it’s about ensuring the best answer is found and implemented.
2. Respond, rather than react
Great leaders have great emotional intelligence, and they understand that emotional responses, knee-jerk reactions don’t lead to the best outcomes. They are in control of their emotions and can consider all of the information and make the right decisions, the best decision not just an emotional decision.
3. Take smart risks
They understand the difference between a safe bet and a wild bet. They know that fortune favors the bold, but they also know that fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
Creating a culture of smart-taking ensure stable growth, more positive outcomes, and it helps to build confidence.
4. They know that actions speak louder than words
If you want to know what someone truly believes don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do. Leadership defines culture, but it does so by setting the example and living the desired culture on a daily basis, not by just posting a Vision and Values on the company website.
A vision spoken, but not lived, is a vision that quickly dies.
5. Focus on finding solutions not someone to blame
Blame is never the solution to an operational problem, a customer concern or any issue that crops up in business. Blame is a diversionary tactic and one that eats away at the effectiveness and efficiencies of teams. Good leaders look to solve problems first, then do the root-cause analysis to ensure that the chance of the issue repeating is mitigated.
Most customers don’t care who’s at fault; they just want their issue resolving!
6. Are Confident Not Arrogant
There is a big difference between confidence and arrogance; the former helps build trust in the leader, the latter destroys it. Great leaders are confident in their abilities to deliver, but share the credit for the successes with others.
7. Ensure that enough planning is done before work starts
If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Great leaders know this, and they also understand the need for urgency, but they never jeopardize the chance of success by ignoring the planning. Great leaders find a way to slow things down, to take a step back and ensure that their teams are focused on the right things, and understand what needs to be done to be successful before rushing in.
8. Hire the best people available
Leadership is not about being the best person in the team; it’s about hiring the best people, assembling the best team and delivering the best results. Great leaders know this, and they have the confidence to hire people who are more knowledgeable and skillful than they are. They don’t feel the need to be the best at everything. I know when I was leading teams that if I was the most knowledgeable person on every topic, then the team was in big trouble.
Hire smart, hire the smartest.
9. Focus on sustainable success
This doesn’t mean that they avoid quick win. No, they understand the benefits that they can have in building momentum. But they do understand that the best success is long-term sustainable success, which requires the buy-in of the teams, it can also take time and effort to achieve, but that it’s worth it in the long run. Great leaders leave a legacy of continuing success which continues even after their departure.
10. They know the devil is in the detail
Leadership is about big picture thinking, about setting the vision and direction for the team, the organization or the company. But once that’s done, then there is the need to figure out the how, how will this success be achieved, and that requires the team, and often the leader to get down into the weeds. Leaders can’t just remain big picture people if they want to achieve success.
The devil is in the detail, and these devils need to be identified and addressed.
11. Focus strengths, outsource their weaknesses
Great leaders know that they don’t need to do everything and that for the areas that they are weak, they can delegate that work, or get support from the team. They know that they have been hired because of their strengths and they focus on using these strengths to benefit their organization. They are also confident enough to be vulnerable and show their weaknesses and get support rather than to cover them up or try and hide them.
12. Determined but flexible
Knowing when to change tack is an important skill. It’s great to be persistent and consistent but beating your head against a wall is never going to bring the rewards.
Great leaders remain fixed in their goals but flexible in how they achieve them.
13. Play well with others
Leadership is about getting the best out of all of the available resources, and to do this leader need to be great at relationship building and working well with others. Great leaders leverage their networks, and they also know that this is a two-way street providing support to their network when needed to ensure that it will be there in their time of need.
14. Understand the power of recognition
What gets recognized gets repeated, and great leaders understand this and look to build a culture of recognition. They know that it starts with them, and they take the time to send personal notes, give words of encouragement and praise people in public.
The more we praise, the better the team we raise.
15. Share credit
Leaders set direction and define that strategy, but it’s the teams that deliver the results. Yes, the leaders were influential and instrumental, but they understand the role of the team and give them the lions share of the credit. Great leaders know that they will receive credit without having to take it, they know that reflected glory from their team is just as valid and important.
16. Quick to praise, slow to criticize
Mistakes happen, people learn from them, and any organization looking to grow needs to have leaders who can create a safe environment which nurtures talent. When you’re quick to criticize, especially in public, it kills growth and discourages others not just the person being criticized.
17. Laser focused
When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Leadership is about helping to keep your teams focused on the goals, keeping their eyes on the prize and minimizing distractions. To do this leaders need to be laser focused because if they become distracted, then the organization becomes distracted.
18. Hold themselves accountable
There are a million and one reasons why things don’t work out as planned, but good leaders know that the buck stops with them. They don’t make excuses; they look for the reasons why things didn’t go well and then look to fix them. They hold themselves to higher standards than they hold their teams and look to be role models for accountability which encourages their teams to take ownership, which has a positive impact on results and outcomes.
19. Don’t micro-manage
Micro-management is a sign of weak leadership, a lack of trust in the team, and can hinder the performance of the team. You need to give clear direction, set clear expectations and then give your teams to the room to be successful.
It’s ok to ask for updates, but daily, and even worse hourly updates, just undermine the confidence of the staff and your credibility as a leader.
20. Practice consistency
There is nothing more destabilizing to a team that a boss who is inconsistent. I know I had the luxury of working for one for several years. What was accepted as a good quality one day would be ridiculed as poor quality the next. This created doubts in the minds of the team which then led to delays while teams sought perfection, or caused them to hesitate and make mistakes. Great leaders look to build confidence in their team’s abilities, and one of the best ways to do this is through practicing consistency.
If you’re looking to be a great leader the more you can adopt these habits and work them into your leadership DNA the better the leader you will become and the better the results you will deliver.