5 Habits of All Successful Leaders

I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from some of the best leaders in the country. I’ve witnessed those leaders move their organizations to the next level and shine in difficult situations. I’ve also seen a few not-so-good leaders; those who seemed unable to help their team conquer troubles and overcome obstacles. At different times in my leadership journey I’ve been both a good leader and a not-so-good leader. Thankfully, along the way, I’ve been able to build on my strengths and learn valuable lessons from those less than stellar moments.


We all have habits. Outstanding leaders are no exception. They all have a number of positive habits that, in part, make them great leaders.According to Webster, a habit is an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary. What are these positive habits that successful leaders have? Well, I think there are quite a few. Not all leaders will practice the same habits, but here are five I’ve observed and I’m convinced must be a part of an effective leaders day-to-day life.

  1. Lead by example. Practice what you preach. This is not as easy as it sounds. Too many leaders (including myself), from time to time, fail to connect our instructions to others to our own actions. Those you’re leading are paying attention to see if what you say is really what you do. If so, you build trust. If not, your credibility takes a hit.
  2. Communicate clear expectations. One of the most consistent complaints I hear from staff members is they are not sure exactly what is expected of them. As leaders, we must be clear about what we want done, what it will look like when the specific project or action is completed, and when it should be done.
  3. Be willing to ask questions and seek advice. I’ve never met a leader who knows everything, although I’ve encountered a few who thought they did. Leaders cannot, and should not, be experts in every  area. Leaders must know (and be keenly aware of) “what they don’t know.” When you don’t know, ask. Seek advice and counsel when necessary and appropriate. This won’t weaken your position as a leader, rather it will help you gain the respect of others.
  4. Teach. All successful leaders have a hunger to learn. As lifelong learners, we must pass on knowledge to those we lead. We must always be mentors and teachers. You will encounter some along the way who are clearly eager to learn. Invest extra time teaching these people. They are your future leaders.
  5. Act. Far too often, I’ve seen organizations paralyzed by a leader’s inability to make timely decisions. Countless dollars are lost and a multitude of problems are created when those in charge become indecisive. Decisions must be made based on facts and using sound judgement, but you may never have all the facts and there may not ever be a time of 100% certainty. In these cases you should take your cue from Nike and “Just to it!” We won’t always make the right decision no matter how long we take. The quicker we make a decision however, the sooner we can correct and keep moving if it was wrong.

There are many other habits shared by successful leaders. These five however, are in my opinion, non-negotiable. Each one of the five listed above is critical if you are going to build trust, build a team, and create success for your organization.

QUESTION: Which of the five habits listed above is either absent from your leadership or in need more consistent execution?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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