habits successful leaders have, steve jobs

8 Habits Successful Leaders Have That You Should Steal

This article was last updated on December 4, 2015

Leadership is a broad, complex category. It can hardly be covered within a single definition, but there are few things we all have in mind when thinking of great leaders: charm, precision, innovation, passion, and vision. These are not the typical skills you can learn from textbooks.

You can, however, observe the habits of successful leaders and understand the things they do differently. In the continuation, you’ll find list of habits that help great leaders achieve their goals. They will inspire you to work harder on the development of your personal skills.             

8 Habits Successful Leaders Have That You Should Steal

1. Appreciating the importance of personal time

Great leadership takes people in the spotlight. When leaders become celebrities, their jobs are more difficult than ever. The key to success is to preserve the habits that brought you to this level. Stay close to your family and appreciate your friends. You are still just an ordinary human being.

Marissa Mayer, CEO at Yahoo, proves that a leader can also be humble. She has been getting tons of media attention lately, but she still manages to keep her personal life private.

2. An ability to take responsibility for every single action

Yes, this is a habit. Great leaders experiment, but they also know to accept the fact that they are wrong sometimes. Jack Stahl, who was the President of Coca-Cola from 1978 to 2000, is a great example of responsibility. In his book Lessons on Leadership: The 7 Fundamental Management Skills for Leaders at All Levels, he explains how he could turn different situations to his advantage by recognizing and improving the flaws of his strategies.

During the beginnings of his career, he delegated a project without performing proper monitoring. When his mentor Doug Ivester asked for the first draft, Stahl realized that it was nowhere near perfect. Both of them worked together on the project in order to meet the close deadline. This experience taught Stahl a valuable lesson: when diligent oversight is combined with attention to detail and hands-on approach, any situation can be fixed.

Here is the first lesson you need to learn: you’ll inevitably make mistakes. Develop a habit of examining your own flaws and fixing them with hard work.    

3. The ability to relax

If you are not able to cope with the pressure, you’ll never become a great leader. You need plenty of sleep and relaxation if you want to achieve high levels of productivity. When you notice that you’re getting tense, a nice yoga session will bring you back to normal. Have you ever seen a leader being nervous and impatient in public? Great leaders have developed a habit to bear that huge load of stress with dignity.

Let’s take Pope Francis as an example. He is always ready to smile and be human. Yoga is probably not his secret, but one thing is for sure: he has found peace and he spreads that vibe around him. Whether you like him or not, the influence his attitude makes over people is obvious. His predecessor Pope Benedict XVI was kind, but he didn’t have that aura of calmness around him.

4. Exercising

Staying fit doesn’t seem to be a habit relevant to leadership, but it’s important to keep your energy levels high in any way possible. Most high-achievers know how to benefit from physical exercise, so they choose an activity that improves their stamina and helps them reach higher levels of productivity and performance.

Obama and Branson are well-known for their commitment to a regular exercise routine. This is one of the best habits you can adopt. If you combine it with healthy meals, you’ll get more energy that you can easily transform into productive work.  

5. Flexibility!

There is no industry that can be defined as a rigid category. Everything is changing with a fast pace. If you are unable to adapt to the evolving circumstances, you won’t be successful. A good leader is never afraid to experiment with new methods and leadership styles. Since the world is extremely unpredictable, you need to know how to act in any situation.

Angela Merkel, one of the most successful contemporary political leaders, has shown an exemplary potential for adaptation. You have to understand, flexibility is not easy for Germans – a culture of great discipline and form. Merkel has played a key role in managing the recent debt crisis in Europe and leading the Union on the road to recovery.  

6. Accessibility!

Even the greatest leaders don’t live in a bubble. They do not keep distance from the crowd; they are always open to ideas and questions that will drive the organization forward. You need to realize that your success mainly depends upon people’s perception of your work. If you appear cold and distant, you won’t establish meaningful connections. Without support, you’ll always be at risk of failure.

It’s time to mention Obama again: he has profiles on Twitter and Quora. He connects with his people and he does his best to answer their question. This is the greatest importance of accessibility: it makes the leader appear human! When he takes time to answer questions on Quora, he gains more than political points; he gets respect and appreciation!

7. Doing everything differently!

Great leaders may write books about their experiences, but they certainly don’t make decisions based on rules they read in a leadership book. They do everything differently. Their uniqueness is what makes them noticeable and memorable. A leader is not someone who follows the crowd; it’s someone who leads it in a new direction! His decisions may not always gain approval, but risks and critiques are always part of this work.

When you observe the life and career of a great leader, this is the moral of the story: he has to have thick skin. Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford, stepped away from the practices of his predecessors when he was saving the company from bankruptcy: he shifted the company’s culture and changed the way Ford’s teams were structured. He advanced the collaborative levels in the company and combined that environment with effective financial restrictions that everyone accepted as beneficial.  

8. Appreciation of values

Yes, a leader should always be ready for innovation and risks, but there is a certain limit his practices cannot run over: values! You cannot achieve long-term success through exploitation of labor or any other immoral actions. Let’s take James Parker as an example this time. The former Southwest Airlines CEO is remembered by his leadership based on values.

His company’s reputation was based on putting the customer’s satisfaction first. Instead of making changes, Parker took that legacy and turned crises into opportunities. The September 11 attacks in 2001 forced all airlines to sit and wait for days. Parker handled the crisis in an unexpected way: his employees took the passengers to the movies or bowling. This leader didn’t make only the customers happy; he was also thinking about his employees. Instead of cuts in staffing, which was the strategy most other airlines were considering during this crisis, Parker gave a promise that everyone’s positions were safe.

That was an extraordinary way of relying on the company’s values to turn any situation into an advantage. Read also 7 Ways Successful People Start Their Day.

There Is Only One Definite Leadership Rule: Look at the Positive Side of Any Situation!

When you analyze all examples and habits listed above, you’ll notice that they are always positive. Charismatic leaders have a way of making their policies appealing for everyone. The key to long-term success lies in positive approach, no matter how serious the situation is.           

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