Habits are the building blocks of life. For good or bad, they determine our direction and effectiveness or the lack thereof. My observation is that for much of my life, the word habit was usually paired with the word bad. Defeating bad habits seemed to consume a lot of energy and time. As I began to read more and observe others, I found that bad habits not only stop the momentum, but good habits propel progress There are many things I do today without much thinking, such as brushing my teeth, shaving, morning and evening routines, and many more. These are all activities that have become habits over the years.
What are a few habits that leaders ought to cultivate? Allow me to name a few:
- Read. “All readers are not leaders, but all leaders are readers.” (President Harry Truman) I love to read. I understand that not everyone does like to read. Today, there are audio-books, podcasts, electronic Bibles that can help us to redeem the time. I listen to podcasts or audio-books while at the gym or driving my car. Reading does many things for a leader, and it helps to develop empathy as we “walk in another person’s shoes.” As a leader, you are continually being asked to give; reading is a way of keeping the ‘mental vault’ filled with good things. Leader, you must be a reader!
- Invest in your health. We need you, and we need you to take care of yourself. I have discovered that exercise not only helps you physically, but it also helps you mentally and emotionally as well. Go ahead and schedule a workout on your calendar as you would any appointment. It is that important! Keep the appointment.
- Tackle something difficult. Take on a challenging task or project, daily, weekly, or at whatever interval works for you. Meeting a challenge is how we stretch ourselves and grow as leaders. If it were easy, someone else would have already done it. I force myself early in the day to work on the things that are harder for me. This habit alone will help you to grow and get better.
- Plan tomorrow tonight. I never go to bed during the workweek without having my next day planned out. I follow an evening routine in which I begin to wind down as well as identifying the critical tasks and meetings for the next day. I get everything that I will need for the next day in my briefcase. Sleep seems more relaxed when I am prepared for the next day. This habit has helped me in so many ways.
- Review your goals daily. You have heard that you are more likely to accomplish your goals if you write them down. It is not enough to write down your goals on a sheet of paper and then stick them in a drawer and forget about them. As a part of my journaling, I rewrite my goals, and then I also rewrite my “sprint” goals, which are 2-3 things I am seeking to accomplish in the next three months. Writing my goals down forces me to review my goals daily and keeps them front and center in my mind.
- Take a smart risk. Life is risky. Most of us are risk-averse. Safety and security is our default. I am not speaking about fool-hardy kinds of risk. Instead, I am talking about calculated, studied, and thoroughly thought through types of risk. In the assignment, I have at present many of the difficulties that arise are direct results of people in leadership “kicking the can” down the alley and leaving the tough decisions for someone else in the future to decide. Today we have lost the can and have run out alleys. Study the situation, seek input and ideas from others and then prayerfully make a decision. You will be criticized and second-guessed. That is part of the price of being a leader. Most choices can be tweaked and corrected. Avoiding decisions usually do long-term damage.
In a future article, I will share some more leadership habits. If you do not agree with these habits, that is fine. I would love to hear some of your ideas, as well.