Have you ever noticed that many great leaders—in politics, in business, and even in your social circles—tend to emanate many of the same qualities? It’s not that they all have the same personality or the same style of leadership; in fact, they may all have very different approaches to leadership. Instead, they tend to present themselves with confidence and patience, and they always seem focused on getting the best performance out of people.
There are many possible explanations for this, including an oft debated hypothesis that great leaders have their genetics to thank. But one of the most fascinating ideas is that great leadership is commonly a by-product of good habits.
So what habits do all these great leaders share?
The daily habits of great leaders
These are some of the most common daily habits of great leaders:
1. Morning routines
Most great leaders start their mornings the same way (or at least with similar patterns) every day. For some, that means getting up early for a hot shower; for others, it means sleeping in slightly and cooking a full breakfast. Different approaches work for different people. What’s important is there’s something consistent that you enjoy (and that provides you with energy throughout the day).
Great leaders are also effective at setting priorities and making plans for the day. They don’t mindlessly sort through emails, and they don’t let their employees or circumstances dictate their approach. Instead, they learn to recognize the most important things to do, and they create a plan to do them.
It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that many successful people make it a point to physically exercise on a daily basis. Exercise is great for your health, helping you stay productive. But more than that, exercise relieves you of stress, improves your feelings of energy, and helps you stay disciplined and focused.
Meditation is another common daily habit you’ll find among great leaders. With regular meditation, you’ll be able to efficiently clear your distracting thoughts, improve your emotional regulation, and increase your focus. This skill is indispensable when you need to clear your mind after a difficult situation.
Reading is the best way to learn new information and get exposure to different modes of thinking. For a leader to reach their full potential, they need to commit to reading on a daily basis. The sources are up to you—books, magazines, industry blogs, and opinion columns are all great sources.
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6. Conversations with the team
Leaders often define their success based on the accomplishments of their team, so it makes sense that great leaders regularly communicate with their team members. They make it a point to reach out regularly and get a sense of how people are feeling.
7. Active listening
Along similar lines, great leaders practice active listening. They aren’t exclusively focused on relaying instructions and dominating the conversation; they give their employees and team members plenty of space and time to express themselves. They also take the thoughts and feelings of others seriously, and try to address them however they can.
Successful people tend to be experts at reframing their perceptions on a daily basis. They see business risks as opportunities, rather than oppressive challenges. They see tight deadlines as motivating factors, rather than harsh limitations. Even if they’re stressed from being stuck in traffic, they can find something positive to think about, like having the time to finish their favorite podcast.
9. Improving something
Great leaders are always improving, both themselves and the people and environments that surround them. They typically make it a point to improve at least one thing every day, whether that’s investing in a new productivity tool, helping someone improve their working approach, or changing their environment to foster higher productivity. There’s no room for complacency if you want to achieve excellence.
At the same time, great leaders aren’t constantly pushing for advancement. They take the time to express and practice gratitude as well. Regularly expressing gratitude about your available resources and overall situation can make you feel more positive and less stressed. It’s also a fantastic way to let your team members know you appreciate them.
Changing your daily habits
Changing your daily habits can be challenging, especially if you’ve been committed to a certain way of doing things for years (or decades). But if you’re interested in becoming a better leader or a more well-rounded person, it’s important to weed out your bad habits and gradually incorporate some new, good ones.
The best way to do this is with baby steps—don’t try to change your entire outlook, or your entire daily routine all at once. Instead, focus on one thing at a time to correct, and commit to correcting it consistently.
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