I’ve been asked many times, “Are great leaders born with their abilities, or can these characteristics be learned?” I’m here to tell you that leaders aren’t predestined at birth, they’re made out of choice; crafted by their character, anchored by their values, and proven by their habits. Most anyone can learn to be an effective leader; it just takes practice, patience, and honing the right skills. The beautiful thing about leadership habits is that they’re powerful not only at work, but in other parts of life. Great leaders, those who impact peoples lives, don’t merely act that way in certain situations, they’re leaders who display it in all areas of their life. In coming posts, I’ll share with you how to build the foundation to start becoming the outstanding leader through your habits and behaviors.
It’s easy to get caught up in our strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits, claiming, “This is just the way we are.” However, each one of us is merely a collection of our beliefs, behaviors, and habits. Our personas began with many small choices – acts made over time – that have molded us into who we are today. Our current behaviors are a reflection of our current identities. If we want to experience lasting change with our habits, then we need to focus on re-shaping our belief system first, and aligning it with the type of leader we strive to be. It starts with a conviction of belief that you can change your behaviors. I tell senior leaders all the time that it’s not about process, culture and systems, not initially, it’s about changing your peoples behaviors – which will in turn create great, processes, cultures and systems. And so it is with us.
The challenging part of beliefs is they’re often unconscious, so changing them can be difficult and usually isn’t done overnight. The good news is we can change our beliefs over the long term by taking small action steps in the direction of our desired identity.
First off – your desire to change must be set up in your head and heart as a “want to” and not a “have to” if success is going to be achieved. Your desire to serve, help, and impact others through your leadership is paramount to changing any present behavior that would be an obstacle to this main goal. Second, before we can act, we have to think. Self-reflection and awareness is an exercise that must be employed to identify the obstacles and the areas of your life that need to change. Lastly, start small, yet think big. Without a big reason as to the “why” you’re venturing forth to grow as a leader, the mission is essentially doomed (more on that in a later post). The idea is to begin small and continue succeeding at our small, chosen habit until it becomes automatic. An example may be becoming a better listener and focusing on developing the skill of focused attention, which in turn empowers and engages those around you. Once it’s part of who we are, then we can begin to expand the size of that habit, incrementally. It takes time and patience, but eventually, we’ll become the person we desire to be, and our leadership behaviors will be relatively automatic.
Being an exceptional leader means embodying leadership in all areas of our lives; at work and home. Here are eight habits of influential leaders I’ll cover in the coming year:
Over the next weeks and months, I’ll be expanding on each one of these in detail to give you a better idea of how to become an influential, congruent leader both at work and at home. Stay tuned!