I have been an avid student of leadership and effective leaders. It's the first section I look for in any book store. It's what I watch for in movies. I love studying leaders and in the last 15 years I have searched for what separates the highly effective leaders from those who are less effective. I have discovered seven common habits of those who are among the most influential.
The following list is by no means exhaustive, however it has worked for powerhouse leaders of all genres whether they be in the church, business, sports, politics or other areas of leadership.
- Effective leaders have clarified their vision. Effective leaders have actually taken the time to list the areas of their lives that are most important to them. They have developed a personal life plan. They know who they want to be remembered by and what they want to be remembered for. While others tend to become bogged down by the details, effective leaders initially focus on “what” they want to accomplish before they look at “how” it will be accomplished. A great resource to help you clarify your vision is Michael Hyatt's e-book Creating a Personal Life Plan.
- Effective leaders have a developed personal growth plan. Effective leaders live by the "The Principle of the Path" - your direction, not your intention determines your destination. After they have firmly established their vision, they make a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly growth plan that reflects their values. These plans are flexible. They realize that the plans are subject to change, but the vision remains the same. They are stubborn with their vision but flexible with their plans. A great resource to help you build a personal growth plan is John Maxwell's book Today Matters.
- Effective leaders live their priorities. One of the most surprising habits common to most effective leaders, is the balanced life they lead. One would think that in order to be effective a leader would need to sacrifice everything else to devote the time and energy necessary to produce the desired results. However, after studying these leaders, I found that they were highly disciplined in allaspects of their lives. They schedule their priorities and don't expect them to just happen! It is discipline at first, then a routine, before it becomes a healthy habit. A great resource to help you keep your priorities in check is Andy Stanley's book When Work and Family Collide.
- Effective leaders have defined their culture. Effective leaders understand that culture trumps vision every time. They ask "Who am I?" "What are my non-negotiable values?" and "What do I believe?" Then they work within this personal culture. They even choose companies that believe as they do and refuse to work for organizations that have differing values, even sacrificing lucrative salaries for a cultural fit. A great resource to help you understand you personal culture is Simon Sinek's book Start With Why.
- Effective leaders have chosen to be students rather than critics. When something new comes on the scene, instead of criticizing it, effective leaders study it thoroughly. It's human nature to resist things we don’t understand and criticize things we can’t control. But effective leaders recognize that the temptation to resist new ideas has less to do with “it” and more to do with them. They also understand that the things we tend to criticize when we are a follower we will better understand when we become the leader.
- Effective leaders take time to dream and practice reflective thinking. Effective leaders don’t get bogged down in so much responsibility that all they dream about is vacations. They think bigger. They think ahead. And they plan for tomorrow’s needs today. They actually schedule daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly times to do nothing but dream as well as time to reflect on their leadership successes and mistakes. A great resource to help you develop leadership thinking habits is John Maxwell's book Thinking For a Change.
- Effective leaders stay the course. Effective leaders maintain a steady course. They may appear as overnight successes, but don't be fooled, they have established a daily discipline and a personal growth plan that has prepared them for the opportunities others simply miss. They do this by looking to a mentor to hold them accountable to their dream and plan. They choose their peers wisely and associate only with those that reflect their culture, and they have someone they are mentoring. They live for more than just their own success, they live for significance. They reproduce themselves.
Questions: Rate yourself 1 to 10 in all 7 of these habits. How are you doing? Which habit do you need to work on the most?