CEO Magazine: Ten leadership habits you need to cultivate

Published in Massive Updates, in this article Michelle outlines 10 leadership habits that you need to cultivate to be the best leader you can be.

When you think of bad habits, what springs to mind? Not getting enough exercise, eating poorly or watching too much TV. Most people recall habits that relate to their personal life, and yet lousy leadership habits are equally prevalent – potentially impacting your productivity, working relationships and reputation, says workplace expert and author Michelle Gibbings.

Researchers Bas Verplanken (University of Bath) and Wendy Wood (Duke University) found that more than 40% of the actions people perform every day are not consciously made, but habits. This means that much of a person’s behaviour every day is automatic.

Leadership habits are built over time and operate like an energy-saving device for the brain. When something becomes a habit, you don’t need to spend time debating or thinking about it. You just do it. The question is whether your habits are accelerating or hindering your progress, said Gibbings.

Michelle Gibbings, whose new book is entitled Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one, manage one or are one, shares 10 leadership habits to cultivate.

1. Find time for boredom
When you are always ‘on’ and rushing, you can easily miss what is happening around you. Your brain gets so focused on finishing the task that it ignores new ideas or inputs that should be considered. As well, when you are so used to rushing, it can feel strange to have nothing to do. However, it is in that quiet space that your brain wanders, ponders and comes up with fresh ideas.

2. Pick your speed
There are times when you need to operate with speed and times when you need to cruise. Cruising is not about kicking back and doing nothing but instead considering how you deliberately construct your day, so you have time for reflecting, thinking and deciding. Sometimes you need to make fast decisions relying on gut instinct, and other times you need time to deliberate.

3. Embrace sleep
The health risks associated with a lack of sleep and being a night owl have long been documented – including higher rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease. Now, Professors Kristen Knutson and Malcolm Von Schantz’s research has found those night owls have a higher risk of early death. When your brain is tired, it eagerly takes the path of least resistance – letting expectations and assumptions drive how you think and act. The concept of ‘sleeping on it’ isn’t silly. Your brain processes overnight, and you are far more likely to make better decisions early in the morning when your brain’s pre-frontal cortex is rested.

4. Take regular breaks
Holidays are not just about having fun. They are essential for your mental health and wellbeing. It’s during this downtime that you get the chance to reconnect with friends and family and to reflect on life, where you are going and what you want to do next.

5. Quit the meeting rush
When you rush from meeting to meeting or event to event, you can get to the end of the day exhausted, but not having achieved anything. At the start of each day, set clear intentions on what you want to achieve and write it down. When it’s written down, it is harder to ignore the task than if it just floating around as a thought bubble in your head.

6. Be timely
When you keep people waiting, you are effectively saying to them, “My time is more important than your time.” When you do that, you are also unconsciously saying to the person that you think you are more important than them.

7. Stop multitasking
When you are multitasking, your attention is split, and as you switch from one activity to another, you lose concentration and ultimately become less productive. Highly productive people time-box their workday and ruthlessly manage their schedule.

8. Make time for your team
Take an interest in the people you work with on a personal level. Be friendly and prioritise your time with them. Don’t cancel scheduled one-on-one meetings. There will be occasions when you may need to reschedule, but when you do this regularly you are sending the message that your team doesn’t matter.

9. Be grateful
Be thankful for what people are doing for you and for what you have in life. Be genuinely happy when things go well for them. Gratitude is more than just being thankful for what others do for you; it’s also about being grateful for what’s around you.

10. Reflect daily
As the saying goes: “Reflection causes learning”. Reflection is critical if you want to understand yourself and what drives your behaviour and decisions. English novelist Charles Reade once remarked, “Sow a thought, and you reap an action; sow an action, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”

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