It’s a phrase we commonly associate with the number of fruits and vegetables we aspire to consume each day to maintain a healthy diet. I offer you the opportunity to explore your leadership health similarly to five daily habits.
Leadership over time has become a title. I’m often asked, “What does the typical leader look like?” My response is always, “Leaders are diverse, they are gender and race-neutral, not linked to career grades or hierarchy, and by the way—there are no typical leaders.” Just being the boss or having direct reports doesn’t make anybody a leader. Often, when I work with large organizations, their senior management may have even included “leader” in the title, so they perceive themselves as leaders.
I believe that leadership is a gift given, granted, and assigned to the leader by the people they work with. That also includes those who could be the same career level or even junior to them—leadership is a trait, not a job. Whatever they call their title, if they have no one on the journey with them, they are not a leader, right?
Here are the top five actions of daily behaviors that I’ve observed in great leaders:
1.) Communicate effortlessly
They make everything relevant, meaningful, and two-way. They adapt their style and approach to match the recipient and evaluate, so people understand their message. I call these leaders “communication adaptors.” Within a split second, they have the ability to flex their style according to their audience.
2.) Foster trust
The authentic leader creates an open and honest environment where people can act and behave without fear. I have heard some senior leaders say, “You have to earn trust.” That could take some time, and besides, how do you earn trust at the very beginning of a relationship? The answer is that you have to give some trust upfront. Otherwise, nothing gets done. Great leaders will tell you that trust doesn’t have to be earned; it can be gifted and cultivated over time. It’s for them to lose, not to gain.
3.) Live & breathe their vision
Congruence is when you observe something, and your perceptions and gut reactions permit you to believe that what you are seeing or hearing is true. For the congruent leader, everything they do and every action they take is aligned to their vision and strategy. It’s just how it is: great leaders don’t deviate from their vision. Their people follow because what’s demonstrated is real and believable.
4.) Create urgency, not panic
The urgency they display as leaders is structured, planned, supported, and wrapped with great intention. This creates real change. It’s a fine line between urgency and panic, and many leaders believe they are being urgent when they are actually panicking. The difference is about how they create urgency. This needs context as to why and what they are trying to achieve. They give context, then get buy-in.
5.) Say thank you
Dozens of things are worthy of thanks in a leader’s day; great leaders celebrate every time somebody has done what is expected and what is unexpected. They start with a thank you. It’s the most underused form of recognition; great leaders recognize it’s the most effective. Caution: I encourage leaders only to say it when it’s needed and deserved. Just saying “thank you” time and time again may lose impact and erode their authenticity as leaders if it’s not genuine.
Many leaders have adopted these simple steps, and now it’s habitual and part of the way they do things. Some studies show that you have to repeat something 21 times before it becomes a habit. So write down these 5 daily themes, pin them up where you can see them, and ensure that you demonstrate these traits every day. In a month, you may transform your approach to leading others.
Steve Rush is a Solutions 21 affiliate leadership expert and CEO of Improov Consulting whose career spans global multimillion-dollar firms. Steve became a coach and business consultant to other executives to pass on his learning, studies, and leadership lessons. With Improov Consulting (based in the United Kingdom), he coaches, trains, and supports leaders from junior levels to international CEOs of global organizations. Steve is the author of “Leadership Cake,” which combines his expertise and leadership lessons into a fresh perspective on leadership success. He also created and hosts The Leadership Hacker Podcast, one of the top podcasts for leadership globally.