• Print

3 Habits Of Excellent Leadership

Tuesday 18 October, 2011
All of us have habits. Some of our habits help us achieve, experience and model excellence, others hold us back from excellence. In a leadership context, our habits have amplified effects on those we work with - encouraging or inhibiting excellence in teams, processes, productivity, innovation and communication. So what might be some practical, everyday habits of excellent leadership?
  1. Powerful conversations that challenge, focus, support and encourage

    Our everyday conversations, both formal and informal, are central to our effectiveness in influencing others. So the ability to engage in conversations that produce positive results is a key leadership habit. Every interaction produces a result - good, bad or indifferent. Every conversation creates or reinforces others' perception of us. Every conversation is thus important and therefore worth managing.

    What do you want your conversations to achieve? Sometimes you need to challenge people, processes or priorities. Sometimes you need to focus or refocus individuals or teams. Sometimes a conversation needs to clearly communicate support. And sometimes (often) our conversations should encourage.

    Remember that one of Kouzes and Posner's Five Exemplary Leadership Practices is "encourage the heart". It's also an easy habit to neglect.
  2. Attentive listening that invites input and enables insight

    It could be argued that listening is obviously part of conversations, but it's also such an important behavioural habit that it deserves its own space. Listening is called "the neglected communication" skill, which suggests it may not be as habitual as we'd like to think. Active listening is first a choice. Attentive listening takes time and effort but it rewards us with richer information (think about the quality of information you choose to give to those who listen attentively). It produces greater clarity. It also communicates respect.
  3. Modelling and reinforcing the right values

    Everyone says they "lead by example". And of course we do - we can't help it, because people observe our behaviour and create impressions based on that behaviour far more readily and powerfully than they do in response to our words. (And of course our intentions are completely unknown to them.)

    The only question about leading by example is what that example is. And fundamentally, a leader's responsibility is to exemplify the values and standards the team and organisation aspire to. After all, the values should be reflected in our habitual behaviour. A leader's conversations should also reinforce the practice of positive values. (This is also a practical way of having supportive conversations.)

These three apparently simple daily habits are individually and collectively at the heart of a group, team or organisation's culture. And as Edgar Schein wrote: "there is a possibility ... that the only thing of real importance leaders do is to create and manage cultureand that the unique talent of leaders is their ability to work with cultures".

Culture is largely the creation of habits. So the question is simply which habits we want to shape our culture. And if we want an "excellent" culture it makes sense to cultivate and celebrate excellent habits.

Author Credits

Aubrey Warren, Australia’s Situational Leadership® master trainer and growth coaching international accredited coach. Used with permission. For more information about leadership and team development, communication training or accredited coaching visit www.pacific.qld.edu.au or call 1300 736 646.
  • Print