Conventional wisdom says that changing or creating new habits is challenging. However, leaders must exhibit good practices with their teams to be successful.
I’ll say that habits are the foundation for successful leaders.
If that’s true, then how do habits affect leadership style? Although charisma, charm, and character go a long way in leadership, it’s the habits that are the catalyst for effectiveness.
Here are three reasons why habits are instrumental in leadership.
Good Habits=Positive Behavior
Have you had a yeller for a boss? That’s a habit he/she probably developed early in their career. It’s possible to chalk these examples up as personality quirks or characteristics. However, there’s more to it than that.
Building a habit takes time. How many times did your yelling boss see/hear yelling before? And, how many times has this same boss used yelling to get a result? We condition ourselves to do what gets results.
Consider Pavlov’s dog experiment. The dog salivated at the ring of a bell when food was presented or not. Similarly, Charles Duhigg explains this concept in his book The Power of Habit.
Conversely, when we have good habits, we exhibit good behavior. Leaving for work on time each day is a habit. Preparing for the next day the night before is a habit. Meal prepping, sleep schedule, meal routines, and driving are all habits.
Leaders who have good habits can give more to their organizations because their positive behaviors result from a good life practice.
Good Habits Create Opportunities
I once worked at an ice cream shop and was tending to my regular duties. One day, a man came in, and as usual, I greeted him with a grin.
He was impressed by the service I gave him, and he offered me a job at his coffee shop on the spot. Although I declined the offer, he realized that I developed a habit of excellent customer service.
Similarly, I had a co-worker about to retire from the military when he received a prestigious opportunity for a new position.
It was a prominent job for his rank, and he accepted it willingly. I always admired him for his dedication and for the work ethic he had. His work habits helped him to get where he is today.
Arguably, one of the best habits to develop is consistency. Are you present when you need to be present? In high-stress situations, what are your priorities? When the team needs you most, are you reliable or not?
Band of Brothers
I once read a book called Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambros, who addressed this very topic. Band of Brothers is a real-life account of World War Two paratroopers who fought on the front lines in the European theater.
One company commander in the book named Lieutenant Dyke would go missing during a battle’s critical part.
Conversely, a different commander named Captain Winters would lead his troops on raids and highly complex maneuvers.
By comparing Lieutenant Dyke and Captain Winters, it’s obvious who was the better leader. Leaders like Captian Winters are as valuable as gold in a team environment. Captain Winters-like people are dependable and perform their jobs with professionalism.
Unfortunately, the Lieutenant Dykes of the world achieve leadership positions as well. Make your own guidance when you have a Lieutenant Dyke as a boss. You can be that positive influence on the team. Be consistent with your employees, and they will respect you.
You Become More Effective
Stephen R.Covey’s book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People highlights this point. It may seem obvious that the more good habits you develop, the more effective you’ll be. But what stops us from developing good habits?
Our bad habits overshadow good ones because they’re sometimes more attractive.
For instance, how many alarm clock snooze bars have ruined morning workouts? How many pounds did you regain from eating poorly after a diet? It’s not easy to develop good routines, but Covey’s book has some great recommendations.
I once had a horrible habit. I was so disorganized at work that I didn’t know where anything was. My computer was just as bad.
I had tons of tabs open on my web browser, PowerPoints, Word documents, and everything else opened at the same time all of the time. Eventually, I realized that I had to change this habit. It took a lot of work. I still have trouble with my papers and filing system. But I overcame the initial roadblock to making a change.
Similar to lifestyle choices, leadership and habits are linked. When leaders exhibit good patterns, then the team is successful.
How Do You Create Good Habits?
Charles Duhigg talked about the habit loop in his book. Here’s the loop:
-The Cue: This is a trigger. The habit begins by a specific internal or external event, or, most commonly, a stimulus.
-The Routine: When the trigger takes place, the brain goes into autopilot. For example, you see an ice cream ad (trigger); you get a craving for ice cream and go to the freezer (routine).
-The Reward: Your brain will tell you what behaviors it wants you to remember. It does this through chemicals (which I won’t get into here). You get the satisfying reward of eating ice cream, so your brain will remember your fulfilling experience.
It’ll Take Hard Work
The loop repeatedly happens in our lives because of the pleasure we feel from our behaviors. To change a bad habit, maintain the cues and rewards, but hijack the routine.
It takes some work, but according to Duhigg, there’s a way to change the routine. You’ll have to find out more about yourself. Here’s how you change a habit:
-What is the routine? It would help if you discovered your patterns. Do you get hungry after dinner, so that’s why you get ice cream? Use the habit loop to work with yourself.
-What is the reward? Next, you’re finding out what is rewarding you for your behavior. Do you enjoy the crisp and sweet taste of chocolate ice cream? Maybe, instead of eating ice cream, try another tasty treat and see what changes. Repeat this exercise and see what you find.
-What is the cue? Do you eat ice cream after dinner? What about when you sit down to watch something? Your cue will tell you when you’re going to start your routine for getting ice cream.
-What is the plan? After you have found all of the habit loop steps, make a plan for how you’ll change your routine. Changing the pattern is one of the most challenging steps because it takes the most deliberate effort.
-Do you believe you can change? Have confidence in yourself. It’s going to take time. Be patient, and work with yourself if you lapse. Find friends and family to support your efforts, too.
Overall, leaders have habits, both good and bad. As a leader, you have to be willing to accept the bad habits and seek to change them. Attempt to create good habits in your leadership style. You’ll be glad you did.
What habits are the most important ones to develop for leaders? Leave your answers in the comment section down below!
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Read a review here.
Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambros
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Featured Image: Andrew Neel
Video: Random House