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10 Habits of Highly Effective Leaders

by Yvette McKenzie
Posted: February 05, 2015

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Highly effective leaders remind me of this quote: "Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish." - Sam Walton (Entrepreneur and Founder of Walmart)

Think about the last project manager you had the pleasure of working with. Or perhaps the supervisor you had when you were working as an intern in a retail company. How about the boss you currently have.

If I were to ask you, who makes the best leader amongst those, who would you nominate? And more importantly, why did you? What criteria did you use to evaluate them or did you just choose the person you liked working with the most? Some people make better leaders than others, be it in a workplace, a youth leadership program or your local primary school committee. They are vastly successful, demand respect from people they associate with and get things done. They do things differently to other people and they have an innate ability to get people to willingly follow them. As it turns out, these people possess a set of qualities – habits they practice every day – that make them extraordinary. Let’s have a look at what they are and how you can put them in action.

Highly effective leaders - happy employee - man helping woman

Habit #1 They communicate an ultra-clear vision of the future

Extraordinary leaders have a bigger, better vision for their company and articulate their vision clearly so that everybody is truly on board. They have a solid course of action. Their planning begins with the end in mind – starting with the objective and working backwards to the present situation. They know achieving this dream will mean pushing people beyond their abilities and comfort zone.

Tip: Do not confuse your people. When they clearly understand what they are working towards, you have their unwavering loyalty.

Habit #2 They walk the talk

They model their work ethic. They show that they are one hundred percent committed to the task. They inspire action by example. They are proactive. They prioritise their day, organise their day in advance and strive to make the best use of their time.

Tip: Do what you preach. Don’t be a fake. You are the leader – act like it.

Habit #3 They are creative problem solvers

They never allow obstacles to keep them from reaching their goals. They are able to think on their feet and think differently. They aren’t afraid to think outside of the box and ask ‘what if’ They look at the obstacles as opportunities and look at the situation from different angles. They enjoy coming up with non-traditional ways to reach a goal.

Tip: Have an open door policy. Make it easy for people to get in touch and say what is on their mind.

Habit #4 They have integrity

An effective leader has inner values and outside actions that match perfectly, which means people find it easy to trust them. They are dependable. They make promises and always keep them.

Tip: Be a role model for your people. Give them a reason to look up to you.

Habit #5 They don’t play the blame and shame game

They deal with others with fairness and impartiality. They acknowledge others’ efforts and give credit where it is due. They aren’t afraid to step up and take responsibility for failure. They don’t blame others when something goes wrong on their watch. They decide which rules they will make exceptions for and remain flexible.

Tip: Life happens, so offer second chances to those who make mistakes. Be compassionate. Offer feedback as everybody wants to know how well they are performing.

Habit #6 They are assertive and decisive

Brilliant managers have the ability to communicate clearly what is expected of people and won’t take or accept any excuses. They pay attention to their intuition and are not afraid to say ‘no’ and make hard decisions even though it might make them unpopular in that instance. They identify the non-negotiable and what will not be compromised on.

Tip: Stand up for what you believe in. Make tough decisions if you have to and you will earn the respect of your colleagues and team members.

Habit #7 They have humility

Successful leaders are devoid of inflated egos. They understand that they are no better or worse than others. They don’t intimidate people. They know the success of the project depends on getting the most out of every single person involved. They seek to understand others and where they are coming from. They welcome constructive criticism and solicit feedback from people they trust and value.

Tip: Don’t be a jerk. Be likeable. Think win-win. Be a positive person and people will respond in the same manner.

Habit #8 They have openness to new ideas

Highly effective leaders listen to others with an open mind. They encourage creative thinking and believe that many minds working together lead to great insight. They invite ideas from people and are able to listen without judgement. They approve ideas even if they originate from junior level employees. They take calculated risks.

Tip: Reward creative thinkers. Appreciate people who come to you with innovative ideas. Employees are more likely to come to you with ideas and potential solutions when you make it clear you want to hear from them.

Habit #9 They focus on the marathon instead of the sprint

They know that it is impossible to win all the time. They don’t demand perfection and refrain from putting unnecessary pressure on their people. They understand that mistakes and failures are inevitable and are to be expected and planned for. Acknowledge setbacks but keep them in perspective, and then encourage the team to keep moving forward.

Tip: Don’t create a do or die situation in the workplace. Plan for mistakes or failures – expect them.

Habit #10 They invest in mentoring

Successful leaders are lifelong learners. Not only do they invest in the personal and professional development of their department, they also invest in their own skills. They surround themselves with people smarter than they are, especially in areas that aren’t their natural strengths. They never pretend to have all the answers. They mastermind with others and aren’t afraid to work with mentors and executive coaches for their own success.

Tip: Network with other successful leaders and learn from them.

Remember, it’s not what you know but what you practice that makes you a great leader. Want to know what else makes a great leader?



Yvette has over a decade of professional experience at some of Australia’s largest media corporations, including Southern Cross Austereo and the Macquarie Media Network. With a degree in Communications (majoring in Journalism), she covers stories on education, new knowledge technologies and independent learning.

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