leadership habitsThis article is the fifth and final post in a series on creating leadership identity. You can also read about building a personal brand, leading through your actions, and leading through your visual and verbal presence and leadership response. 

It was Aristotle who said that we are what we repeatedly do. Our seemingly small actions, performed day in and day out, eventually create who we are. 

They are also known as habits. 

Who you are as a person is reflected in who you are as a leader. So it makes sense that your habits have a big stake in your leadership path and continued achievement. With the right habits, you stay on course. With the wrong ones, it’s easy to end up off the path and in the weeds! As a leader, you can’t afford to go astray. 

A focus on habits seemed to me a perfect way to close this series and set you up for greater success moving forward. To help you take the next steps in creating lasting leadership habits, I’ll share this simple, three-step plan you can practice. 

Step 1: Get Your Bearings 

First, take some time to review each article in the series. 

Next, assess yourself in each of the leadership identity categories. This is where you are today, keeping within the context of your career. Create a ranked list, with 1 being where you’re the strongest. This will help you prioritize your direction. For example, your ranked list might look like this: 

  1. Act Like a Leader
  2. Think Like a Leader
  3. Personal Brand
  4. Visual Presence of a Leader
  5. Respond Like a Leader
  6. Verbal Presence of a Leader. 

Step 2: Set Your Direction 

With your ranked list in hand, look at your strongest and weakest categories. In our list above, for example, our strongest is Act Like a Leader and our weakest is Verbal Presence of a Leader. These two areas are where you’ll begin your action plan. I’ll let you in on the method to my madness in working this way. I’m a big fan of working from strengths first, but I like to make sure I’m not ignoring weaker areas. So beginning your action plan from a place of strength will help you build on the successful leadership habits you already have, and give you some quick successes. Those quick successes will create the boost you need to establish new habits in the weaker areas. 

For your two selected categories, go back to the corresponding article and then choose one tip from each that you’d like to work on. Try to pick one that you think will give you the biggest return, based on your projects, your development plan, and your goals. Remember that you can modify it to fit your situation, so you get the most out of it. 

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In our example, it might look like this: 

  • Act Like a Leader: Ask great questions.
  • Verbal Presence of a Leader: Practice the TAPS formula in my next meeting. 

Step 3: Practice, Track, Repeat 

Once you’ve decided on the tips to implement, it’s time to put them into practice. Commit to working on this daily for the next 30 days. It takes that long to cement a new habit, to make it subconscious and part of your everyday behavior. Odds are you’ll find that the new habit creates other positive changes! 

Some tips to help you along the way: 

  • Share what you’re working on with the executive you report to. Better yet, put it into your leadership development plan.
  • If working on two actions is overwhelming, begin with one and build from there. Do what you need to do to set yourself up for the best possible success.
  • Pay attention to your environment. Our environments play a big role in how successful we are in adopting and integrating new habits. For example, think about your surroundings, the people you spend time with, your routines, and your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Are those environmental elements setting you up for success?
  • Track your progress in a way that works for you. It could be as simple as marking it in a calendar, or keeping a more detailed journal. The idea is to be consistent and make it something you’ll do each day. 

At the end of the 30 days, check in with yourself. How often did you practice? How well is the new habit established? Based on that check in, decide if you need another 30 days with these same actions, or if you’re ready to take on some new ones. 

If you’re ready to move on, here are some suggestions: 

  • Continue with the same categories, and add new actions.
  • Move on to the next categories in your list, working your way inward (to number 2 and number 5). 

If you’re not ready to move on, that’s completely OK. Stay with it and give yourself another chance to make the change stick. 

One of the best pieces of advice I received from a mentor was to be more compassionate with myself—to give myself a break. (Especially for all you perfectionists out there, I understand!) True change takes time, practice, and some self-compassion. Remember that these are lasting habits that will make you the leader you want to be.