Bill Price has observed the habits of effective leaders for years, coaching diverse organisations. In this blog, he shares several key insights and asks killer questions that will help you become a better leader.
I’ve had the privilege of coaching people across the world for many years and seen all kinds of behaviour, both positive and negative. What follows is seven habits of effective leaders, but not necessarily in order of importance.
Effective leaders have several key habits that contribute to their success. They have a strong understanding of who they are, including their strengths and weaknesses. They realise they are always visible and their actions are under scrutiny, so they need to be aware of the trade-off between power, privilege, privacy, and vulnerability.
Good leaders also recognise that they are not perfect and maintain humility in the face of hero worship.
They are in touch with their emotions and understand the emotional impact they have on others. They take ownership of their decisions and have a life outside of their organisation. Most importantly they live to empower others. By following these principles you will be able to lead with authenticity and balance. Let’s take a more detailed look:
1. Effective leaders are aware of who they are
The first habit of effective leaders is that they understand the complexity of who they are, both good and bad. This means they can lead from an inner centeredness or aliveness rather than from their personality. They understand that both light and shadow co-exist within their inner being.
Business guru, Alan Kaplan refers to the shadow as the energy that arises when we strive too much or too little towards something. It’s almost as if we directing our energies in such a focused way that we lose balance. Your shadow is something to be embraced not pushed away. You cannot live in denial concerning it. In reality it is just the other side of light. So an effective leader is one who has the capacity to relax in the reality of their being.
An action point to consider here is: “What steps do I need to take get in touch with my inner being?”
2. Effective leaders realise they are visible
A second habit of effective leaders is coming to realisation they are always visible, in other words, their power, authority, privileges can be seen by all. So the risk of leadership is one of occupying a space that makes you feel vulnerable. If we deny this, it will haunt us wherever we go. As leaders we have to come to terms with the trade off between power and privilege and privacy.
Peter Drucker says that a leader is paid to be uncomfortable, and they are always on trial. So whatever you say and do don’t say and do, you are always under scrutiny. A leader is not a private person, but a leader is a person who is out there.
Consider what you are concerned about? What are you scared of? Or anxious about? Understand that everything you do or say is visible? Think about how that impacts you? And how willing you are to open up to your colleagues?
3. Effective leaders realise they aren’t perfect
Effective leaders understand their human limitations. So the moment people begin to hero worship them, they deflect this and bring things back to reality. It may feel good to be put on a pedestal but it will cause you pay a high price should you make a mistake. Through my coaching experience in many organisations, I’ve often observed situations where the leader and the organisation are seen to be inseparable. The leader has set themself up as a demigod and cannot be challenged. This is not healthy for them or the organisation in the the long term.
We all have weaknesses or a shadow and we need to remind those who we lead not to put us on pedestals. What practical steps can you take to ensure that you’re not set up as a hero. How can you maintain your humility? For example some leaders find it helpful to receive ongoing mentorship from an executive coach. Psychologists have a supervision period and often business coaches are under the supervision of other coaches. Could you benefit from similar accountability? Which of your vulnerabilities are you prepared to share? How can you be transparent, open and honest with those you trust so they can see your human limitations?
4. Effective leaders are in touch with their emotions
Another key observation in our list of the habits of effective leaders is that the best managers realise the importance of emotional intelligence within an organisation. They understand the emotional impact their actions can have within the realm of tasks in a company and through interpersonal relationships.
Leaders have to make decisions and to do this effectively they need to have holistic, synergistic thinking. They need to be in touch with their emotions. Are you aware of the emotional repercussions you leave behind? What emotional state do people go into once you stop working together? Are they blurred, focused or anxious? Do they feel overwhelmed, belittled or excited? Are they motivated or enthused?
We as leaders need to express our feelings in mature, nurturing ways so that others can recipicrocate.
5. Effective leaders take ownership
Another habit of effective leaders is that they understand that commitment requires a sense of ownership and it works itself out by taking a particular direction and is driven by a firm resolve. What we ask may not always be popular. But we’ve got to take ownership and stand our ground.
How can you take ownership, becoming the kind of person that is brave and strong? How can you display the courage of your convictions and influence others with a sense of the fire within your life?
6. Effective leaders have a life beyond their organisation
Another habit of effective leaders is that they know that the organisation is not their life, I can remember working with a spiritual leader who was sharing with the leaders around him. And he said, “I want you to know, I don’t see myself coming to church, I see myself coming to work, and my work is not my life.”
Most times leaders allow the passion of the mission and the vision, to envelop them in such a way that they, they actually see themselves as the organisation, they become the mission, they become the vision and it’s very dangerous. The consequences can be highly damaging for example, Burnout.
So we’ve got to realise that we can honour and promote our organisation, but if you make the organisation your life, you are defenceless against inevitable disappointments. So pay attention to that. Consider what steps you need to take to maintain your individuality and direction. So that you don’t become a self centred person, vain or jealous person or where you and the organisation become one.
7. Effective leaders empower others
Effective leaders see the potential of those who they are leading and their ability to roll out a strategy or business plan. Every leader that accomplishes anything in life gets there because of the people around them. So an important leadership test is to consider how you are ensuring the continuation of the organisation by empowering others? What is the evidence that you are creating an atmosphere of empowerment, so that people can grow around you and become the best version of themselves they can be? And it’s not about having too much ego, it’s about allowing people to be bigger than yourself. Even hiring people that are better than you for the good of the organisation.
How are you empowering people? How are you creating an empowering culture? How are you honouring and appreciating people and giving them the sense that they belong? Who are you raising up as your successor to steer the organisation long after you are gone.
By incorporating these seven habits of effective leaders, you can become more effective in your role and better serve your organisation and teams.