5 habits shared by the most successful leaders

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Across a wide range of industries and geographies, the world’s greatest business leaders know that all goals must be rooted in consistent habits that support them. Top leaders regularly evaluate and reevaluate whether their daily practices are enabling them to lead effectively and efficiently and, ultimately, whether they are paving the way for their long-term plans.

Understanding that success often comes from incremental progress over time, they are confident that even when goals don’t materialize as quickly as planned, the systems and processes they have put in place will keep their team motivated, energized and on track. The best leaders value their habits, knowing that hard work will ultimately lead to results.

After three decades of working with CEOs, I have found that the following five core habits are shared by the most successful leaders:

Related: 5 Habits of Leaders at the Top of the Ladder

1. Be disciplined with communication

Great leaders prioritize maintaining consistent lines of communication by maintaining a regular cadence of individual and department meetings. They keep meetings productive and results-oriented by leveraging a combination of the following best practices:

  • Share a brief with all participants before each meeting: This allows everyone to be ready to share relevant updates, answer questions, and offer new ideas and well-thought-out solutions, rather than spending the first part of the meeting keeping everyone updated.

  • Open meetings outlining the purpose and expected outcome: This helps set the tone, align expectations, ensure the conversation doesn’t get distracted, and eliminate surprises.

  • Come to meetings prepared and ready to lead: A great way to achieve this is to create a 15 minute buffer between meetings. Avoiding back-to-back meetings gives leaders a quick opportunity to debrief the previous meeting and prepare for the next one.

2. Make planning programmatic

Instead of spending all day reacting to emergencies, effective CEOs take proactive control of their planning process. They routinely build planning checkpoints into their day: in the morning to prepare for the day, at noon to reflect on critical projects, and in the evening to plan for the next day. This strategic, forward-thinking approach to planning gives leaders the opportunity to be thoughtful in their responses rather than constantly responding on the fly.

3. Master your calendar

Great leaders don’t leave their priorities to chance: they put them directly into their calendars. Instead of simply creating a to-do list and hoping to get it done by the end of the day, they set aside specific blocks of time for each task they want to accomplish, even if it’s as simple as walking around the office to connect with the team.

This principle applies to both personal goals, such as exercise, and business priorities, such as strategic planning. An effective CEO’s schedule often appears to be robust, but instead is carefully tailored to ensure that important projects don’t fall by the wayside. Some CEOs find success using digital planners or apps to better plan their day. Regardless of the tool you use, the practice of scheduling time based on priorities is critical to staying on track and making progress towards your goals.

Related: 10 Secrets to Creating a Master Calendar That Boosts Your Productivity

4. Create an accountability system with peers

Great CEOs know the pitfalls of trying to do everything yourself. They actively seek out diverse perspectives from trusted colleagues to ensure their decision making is well balanced. Remaining open-minded to new approaches, they welcome the experience and advice of others. Many have found that when they state their goals out loud to colleagues, they are more likely to follow through with actions that support those goals. Whether it’s a peer networking group, a mentoring/coaching program, or regular conversations with longtime friends, effective leaders rely on the value of community.

5. Carve out time to learn

Among the many urgent decisions CEOs must make every day, it can be difficult to find time to learn. However, the world’s best leaders regularly seek new industry and leadership ideas from podcasts, articles, speakers and books. Lifelong learning begins by setting goals and implementing habits to support them. By creating the discipline to support a lifetime of learning, CEOs can ensure constant improvement.

In 2024, economists expect continued economic uncertainty and weakness. This makes it more important than ever for leaders to ensure they are setting themselves and their companies up for success. The Super Bowl isn’t won in just one game. It’s the result of year-round training, grueling practices, wins, losses and perseverance. The business is the same. Breaking bad habits and implementing and maintaining new ones is hard work. However, great CEOs find joy in the process and are patient as they work toward growth goals.

Related: 5 Winning Habits That Will Transform Your Leadership Skills

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