What are the duties of a leader? Keep investors happy, appease shareholders, increase profit, overcome threats, and seize opportunities where they can. The best leaders should be able to complete these functions to keep their company afloat, even thrive.
But, just because a company is killing the competition and experiencing wildfire growth doesn’t mean its leader is great. Just look at Uber’s
What is it that they’re doing differently to separate their companies from the rest and make their people want to come to work? Better communication, self-awareness, a healthy dose of humility?
Let’s take a look at some of the habits the best leaders have in common that help them stay at the top of their games.
#1. They Have a Morning Routine
It’s much easier to be a great leader when you love what you do. But, it’s hard to love your job every single day. No top executive likes carrying out layoffs or announcing downsizes. But great leaders know how to take the rough with the smooth and understand how to treat people with respect at all times. They set themselves up for the day with a morning routine to clear away the clutter from their minds.
Many of the best leaders take the time to meditate before reaching the office. Meditation comes in many different forms, not necessarily sitting peacefully cross-legged, or retiring to your den like Legal Sea Foods CEO, Roger Berkowitz.
Meditation and mindfulness are really about how they work for you. Whether you pound the tennis courts like Anna Wintour, or try light yoga like Arianna Huffington, the point is the same. Great leaders set themselves up for the day ahead.
#2. The Best Leaders Aren’t Afraid to Fail
Think about the greatest wars fought in history and inspiring military speeches given:
“It is not merely for today, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children’s children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours… The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel,” rang out the words of Abraham Lincoln to the 166th Ohio Regiment in 1864.
Churchill’s infamous speech after the French retreat from Hitler in 1940 still make our spines tingle: “You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.”
They didn’t stand before their expectant subjects, saying, “You know what? The enemy is pretty strong, we’re probably going to lose.” And they weren’t afraid to fail. At least, they didn’t transmit that possibility if they were. Great leaders know how to inspire their people. They make us want to follow them into battle. Whether that be online, air, or sea.
#3. They’re Not Crippled by Self-Doubt
The best leaders believe in themselves, plain and simple. You probably read this in a fortune cookie at some point; but if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Many of the most successful CEOs and entrepreneurs came from humble beginnings.
Richard Branson dropped out of college. Jeff Bezos worked on his grandfather’s farm. Even Henry Ford had very little financial backing of his own. The one thing they had in common? They all believed in themselves. They weren’t crippled by self-doubt.
Sean Hopwood, President and CEO of Day Translations knows a thing or two about overcoming problems along the way. He shares, “I had just been fired fired from my job as a medical interpreter. I had hardly any savings. But, I knew that there would be a demand for language and translation services, that there were so many industries to serve. I maxed out my credit cards and took a risk. Before long, we got our first big client and never looked back.”
Don’t let self-doubt get in your way. You’ll be a better leader for it.
#4. They See Life as a Learning Experience
As Bishop T.D. Jakes once said “the world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning you go to school.” The best leaders never assume they know everything about their jobs, industry, or business. They don’t rest on their laurels or become complacent. They keep their minds open and sharp and they share that passion for learning with their people.
The best companies to work for on the Fortune 100 list are the ones that provide continued learning opportunities for their staff. Just consider Google, KPMG, Salesforce and PwC. The sky’s the limit for those who want to grow. And what do their best leaders have in common? An unbridled curiosity and passion for continued learning.
#5. They Have a Life Outside Work
The best leaders lead by example. You can spout the benefits of taking a lunch break, or making sure you use your vacation days. But if your employees see that you never leave your desk, they’ll be reluctant to take your advice. Managing to achieve a work/life balance is essential to clear thinking, balanced decision-making, and a happy team.
Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, was able to write her first book by using all her vacation days. Evernote CEO, Phil Libin, travels as much as he can, plays video games and watches movies. And Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, recently took six weeks of vacation, acknowledging the importance of work/life balance.
The best leaders have a life outside of work and they don’t encourage their employees to put in extra hours until they reach burnout. They understand that the most creative decisions and greatest innovations come from a well-rested team, capable of thinking clearly.
Perhaps most importantly of all, great leaders think about themselves and they think about their people, as well. They have many key habits in common, and they share them with their team. That’s what sets apart a company that people want to work for and one that merely turns profit.