Seven leadership habits of highly successful people

01 October 2016, at 1:00am

Paul Green looks at what qualities set apart the best managers and leaders, and lists the seven powerful habits that the greatest leaders usually possess.

I’M GRATEFUL THAT THE BREXIT MESS in June went completely above my five-year-old daughter’s head, because I think it was one of the most shocking examples of lack of leadership I have ever witnessed.

In just two weeks, we sent a message to an entire generation that as a country we readily accept leaders who lie, cheat, fail to plan, and shirk responsibility. 

From a campaign pledge based around £350 million a week returning to the UK that was retracted just a few hours after victory... to key leaders opting out of a difficult situation they had created... to a leader who refused to take action to change, despite his entire support team resigning around him.

Oh – and the complete lack of planning from everyone as to what should happen if the UK voted for Brexit.

My dad always says that anyone who wants to be an MP should not be allowed to become an MP! Maybe what happened in June will trigger today’s children to lead in a different way in the future.

Because outside of politics, the world is being revolutionised – today – by true, powerful leaders. People who are pushing us towards much needed change, and are inspiring millions on the way. From Bill Gates, who set out to put a computer on every desk, to Steve Jobs, who changed the way we interact with information. And Elon Musk, the billionaire behind Tesla electric cars and SpaceX, an attempt to dramatically lower the costs of routinely going into space. 

In fact, as a planet we are facing some stunning challenges right now: clean energy, clean transport, population control, resource management, the rise of artificial intelligence. These challenges are being tackled by strong leaders who are not the people running our governments.

Your practice needs a strong leader. As the practice owner that’s you. Leadership is not something you are born with. It’s something you develop over time.

Leadership is completely different to management. Being a manager is about running a business efficiently and profitably. Leadership is about creating a vision for the future. That vision might be as simple and intangible as “being the ‘go to’ vets in this town”.

But you make it seem so real that you can lead your team there, regardless of the difficulties on the way. It comes down to the way you think, which affects the actions you take, which become habits, which ultimately affect the results you get.

Habits lead to results, and great leaders tend to share the same powerful habits.

They don’t compare themselves to their competitors 

Instead, they compare themselves to the work they did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. And then they make a commitment to do better today. That commitment is to themselves as much as it is to anyone else.

They show, rather than tell

Great leaders know that talk is cheap and that anyone can say anything. So they lead by example.

They encourage others. They leave people better than they find them 

We all need other people to help us succeed in whatever it is we are trying to achieve. People work best when they are being supported and encouraged by others. You read any biography of leaders who have achieved amazing change, and they have surrounded themselves with the very best people... then have pushed them to new, unthinkable heights.

They show up, even when it’s easier not to 

I’m currently reading a best-selling biography of Elon Musk. He pushes his teams to work 15-hour days every day, to meet seemingly impossible deadlines. One of the ways he does this is to work longer than they do. He’s asking them for a major chunk of their lives. And he’s willing to demonstrate to them that he’ll give a larger chunk of his life for them. If you want your team to fight for you, you have to be prepared to fight harder for them. This is a commitment to being reliable. 

They listen. And give you their full attention 

Often your people will look to you, the leader, for the answers. Yet one person rarely knows enough to be able K to make all of the correct decisions, all of the time. Great leaders suck in information and opinion. They still make the decisions, but they are informed. 

They are keen to take responsibility 

I believe this to be a key attribute. Great leaders take responsibility for failures as much as successes. They step up when others step back. This sends a message to their team: “I’ve got your back. Whatever happens here, I will find a way to get us to the destination we all desire. I might have to change the route repeatedly along the way. But stick with me and we’ll get there together. Then we will share the spoils of victory together.”

They are focused on their self-development 

The best leaders are constant educated consumers of high-quality information. They understand the direct link between the way they think, their actions, their habits and their results. So they make sure they think the right way. They programme their brain – the world’s most powerful computer – with the right software, so it produces more robust results.