How to Implement Good Habits to be a Stronger Leader
Updated: Oct 7
Ed Sheerin sings about bad habits and promised himself it would be the last time knowing it probably wouldn’t be. I get it. Bad habits are hard to kick. You know what else is hard? Starting and maintaining good habits.
Good habits are important to have when developing your leadership skills. We want to be the kind of leader who does things out of habit or for things to become routine. But you have to be deliberate about it or it won't become habit.
The way we approach habits should be the same across all aspects of our lives. From leadership skills to health maintenance, all of this requires good habits. Unfortunately, bad habits tend to be the ones that stick around longer.
We know it’s good for us to stop eating so much junk food, exercise regularly, and watch less TV so we can get more sleep. But why does it seem so difficult to change our behavior for the desired outcomes?
Bad habits that leaders can have:
You want to spend less time on email and more time interacting with people face-to-face...oh wait, you just saw this one message and have to reply now. You'll visit people after this. (But do you?)
You want to be more encouraging and less critical of your subordinates, but you couldn't stop yourself from flying off the handle and now he looks defeated. All because you didn't stop to think before speaking.
You want to show your people you trust them, but you have a hard time letting go of control. The next thing you know, you've requested every detail of the project and now you're staying late at work to change everything they've done.
We Give Ourselves Permission to Maintain Less Desirable Habits
It’s so much easier to fall back into habits that we’ve developed over the years. We try to commit to change. But often times, we resist change, even when it’s something we want. We just find ways to give ourselves permission to procrastinate or avoid doing the things we should do to improve ourselves.
The Excuses We Tell Ourselves
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
I’ll quit starting on Monday (and today’s Tuesday).
I’ll forgot I was going to do that today. I’ll do it tomorrow.
I don’t have time/I’m too busy right now.
I’m too tired or stressed to think about this now.
I haven’t seen this make a difference, why bother.
There are probably many more excuses similar to the above that you can think of to avoid changing your habits. When you excuse yourself often enough (and it doesn’t take much) the bad habit you’re trying to change loses its priority.
Start Now to Establish Good Habits
I understand the tendency to start a new habit on a specific day. People start new years resolutions on the first of the year. Others start a diet on the first of the month, a Sunday or a Monday.
But the best time to start is the day you decide to start.
Don’t wait for a specific date.
Do it now.
Don't make excuses.
Commit to a date and time that you will start a new habit and write it down.
Telling yourself you don’t have time or that you’re too busy to start a new habit is the same thing as telling yourself that habit is unimportant to you. If it’s important, you will make time for it.
Feeling too tired or stressed to start a new habit may mean you have other things you need to focus on. Are you really tired or stressed? If so, do you need to change other habits to improve the quality of your sleep or stress levels? Do you need a medical assessment to determine an underlying cause? Or are you making up excuses to avoid implementing a new habit?
Have an Objective for Your Good Habits
Establishing good habits focused on achieving specific outcomes are key to success at anything you want to do. If you want to play the piano well, you have to maintain good practicing habits. (I am grateful my mom pushed me to practice as much and often as she did, but believe me, I didn’t feel grateful at the time!)
But it’s not just about putting in the time, it’s being deliberate about what you do during that time. If I sat at the piano and half-heartedly poked at the keys every day for thirty minutes without direction, I would have a fantastic daily habit but nothing to show for it.
What about people who start a habit and have an objective each time they do it, but don’t see results? Not seeing any differences when you start a new habit just means you need to be more patient. The desired results from a new habit often don’t manifest themselves for a long time and you just have to keep at it. Don’t let this be a setback that you allow to yourself to quit over. In Atomic Habits, James Clear states, “Habits often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold and unlock a new level of performance.”
By practicing the piano each day with a plan to achieve a specific objective (I will practice hands separately until I get it right before practicing hands together; I will work on fingering; I will work on rhythm), I will eventually get to the point where muscle memory takes over and I can play an entire piece from start to finish without stumbling. But I never start a new piece knowing how to play it perfectly.
Hold Yourself Accountable
One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable to your new habits is to write them down. Commit to when you’re going to start and how often you will do this, and be specific. Then track it.
I will start _______ on (date) at (time) and do this every _________.
For example: I will start running for 20 minutes on Thursday at 6:30 am and do this every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. And I will mark off a calendar to show I have accomplished this.
Some ways you can track habits include:
2. Marking it on a calendar
3. Creating a worksheet with dates and times and marking them off as you accomplish them
Remember, establishing positive habits in your daily life will help you become the person and leader you want to be.
Comment below: What are some excuses you’ve made for yourself to avoid starting or continuing a new habit? What are other ways you can track a new habit?