6 leadership habits CEOs need to develop

Bad habits can be hard to break, and for business leaders who have them, they can be deal-breakers.

The primary reasons a CEO gets fired—according to a survey by Leadership IQ, an online training firm—were: mismanaging change, ignoring customers, tolerating low performers, and not enough action. And at the root of each are unproductive habits.

“Although leaders who display these behaviors generally know what to do, and how to do it, their unproductive habits render them unable to get things done—with dire consequences,” says Mark Green, the author of Activators: A CEO’s Guide to Clearer Thinking and Getting Things Done (www.Activators.biz). “The most common unproductive leadership habits include avoiding decisions and conflict, maintaining comfort-zone networks, needing to be liked (and) neglecting to listen enough.”

Those habits can be hard to break, but Green says company leaders must work hard to replace them with foundational habits that lead to success.

  • Capitalize on luck. This is a habit of forward-moving thinking in response to both good- and bad-luck events. Whatever the circumstances, leaders rapidly come to understand the value of generating return on luck. Everyone wins.
  • Be grateful. When you appreciate and value what you have, you gain a clearer perspective. A daily meeting ritual of appreciation creates space for each executive to share what they appreciate most, and it opens up the room to clearer thinking and increased collaboration.
  • Give—within limits. Research shows there are many advantages to being a giver, but striking a balance is important to remain productive. Sharing information and resources cultivates an abundance mindset. But there are limits; if you’re giving away too much time and too many resources, you won’t be able to accomplish your own objectives. Give, but know when to say no.
  • Focus on process—not people. When something goes wrong, a common approach is to find fault with the people involved. But bad or poorly communicated processes can make even the most talented, dedicated staff look terrible. Question processes and communication first, before you explore the intentions, character or capabilities of those involved. Research shows that believing in your people pays off.
  • Have high expectations of others. Leaders who set the bar high and then give their teams latitude to execute reap more benefits than those who simply tell their teams what to do. This includes valuing autonomy and individual responsibility to build something great over time. High expectations and empowerment are key.
  • Maintain intentional focus. Countless research studies have exposed excessive multi-tasking as ineffective. To make real progress, hold a small number of very important things in your mind and let go of the rest. Ruthless prioritization and focus in execution will set you free.

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